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Saying “I do” to High Impact Philanthropy

July 25, 2012

In our “I’m Not Rockefeller” study, several donors expressed ambivalence—if not discomfort—at being referred to as a “philanthropist”. To them, the term sounded too “hoity toity”.

“The word ‘philanthropist’ still cracks me up because it sounds so hoity-toity . . .  I’m not Rockefeller.”

Yet if the definition of philanthropist is:

"one who makes an active effort to promote human welfare"

then you certainly don’t need the surname “Rockefeller” to earn that label.

This was brought home to me when our team considered what to give as a wedding gift to our colleague Jen and her husband Marc. Turns out they couldn’t have made it easier for us.

They had registered at the I Do Foundation, a website that allows well wishers to make donations to nonprofits chosen by the couple.

Jen and Marc started out with a long list of worthy causes and interesting nonprofits before realizing that there was a particular cause that Marc, an opthamology fellow here at Penn, was both passionate and knowledgeable about: preventing blindness.

Jen, as a project manager and analyst at the center, then asked and sought answers to the kinds of questions our team poses everyday:

  • Is the social impact that we seek meaningful to the people we hope to help?
  • Given our broad definition of evidence, what organizations seem especially well-positioned to deliver the social impact we seek?

In the end, they chose three nonprofits that reflected their respective professional passions.

  1. Helen Keller International
  2. Aravind Eye Care System
  3. Orbis

All are nonprofits with a track record of success preventing blindness. Each has evidence of impact which Jen will share when she returns from her wedding celebration.

Katherina Rosqueta, Executive Director

In the meantime, instead of seeing a gray-haired industrialist writing a check to endow a major institution, when I hear the word “philanthropist” today, I see a young couple about to start a new life together and a group of colleagues in the U.S. supporting visioncare half a world away with the click of a mouse.

Here at the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, we recognize that there are many reasons people give and many worthy efforts and organizations to support. But no matter what reason or cause, saying “I do” to those that are particularly high impact is a vow worth making.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2012 7:48 am

    Donations to nonprofits instead of a banal wedding gift? Great idea!

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