Today is National Philanthropy Day; a day to recognise the great contributions philanthropy, and those people in the philanthropic community, make to enrich our world. It’s a celebration of giving, volunteering and charitable engagement that highlights all the accomplishments that philanthropy makes to society.
Philanthropy, for those that aren’t too familiar with the word, is the love of mankind. And it’s a topic that I’m quite passionate about, especially with regards to encouraging it amongst more people, and I know I’ve written about it on this blog here before.
So, as you can imagine, I think the idea of National Philanthropy Day is a fabulous one… except for one little problem.
This day is not actually an Australian day. It’s an initiative that was developed almost thirty years ago in the United States when President Reagan declared November 15th as National Philanthropy Day. Whilst all information about the day indicates that people all over the globe get involved in celebrations, I’m yet to see too much activity of this nature happening in Australia.
In 2012 Canada jumped on board and made the day official by passing a Bill in Parliament. And the reason behind this? The country believes that working together for common good is a defining value of Canada. Personally, I would argue that similarly this is also a defining value of Australia.
While we may not have quite as many people volunteering here as they do there, 36% compared to 47% in 2010, the number of Aussie adults who volunteer is a figure that has been growing steadily since 1995. Over 15 years, according to Volunteering Australia’s ‘The state of volunteering’ report, the number of volunteers in our country has almost doubled and the total number of hours volunteered has increased too. And if, as the report suggests, ‘starting to volunteer early and seeing volunteering modelled in one’s family positively impacts on future volunteering behaviour‘ wouldn’t a nationally recognised day of philanthropy help increase the awareness and importance of volunteering?
And what about our level of generosity, Australia? Weren’t we recently announced as the most generous society in the world? According to the World Giving Index Report in 2012, yes, Australia was the world’s most generous country, based an average of three measures of giving behaviour – donating money to charity, volunteering time, and helping a stranger. Unfortunately, though, it seems last year we dropped to seventh place? Could a National Philanthropy Day recognised more widely (and formally) in our country help lift this ranking again? I think it could.
In fact, I think having a nationally recognised philanthropy day would help our country in a number of ways, such as:
- Encouraging open dialogue about philanthropy in the wider community, educating people about what it means and ways they can do more for the world around them
- Celebrating the social outcomes that have been achieved due to previous philanthropic ventures
- Inspiring fundraisers and those working in the non-profit and philanthropy sector (including volunteers) to dream bigger as they are being acknowledged for their work
Through my understanding, I believe that currently no such day exists, and please, if I’m wrong, I’d love to hear about any other initiatives. The closest thing I know of is Philanthropy Week, an initiative from Queensland Community Foundation held each June for the past couple of years. This is a good start, but really only focuses on one state. And I’ve also heard about a one-off festival of philanthropy held in May this year at The Victorian College of the Arts. Again, a fabulous concept but perhaps this was only focused on philanthropy in the arts.
Philanthropy isn’t something new. It has been part of our Australian culture for over 100 years; since the beginning of The Wyatt Trust in 1886 by Dr William Wyatt and when Alfred Felton left his estate in a bequest at the turn of the 20th Century. If such an initiative is going to have a really big impact on our community as a whole, and for generations to come, we need to enact something that will have a much more far-reaching effect.
So, what do you think? Should Australia also officially acknowledge National Philanthropy Day? Let us know your thoughts by commenting here, or better yet, write on our Facebook wall so others can see your ideas and we can start a conversation.
See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick.