Student Blogger Study USA

Everyone can be a philanthropist – Kaitlyn’s story

4 folded dollar bills are planted in a garden bed, with a little trowel next to them.

Sometimes folks don’t know that in addition to HECUA’s study abroad programs, we have a number of off-campus study programs in the Twin Cities. Kaitlyn Szabo, an Urban Studies and Sociology Major at the University of Minnesota, is spending the fall in HECUA’s Inequality in America program. She took some time out of her busy class and internship schedule to write up this description of one of the programs she’s involved in though her internship at the Headwaters Foundation for Justice. Here’s Kaitlyn:

Hello everyone! My name is Kaitlyn Szabo and I am a University of Minnesota student currently participating in the HECUA Inequality in America program. For this semester, I have the pleasure of interning at Headwaters Foundation for Justice, a community foundation working to promote sustainable social change through community-led grantmaking. I work closely with staff at Headwaters and their grantmaking volunteers to create a clear, streamlined grantmaking process. My work so far at my internship has included assisting in the creation of a grantmaking manual for volunteers and helping to facilitate meetings with the use of visual aids. For the Giving Project, I am currently working on analyzing the data of potential participants in the program. Not familiar with the Giving Project? Read on….

Everyone Can Be a Philanthropist

Philanthropy, at its core, means love of humanity. It is about giving meaningfully, in your own terms and in your own capacity, to benefit others. Often thought of as just acts of charity, philanthropy also has a progressive side. Social justice philanthropy works to create change, not charity. It is this realm of philanthropic giving that Headwaters Foundation for Justice resides.

In its thirty year history, Headwaters has raised and given out roughly $10 million to organizations working to promote social, racial, economic, and environmental change throughout greater Minnesota. That’s right, it raises the money it gives out. As a community foundation, this is a core aspect of the foundation’s identity. Trust in the community to guide fundraising and grant-making is a radically progressive notion in itself. It was in 1984. It is in 2015. This trust lies in the very simple, but poignant idea that the best solutions will come from those most directly impacted by the problems.

Amplifying these voices is a crucial component of Headwaters’ mission and values. But how do you do this in practice? The simple answer: drive home the message that everyone has something to give.

Creating change is intentionally linked with creating leaders. When fundraising and grant-making is placed in the hands of the community, it reinforces the idea that anyone can be a philanthropist. Anyone can give. Anyone can work to create change.

Anyone. Everyone.

Within Headwaters, that is seen most clearly in the Giving Project. At its core, the Giving Project is a cross-class, cross-race cohort of 25 people fundraising in their own networks to raise money which they will then pool together and award as grants. While maintaining Headwaters’ longstanding criteria, this method implements a uniquely personal approach to social justice philanthropy. It grows diverse leaders through training, support, and capacity-building. It empowers problem-solvers from the ranks of those directly-affected. It creates spaces for authentic personal growth with people from all different walks of life. And it does this all to move towards lasting change in our communities.

Participants in the Giving Project are also asked to give a meaningful, significant donation of their own to the fund. Significance is not defined by the foundation. It is defined by the donor. By the participant. By the people. By allowing those most directly affected by the problems of social injustice to define terminology in their own words with their own meaning, Headwaters furthers implements into practice the ideals of community-led grant-making.

Defining these people as valuable assets and then placing them front and center in philanthropic grant-making is absolutely crucial to furthering social change. Headwaters understands this importance and intentionally works to prioritize community members in every aspect of their work. Without trusting in the community, philanthropic foundations will continue to cycle inequitable power dynamics within the social justice community. Specifically with the Giving Project, this model directly allows participants to use their power to leverage philanthropic donations within their own networks and build sustainable relationships with their neighbors. It is a surprisingly human model in often sterile, bureaucratic philanthropic world.

Philanthropy is the love of humanity. Love. Humanity. This cannot be lost in the whirlwind that is modern, institutional philanthropy. The people of our communities are the key stakeholders to authentic problem-solving and sustainable movement progression. They are the lifeline to community growth and the heart and soul of progressive social justice work. They are the powerful voices and minds that will guide us to lasting change. Foundations such as Headwaters can only improve their impact the more these people are valued.

But “these people” is not a singular group. It is not just one class, one race, one organization, or one person. There is no minimum requirement for giving what you can to the people you want to help. Doing what you can for the sake of others is what love of humanity is all about. It is not about what you give that makes you a philanthropist, it is that you choose to give what you can.

Anyone can be a philanthropist. Everyone can be a philanthropist.

, , ,

Back To Top Menu