Embracing the Philanthropic Spirit
Lakeland is rich with people who, affected by George Jenkins’ legacy of philanthropy, are inspired to leave this world better than they found it. If you open your eyes and look around,
you are sure to find someone helping somewhere. A family picking up trash along the side of the road, a retired teacher volunteering at a local school, a teenager delivering meals to people who are stuck at home, a businessman reading with a child on his lunch break, a college student caring for animals, a retiree rocking babies in the NICU, doctors treating patients who have no health insurance: Lakelanders are passionately pursuing a philanthropic purpose.
To celebrate National Philanthropy Day®, the Greater Polk Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) will begin a tradition of honoring the local philanthropic
community at the inaugural National Philanthropy Day® Awards Breakfast. This day is set aside to specifically recognize and pay tribute to the great contributions that philanthropy and the people active in Polk County’s philanthropic community have made to our lives, our community, and beyond. The Lakelander sat down with AFP to find out more about National Philanthropy Day® and what philanthropy means to our community.
The Lakelander: What is AFP?
AFP: The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) is the professional association of individuals responsible for generating philanthropic support for a wide variety of nonprofit, charitable organizations. Founded in 1960, AFP (formerly the National Society of Fund Raising Executives) advances philanthropy through its more than 31,000 members in 235 chapters around the world. AFP is dedicated to promoting stewardship, donor trust, and effective and ethical fundraising (afppolk.afpnet.org/).
TL: If we define community as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals,” how does philanthropy build community in Lakeland?
AFP: Philanthropy originates from the love of humanity. When we care about each other we create an environment of fellowship and everything that community stands for. Philanthropy allows people, no matter their life experience, to share in the experience of improving aspects of our community. It brings people together to address social issues and allows everyone to have a seat at the table.
TL: What is a philanthropist?
AFP: Anybody can be a philanthropist; you just have to have passion and care deeply about humankind. A philanthropist must be willing to use this passion to make a difference with their time, talents, and treasure. A philanthropist makes an impact by providing funding to find solutions for a great need while also being actively engaged in the process. Philanthropists are equally invested financially and personally in the community. In other words, he or she not only financially supports causes but also volunteers and promotes issues critically important to the community.
TL: Is there a difference between charity and philanthropy?
AFP: Charity focuses on the immediate needs and the act of giving. Give for the sake of giving. Philanthropy, on the other hand, is how we achieve our greater missions. Philanthropy is
the act of caring, and feeling passionately about giving in order to help others. Philanthropy certainly has financial components, but it also requires a personal investment in an organization or issue in order to make a lasting social change.
TL: How can we ensure that Mr. George’s legacy of philanthropy continues into the next generation?
AFP: Mr. George’s legacy of philanthropy will continue if we ensure that we teach our children the importance of community involvement and service. When parents provide their children opportunities to explore their passions and to engage in causes tied to these passions, children begin to learn how important giving back really is. Philanthropy starts in the heart; when families engage in the work of building passionate and strong hearts — around the dinner table, in the community, at school, at bedtime, at the grocery store. Heartwork is done in small moments, in the normal, mundane life moments available to us all. Mr. George’s philanthropic spirit starts at home and will grow outward from the passionate hearts we build.
TL: What inspired AFP to set aside a day to honor this community’s very special philanthropists?
AFP: National Philanthropy Day® is both an official day and a grassroots movement. Every year since 1986 when President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed November 15 as National Philanthropy Day®, communities across the globe have celebrated by hosting events to recognize activities of donors, volunteers, foundations, leaders, corporations, and others engaged in philanthropy. It’s part of our larger organization but also because we believe in philanthropy, and we want to recognize and honor those who have made an impact on our community.
TL: Do you think we’ll be surprised by any of the nominations?
AFP: Yes and no. We hope that the unsung philanthropic individuals who give so much to our community will have a moment to be appreciated and shine. We want to tell their stories and the stories of the lives they have touched. In a community this size we will have overlap in the number of nominations a person, couple, or organization will receive. But, we are excited to see those who we aren’t as aware of, such as the Youth in Philanthropy or the Volunteer of the Year.
LTB Lakeland Campus/Polk State College
7:30 a.m./ Registration
8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m./National Philanthropy Day® Breakfast
The Greater Polk Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals will honor community heroes in the following categories:
• Philanthropist of the Year
• Philanthropic Corporation of the Year
• Philanthropic Small Business of the Year
• Spirit of Philanthropy
• Volunteer of the Year in Philanthropy
• Youth in Philanthropy
For more information on the event, please visit afppolk.afpnet.org/.