Giving Starts at Home: Being a Philanthropist in Small Ways Every Day



This is a partnered guest post.

Philanthropy is a big word — and sometimes an intimidating word. In some respects this is good, because even the smallest act can change lives for the better. Consider 4-year-old Alexandra Scott. Diagnosed with neuroblastoma, she used her ultimately fatal battle with the cancer as a launch pad to start a national foundation, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, to raise money for other kids with cancer. Alex’s story is proof you are the right person, in the right place and at the right time to support others.

But in other ways, using a word like “philanthropy” to describe charitable choices can give people the wrong idea about what type of person can become a philanthropist. Not every person makes international headlines with their philanthropic acts the way Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and others have. Luckily, you don’t have to do big things to make a big impact.

Philanthropy Defined

The textbook definition of “philanthropy” is “the desire to promote the well-being of others.” In the same way, the definition of a “philanthropist” is “one who makes an active effort to promote human welfare.” If you can see yourself in these words, you are already a philanthropist in the making.

Paying It Forward

More than a decade ago, a book-turned-film named “Pay It Forward” created a new awareness in popular culture of the power of small acts of kindness. The plot follows a small boy who takes a school assignment and turns it into a way of life — in the process, creating a ripple effect that continues helping people he never meets. Both the book and film show philanthropy requires courage. But more importantly, what it shows is finding the courage to become a philanthropist — where you are and as you are — is a worthwhile choice to make for yourself and for others.

Small Ideas With Big Potential

Finding ways to make an impact is rarely the foremost issue aspiring philanthropists face. Rather, where people get stuck is deciding how to make their impact. Perhaps, in the past you have assumed you would have to carve out significant chunks of time in your schedule, save up money to donate or take on new activities that may not seem possible because of the way your life is structured. But sometimes becoming a philanthropist is as easy as deciding to donate a boat you own that is sitting unused in its dock or load up extra canned goods in your pantry to take to the local food drive. The following are some other easy and fun ways to start giving back today:

  • Conduct your own running or walking campaign for a cause you care about.
  • Downsize your closet (or garage or storage space) and donate items you are no longer using.
  • Give blood at a local blood drive.
  • Help friends and neighbors by “paying it forward.” Then, ask them to do the same.
  • Volunteer with local charities that represent causes you care about.
  • Raise funds for a local charity or a local school.
  • Volunteer at an underfunded school or a local afterschool program.
  • Mentor kids and/or adults who can benefit from your skills.
  • Donate food to a local food bank and help out with food sorting.

There are many ways you can become a philanthropist in your community. Perhaps one of the ideas on the list resonated with you, or maybe the list gave you new ideas you want to explore. Not only does philanthropy feel good, but it carries many other benefits. Many philanthropists find charitable acts are a great way to meet new friends, network, learn new skills and set a good example for their children. The bottom line is when you give your time to help humanity, everyone benefits.


About the Author: Writer Alison Berger watched “Pay It Forward” with her family several years ago. After the film, they started an annual tradition to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless.




I'm a mother of 2 who likes to get involved in too much! Besides writing here I started a non-profit, I'm on the PTO board, very active in my community and volunteer in the school. I enjoy music, reading, cooking, traveling and spending time with my family. We just adopted our 3rd cat and love them all!

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  1. I really had no idea the idea of being a philanthropist was even doing small things. I always thought that word applied to only BIG ways of helping the country.

  2. These are wonderful and really have me thinking!

  3. As we’ve been packing up to move, I’ve realized as we’ve been donating a lo, that we have way more things than we need – I’m so glad that somebody else can use the things we no longer have use for.

  4. I have agreed to a little too much philanthropy for friends this week…. ugh.

  5. Such a great list!

  6. It’s the little things! Thanks for the ideas.

  7. Love this post and the suggestions! I definitely try to pay it forward as much as possible.

  8. Each day I try to do something philanthropic, great post!

  9. Great idea. I try to go out of my everyday.

  10. All are wonderful ideas!

  11. These are great tips and perfect to jumpstart ideas.