As the nonprofit sector continues to sift through the recent election results and determines what they mean for our missions, we can feel confident in one thing: philanthropy—love of humankind, charitable giving and volunteerism—is a nonpartisan issue. And that’s one of the most important things we recognize on National Philanthropy Day® (NPD) this year.
NPD, celebrated every year on Nov. 15, is the day we set aside to reflect and remember the extraordinary accomplishments that philanthropy—and those involved in the philanthropic process—have made to our world. As we celebrate the 24th anniversary of NPD, we have the opportunity to look back on the development of philanthropy over the past twenty-plus years.
After all, despite different political parties holding the presidency and controlling Congress; new committee chairs focusing on an expanding array of issues; a diverse group of new legislators coming to D.C.; and conservatives, moderates and liberals all holding leadership roles at one time or another, the trend for giving and volunteering (with just a few exceptions) has been going only one direction: UP! And this is to say nothing of natural disasters, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, economic booms and busts, and a host of other events and issues.
In 1986, the first year NPD was celebrated across the United States, overall giving was approximately $83 billion (or $157 billion adjusted for inflation), according to Giving USA. That giving is now well over $300 billion and is a testament to the generosity of the American people and the strength of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector.
Through laws, policies, regulations and proclamations, these trends have been helped by members of Congress and other legislators, council members, governors, mayors and others on both sides of the aisle (and in some cases, independent parties as well). A sea change in Congress may mean changes in priorities, but it also represents an opportunity for the sector to educate new legislators about philanthropy and underscores the large and diverse constituency that supports giving, volunteering and the nonprofit sector.
In 2010, approximately 100 local NPD events will take place across the United States. Tens of thousands of people will participate, representing different faiths, cultures, ethnicities, and yes, even political parties. But they will be bound by one thing: belief in the power of philanthropy and its unique place in our society and the promise it holds for all Americans. I hope you’ll join us at one of these events and celebrate the legacy and tradition of giving, volunteering and improving the quality of life for all people.
Paulette V. Maehara, CFRE, CAE, is president & CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals