Giving and Going Beyond in 2021

By Andrea Clark, General Manager

December 17, 2020

Every year at the end of November and throughout December there is often a large outpouring of support to others in need. It is also a time of year when we give back and often make a promise to ourselves that next year we will give more time, money, energy towards our communities and the greater good to uplift each other as we also seek to improve ourselves.

This year — 2020 — however, we should analyze this concept of giving as deeply as we have many other parts of our everyday lives. This year has challenged many of us to really look at how we understand and build community, as well as how we help and support others. The impact of COVID-19, loneliness, systemic racism, a long election process, and an economy that has left millions of people without a job — some without a place to live, has many people beginning to acknowledge or recognize the need for mental health support.

And in the midst of holidays and nearing the end of a calendar year, there is one day when mainstream media designates to “give back”, so why do we wait and feel accomplished by donating on “Giving Tuesday”? To be clear, Giving Tuesday is a wonderful initiative and brings a lot of money and light on much needed organizations, but shouldn’t we all be proponents of more than one Giving Tuesday in a year? One day, of the 365 days in a year, is only .27% of our year, so is this truly enough when we look at all of the challenges that 2020 has brought us? With Giving Tuesday upon us, let us squeeze as much goodness out of it as we can and look to progress on why we give and how we give more in 2021.

Giving promotes psychological effects in the well-being of people who give their time and money. The relationship between volunteering for nonprofit organizations and improved mental health is fairly well established, with studies going back as far as the early 1970s demonstrating this link. One early study even found that compared to non-volunteers, older adults who volunteered had higher life satisfaction and lower depression and anxiety, even when controlling for physical health.

So, based on these psychological effects of volunteering on mental health and well-being and with a light thrown upon giving during the holidays, how might we work to benefit our communities? Through philanthropy.

To take a step back and understand a bit more about what exactly is philanthropy, the word comes from the Greek word philanthropia, simply meaning “love of mankind”. This concept is not unique to modern day life as cultures across the world have different terminologies for giving with unique traditions and connotations of what they consider philanthropy to be from: haoshi (Chinese) to harambee (Zulu), and sadaqah (Arabic) to tzedaka (Hebrew).

However, The concept of modern philanthropy, what we are most familiar with, began in the 1500s after the medieval ages, and is described by John Gardner, an American novelist and poet, through the idea that:

“Wealth is not new. Neither is charity. But the idea of using private wealth imaginatively, constructively, and systematically to attack the fundamental problems of mankind is new.”

Foundations, trusts, groups, and individuals — those that make up modern philanthropy — give to a variety of needs and are often inclined to support things they’re passionate about. From food pantries to large nonprofits across the globe, modern philanthropy has constructed a formal opportunity for us to give our time and energy.

The good news is that philanthropic contributions for mental health have more than doubled from 2000–2015, accounting for one-third ($364.1 million) of total development assistance for mental health (DAMH). Meaning that one-third of DAMH came directly from philanthropic organizations — foundations and private donations — to support people with mental health interventions. The not so great news is that across all health conditions, mental health received the lowest amount of philanthropic development assistance for health at just 0.5%. Even The World Health Organization has begun to recognize this lack of philanthropic support and progress in mental health interventions across the globe and thus created the Countdown Global Mental Health 2030, which recognizes mental health as one of the most neglected of all health concerns with significant adverse consequences on individuals, families, societies, and countries.

With noted progress being made by recognizing and organizing around the lack of mental health philanthropy, plus with modern philanthropy seen as Giving Tuesday, we, as a collective can do a lot for each other, and you as an individual can make an enormous impact with any small act of kindness and empathy. As energy for giving wanes after the holidays and so many of us go back to the regularly scheduled programs of our lives, think about how for many people, generosity and philanthropy sustains their everyday lives. Advocate for your community fiercely and not only will you be able to support and uplift others, but you might just do that for yourself as well.

So, as 2020 begins to close — give what you can.

And as 2021 looms — work to go beyond what you did in 2020.

Below are ideas on how to get started on how you might want to give on this modern Giving Tuesday.

Ways to Volunteer

There are endless ways to spend your time — do a quick Google search and reach out to a local organization you have always been interested in supporting. From animal shelters to school supply drives to mentoring, there are endless ways to give.

Research local food pantries. Here are a few recommended by Quartetians from our local markets:

If you want to volunteer with mental health advocates in your local community, the National Alliance on Mental Health has local chapters across the country.

If you are interested in organizations that advocate for mental health care here are a few:

If you are unable to volunteer in person you can always write a letter! There are several organizations the connect pen pals:

Support philanthropic foundations that direct funds to mental health initiatives:

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