3 Ways to Honor Local Heroes on National Philanthropy Day

philanthropy (noun): the love of humankind

Happy National Philanthropy Day! Every year on November 15, this international event, coordinated by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), shares the love and impact each of us can create in our communities. It’s also a fantastic reason to take a moment to honor those who do so much for your nonprofit’s mission—before holiday prep and year-end fundraising get into full swing.

When most people hear the word “philanthropist,” they might not envision themselves in that group, thinking their contribution is too small to merit the distinction. But true-blue philanthropists can be found at all giving levels, every age, and any ability. If you care enough to give—whether it’s dollars, talent, or time—you’re a philanthropist.

Philanthropists are all around us, and it’s actually pretty easy to become one. Sometimes we just need a little inspiration or guidance.

That’s the spirit behind National Philanthropy Day: to celebrate those who make a tangible difference and to engage others in the process. The day shows us what’s been achieved so far, while reassuring us that even though there’s much yet to do, we can all find a place in that work.

If National Philanthropy Day (NPD) is new to you, here’s a little background, along with a few last-minute ways your organization can take part.

How It All Began

Douglas Freeman, a lawyer from Orange Country, California, first envisioned National Philanthropy Day in 1981 while giving a speech thanking major donors of the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis. “I looked out over that audience and I realized we owe these people a debt of gratitude,” Freeman said in an interview with the Orange County Register. He sketched out the idea and got to work organizing and lobbying for a national proclamation.

In 1986, Freeman’s hard work paid off when President Ronald Reagan officially proclaimed November 15 National Philanthropy Day, sparking annual celebrations across North America. The AFP reports that the day has since been officially recognized by numerous state, provincial, and local governments. Canada permanently recognized National Philanthropy Day in 2012. In fact, more than 25,000 Canadians participate every year, setting a high bar for honoring and engaging in effective philanthropy.

Join the Party

Many nonprofits host formal ceremonies on National Philanthropy Day to honor exceptional donors, volunteers, corporations, and others engaged in giving back. Some also organize a day of service, inviting community members to come together for hands-on giving, like building wheelchair ramps for needy seniors or serving meals at a food bank.

Of course, that level of celebration takes time and planning, but it’s never too late for your nonprofit to celebrate National Philanthropy Day. Here are three easy ways to raise a virtual glass to the extraordinary philanthropists in your circle.

  1. Social Media
    Throughout the day, make a series of posts highlighting dedicated volunteers, donors, or board members. In each post, share a story about that person’s impact or dedication, along with a photo or video. Maybe this is a top fundraiser, or it could be someone who shows up week after week for work parties or phone banks.
  2. Email
    Use your fundraising software to identify recurring donors. Make a quick video with your organization’s staff thanking them for their ongoing support and send it in personalized emails to that segment of your list. (You could then post the video on your social channels for wider sharing.)
  3. IRL
    We all have those truly amazing supporters of our nonprofits. Dig into your donor database again to identify, say, your top three donors or your oldest donors over time. Maybe there’s a person or business that went above and beyond this year to support your mission. Send those folks a fun surprise, like a colorful fall bouquet or a pizza party delivered to their office, along with a thank you card signed by your entire team.

Mark next year’s calendar for National Philanthropy Day, November 15, and make the event part of your annual planning. Check out the official NPD page for more information and visit NPDLove to read about some of this year’s inspiring honorees.

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