Society of St. Vincent de Paul-Indianapolis Archdiocesan Council, Inc.

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Billionaire Philanthropy: The Case for Smaller Gifts

By Wendy Harlow, Philanthropy Director

Billionaire philanthropy has been in the news a lot recently. Stories of eight- and nine-figure monetary gifts make headlines. After all, a gift with that many zeroes can change the future of an organization. But at SVdP, we’re grateful for smaller gifts, too. Modest gifts are given from the heart—just like the widow in the Bible who gave two small coins in the temple. It’s so impactful for us when we hear from donors who are sharing what they have with those who have even less.

Since the pandemic started last March, giving to SVdP has gone up. That may seem counterintuitive in a time of economic crisis. But I think it shows the heart of our SVdP donors. You understand that people are really hurting right now. Visits to our food pantry and distribution center have increased 20% during the pandemic, and we are seeing many new faces. Many people have lost their jobs or can’t work for health or other reasons. Yet, in the midst of these stories of hardship, we also hear inspiring stories of hope.

One of the most meaningful gifts we received recently was from a current food pantry client named Harold. He came to find me and handed me two $1 bills. He told me he wanted to say thanks to SVdP for helping him last winter in a time of crisis, and though he wasn’t completely back on his feet, he still had a little extra to help us continue to keep our doors open. Isn’t that amazing?

In “The Science of Helping Out,” Tara Parker-Pope says, “At a time when we are all experiencing an extraordinary level of stress, science offers a simple and effective way to bolster our own emotional health. To help yourself, start by helping others. Much of the scientific research on resilience—which is our ability to bounce back from adversity—has shown that having a sense of purpose, and giving support to others, has a significant impact on our well-being. During a crisis, the people who cope best are those who help others.”

This research may explain, in part, why almost 600 donors who have never given to our organization before chose to help others by making a donation to SVdP between March and now. In fact, more than er 1,700 donors have responded to the COVID-19 crisis with generosity.

Each day seems to bring more bad news, and our resources are being stretched more than anyone anticipated. But although our expenses have increased, so has the level of support from the community. Some people give large amounts with several zeroes. Most give smaller amounts according to what is most meaningful for them. Many people gave their stimulus checks to SVdP, saying they thought we needed it more than they did. And many people like Harold gave tiny dollar amounts that belied the enormous generosity of the donors.

Whatever the reason or the amount, SVdP could not fulfill its mission without the extraordinary support of all of our volunteers and donors. We are grateful for each one of you.

 

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