Conspicuous Giving

Author National Philanthropic Trust

April 22, 2013

A New York Times article titled “How Giving Became Cool” recently came across my desk. The author cites Ted Turner’s 1997 speech–in which he announced he would give away $1 billion–as a cultural turning point in modern philanthropy; a point at which it became “cool” for philanthropists to announce their gifts and publicly encourage others to do the same.

But conspicuous giving has always been a trend. Last year, when I traveled to Turkey, I learned from our guide that public buildings constructed before the Common Era displayed names of prominent citizens who contributed to the building’s construction. Community leaders and celebrities alike have been using their public influence for years to advocate for causes close to their hearts. Paul Newman and Audrey Hepburn are two that come to mind.

Now with the onset of social media, the average philanthropist has a platform—if you so choose—to influence friends and family to give to a common cause. It makes your giving conspicuous, but it also has the potential to multiply your gift if others are moved to follow in your footsteps.

Of course, plaques on a building and naming ceremonies aren’t for everyone. One of the biggest reasons that philanthropists choose donor-advised funds is because of the ability to grant completely anonymously.

Regardless of how charitable donations are made, giving is always cool.