Cody Osborn

Cody Osborn

A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Cody Osborn. This 20-year-old student attends the University of Southern California and is pursuing a double major in Biology and French. Currently, he’s studying in France.

I think you’ll find, as I did, that Cody is wise beyond his years. His dedication to medicine is evident and I’m excited about how he can make a difference for those suffering from cancer in the years to come.

Deborah: Tell me about your experience in Ghana this summer.

Cody: It started in the end of May. It was a ten-day experience all in all. It’s one of those things where you don’t really realize how distant it is until you arrive there. You fly 10 hours to London from LA. Lay over there for a day maybe and you fly to Accra, which is the capitol of Ghana. And once you get there, which is another seven-hour flight from London, mind you, it’s like a three-four hour drive to the lodge we stayed at. Every day we would also commute another 20-30 minutes to the village, which was nothing in comparison.

You realize how far away you are and how distant you are from the norm and your every day. It gets you in that spirit of what you are doing there—that you aren’t doing something that is everyday, you are doing something that is very extraordinary, something very special. It definitely felt like that. It was a strong learning experience for me. It gave me a feeling of the environment a doctor would be in, even in these areas with less supplies than normal. It still feels like a professional doctor would, I imagine.

D: What group were you traveling with?

C: The Global Medical Brigades. They have other trips as well. Honduras and Ghana are the two biggest trips. It was a USC-affiliated trip.

D: Were you traveling with others?

C: There were 11 others in my group. There were other groups from different universities and colleges at this lodge that we were staying at. They had groups as big as 53. We were definitely considered a small group.

D: What kind of work were you doing on a day-to-day basis?

C: It changed. The first few days we were setting up camp. Counting all our pills, our medication, organizing it all into the separate stations. We were there for four days of work and you would rotate around every day. Some days you’d be on triage where you’d be taking blood pressure, vitals. Some days you might just be shadowing a doctor and giving prescriptions, because we had two US physicians as well as two Ghanan physicians. You might be working with the dentist and actually performed a couple tooth extractions, which was pretty exciting. And then there was pharmacy where you’d be filling the actual prescriptions and sending them out. Those were usually our day-to-day tasks.

D: What do you think you’ve learned from this experience?

C: It’s definitely been a career-affirming trip. I’ve definitely found what I’m passionate about in the science of medicine over any science. It’s this aspect of helping another person through the usage of a science, not just talking about theoretical events, which I’ve come to find a lot of sciences are. And that’s what was the big factor, just being in that real setting and getting that rush or that feeling I was chasing.

D: Have you ever done anything like this before?

C: Not in the sense of volunteering in a foreign country. I have been in hospital settings.

D: Was there anything in particular that you took away from the culture or the people you interacted with in Ghana?

C: They are very warm and open, which is really nice to see. I could see how it would be hard to be in a good mood if you live in a country that’s very impoverished—low on resources, high in disease. I could see how it would be easy to have a crappy day. They were all so friendly and warm and thankful for what they did have. That was a good reminder about how to live your life here in a normal society that functions and is clean and safe, thankfully.

Perhaps another would be to really take care of the land. In Ghana, they don’t really care about recycling or proper disposal of waste. They don’t seem to care about it as much. You’d be standing there and all of a sudden someone would drop a piece of trash. You don’t know what to say because you don’t want to be rude. At the same time, why do that? Why not just contain it all? I feel like this needs to happen for true progress to be made in this kind of country. I think it’s really important that they make some progress in that direction.

D: Did you do any other kind of volunteering before this experience?

C: I volunteer at a local research clinic on USC’s campus. I volunteer my time there as a research assistant.

D: I see the work you’re doing as philanthropy. How would you define philanthropy yourself?

C: I don’t want to say it’s selfish, because that’s too extreme. A lot of people look at philanthropy as a way to bring the karma back in their direction. I guess I’d put it that way. They feel like it’s good and thus that makes them a good person. I feel like it’s something you should want to do. Just the fact that you have the capabilities that others don’t. Not because you’re necessarily born with more athleticism or a better immune system, it’s just that you’ve been born into a better area. You’ve been born into a better society and that’s just by the luck of the draw. It’s as simple as that. You just got luckier in the genetic selection of where you were born. Because of that we should recognize that and truly be grateful for that. I think a true recognition of being grateful is actually doing something to help others who just weren’t as lucky as you.

D: Are there other ways you’re engaging in philanthropy?

C: It’s hard to find the extra time sometimes…I find that the pursuit of becoming a doctor is an act of philanthropy in a way. More than anything than becoming a doctor I want to get involved deeply in oncology, the study of cancer, and research how to stop it. To me, philanthropy doesn’t necessarily have to be “we’re going to this place and giving our services for free.” Perhaps a philanthropic action can just be finding something that just betters the world in a way. Perhaps discovering a technology that could end world hunger or cancer. That would touch so many lives in such a positive way. That’s something I want to pursue now.

D: I love that perspective because I like to remind people that philanthropy really means “love of humankind.” It’s not about money necessarily. And any way we can express our love of humankind is philanthropy. You’re expressing that through your desire to help people with cancer. That’s really beautiful.

C: It may not seem like I’m doing work for someone else because I’m in a room studying or in a lab looking through a microscope. And everyone is saying “you’re not out there helping.” It’s kind of one of those things that to make a big change you have to put a lot of work into it. The effects of that aren’t necessarily evident from the get-go or until the culmination of that work, which can be hard for some people to stick through and say, “that person is philanthropic.” Some people won’t say that because they don’t see the immediate results.

D: Great point. Who influences you in your philanthropy and how have they influenced you?

C: I can’t really say that I draw my passion for medicine and the act of helping others from someone else. I feel like it’s something I’ve found throughout life….I’ve changed a lot throughout my life and made these discoveries here and there, picked it up piece by piece. Those are the things that have made me want to become a doctor.

I’ve realized that I’m very much a pacifist. I’ve always seen fights brewing at school for whatever reason and I’ve never thought, “oh, that’s a good idea, that will get it taken care of.” That discovery in particular, that violence is not the answer, has been one of the things to influence my love of medicine and wanting to get involved in it.

D: These discoveries that you’re talking about—have they been through school, family, friends, or other experiences?

C: Probably a combination of all of them really. It’s really when you go through certain things that you make these discoveries. My first real relationship was with my boyfriend, Jack. That was really interesting, because there’s a lot of things to deal with, not just because it’s my first relationship, but because it isn’t a typical relationship by most people’s standards, because it’s between two boys. There’s just a lot to deal with. So that was definitely a learning experience, being in that relationship. I definitely learned how to keep another person in mind at all times, to be truly selfless and maybe compromising on things because it’s for the better. You don’t always have to be right. There’s just been tons of little things I’ve learned like that.

I don’t necessarily identify with a religion, but I definitely believe there’s some greater power out there. I just don’t necessarily have a face for it. I definitely believe there are certain ways to carry out your life that are for an ultimate, better karma in your life and better energy and a better inflow of energy. Like you attract certain people to you by emitting certain frequencies or wavelengths. I try and live my life by that and find a lot of these experiences or these discoveries lead to that good karma. It’s been a very interesting past two years. I’ve seen very drastic changes in the way energy comes into my life, people come into my life, good things come into my life.

D: What do you like best about giving in whatever way that you give? And how does it make you feel?

C: Most of the time I feel my volunteering is going to be in a medical setting or at least will require use of the sciences, medicine, etc. I like that because I’m doing something I’m interested in. So, right off the bat, it’s cool for me. I’m doing something that I genuinely like….I definitely like using medicine as a volunteer. It’s practice. It’s doing something I like and truly appreciate. I am SO excited for medical school, really excited. I think volunteering has helped me get there.

Other than that, obviously, it just feels good to see someone else having a better day because you did something. It just really makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something….Every life is a very significant thing, so just affecting one other person, that you may not necessarily even be able to communicate with, whatever the boundaries are that lie between you two, it’s still cool.

D: Everything we do has this ripple effect.

C: Absolutely.I think the most important thing is genuine intent though. When people really want to do this is when things start happening for the better.

D: What is your philanthropic dream?

C: Finding the cure to cancer would be a great start, at least something to control the cancer. That seems a little bit more realistic in the time frame. It seems like they have. It seems like they’re on their way there….Any major disease that is causing a major outbreak of deaths seems like the one to go after because it’s taking the most people away from us. As a population, that should be our biggest goal, our biggest target. So, that would be really exciting….That would be interesting—doing something that’s good for other people and it’s also sparking your interest and strikes your fancy.

D: Anything else you want to add?

C: Africa might be a little daunting because it’s so far and expensive. There’s a lot of places you can go. I don’t want people to get discouraged because of distance or things like that. Helping anyone is good. If you can’t go to a Third World country, that’s all right, start with your local community. Just volunteer. Any and all will help.

I loved Cody’s additional thoughts…start where you are. I recently wrote about starting to give NOW in any way. Let Cody’s words be an inspiration to you, whether you want to volunteer in your community or abroad.


Inspired to Take Action

October 29, 2014

Last week, a lovely email showed up in my inbox. It said in part…

“I wanted to share with you how inspiring your work is. I have not seen this type of philanthropic consulting before, you must be very proud of what you have accomplished.

My brother and I just came back from Rwanda, where we spent time learning with a group called PIH (Partners in Health), also inspiring. Unfortunately, I arrived back and got right back into the groove of work and pressure that goes along with finishing my medical residency.…your site reminded me that I don’t have to wait to finish what I am doing to contribute.

The mindset of when I get to x I will be able to do y can be very alluring when you are busy. So without talking to you, I have already been inspired and thought that PIH has a monthly donation and if I can afford a gym membership that I never use I can certainly exchange that for a monthly donation to PIH, as I believe in how and what they do to improve health care in underserved communities.”

J.A., Medical Resident

recite-14958-1557917706-ga11s2What struck me about this message is that this is the first time someone has gone beyond saying, “nice website,” and told me that it actually inspired him to take action. I loved this!

I also really appreciated his point about waiting to make a difference. We don’t need to wait. We don’t have to get to a certain stage of life, status, or income level to engage in philanthropy.

We can take action NOW. Every little bit counts. Start where you are. As I’ve said before, it will lead to a happier, healthier life.

What can you do now to make a difference? Have you been inspired to take action? If so, please share in the comments below.


Fall in Love with Giving!

September 10, 2014

This summer I’ve been thinking about communities. What groups am I a part of and what role do I play in them? When does a group start to feel like a community? It goes beyond geography and place. It’s about a sense of connection and belonging. Often, it offers an opportunity to give.

How many communities are you a part of? How are you giving in each of them? Are you giving time, talent, treasure, or ties (your network of colleagues or friends)?

Professionally, I’m involved in various organizations such as the Purposeful Planning Institute, 21/64, Professional Women’s Network of the Monterey Peninsula, and a cadre of youth group advisors. Personally, I take part in a photography group, yoga community, Women’s Wealth Group, and Jewish community. And this is just a taste!

My engagement with the Jewish community has me considering how we contribute. When giving in a group setting, or even discussing it, we enrich our lives in a different way than when we give as individuals. Here on the Monterey Peninsula, every August, Congregation Beth Israel puts on a Jewish Food Festival to introduce others to our cuisine, customs, and traditions and as a fundraiser. While this is only a one-day event, people work tirelessly throughout the year to pull it off. I always look forward to baking during the summer and volunteering the weekend of the event. This is an amazing example of people coming together to give. We each contribute in a way that feels meaningful to us.

I’m happy to give back in other ways too, as you’ll learn in this issue.

Take some time to think about how you contribute to the communities you participate in. Remember why you became a part of them and maybe you’ll fall in love with giving all over again, just like I do every year.

Deborah Goldstein


Deborah Goldstein Appointed Co-Dean of Philanthropy


It is a pleasure to have been selected as the Purposeful Planning Institute’s Co-Dean of Philanthropy. Sharing this appointment is my wonderful colleague, Bruce DeBoskey, of The DeBoskey Group. Bruce is a fellow 21/64 trainer and a Denver-based philanthropic strategist. We look forward to working collaboratively to provide relevant information, resources, and guidance in best practices in philanthropy for our fellow PPI members.

The Purposeful Planning Institute is a “learning center for professionals interested in mastering the Purposeful Planning process, exploring best practices for legacy families and families in business as well as cutting edge processes and techniques.”

Philanthropy Camp for Women Returns Oct. 2!


The fall session of Philanthropy Camp for Women is fast approaching. We will be returning to the historic Asilomar Conference Grounds starting Thursday, October 2 at 6 pm. Have you reserved your place?

Everyone can be a philanthropist! Philanthropy Camp for Women is a great opportunity to explore your philosophy of giving and learn how you can give in alignment with your values. Participants in the first session commented on how invaluable it was to be on this journey with others. It helped open their minds to other perspectives, allowed them to clarify their own giving, and brought peace of mind about their giving.

During this six-week course, participants will discover how to make a difference, learn how to give in a meaningful way, and re-engage with the giving experience!

Register today! Early bird pricing ends September 20.

Advisors: Interested in offering this unique experience for your clients? Click here to read about a streamlined two-day retreat format that could be perfect for you.

TEDxSantaCatalinaSchool: Matters of the Heart


It is a delight and honor to have been invited to speak at the upcoming TEDx event at Santa Catalina School in Monterey on October 17th. This year’s theme, “Matters of the Heart,” is a perfect opportunity to launch a conversation on philanthropy. I look forward to speaking to this group of upper class young women who are already shining leaders in our community. They hope to offer a live-stream, so stay tuned to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter for the latest. I’ll also share a link to the video in an upcoming newsletter.

Resource Highlight–Engaging the Family in Your Philanthropy


I recently picked up this resource from Foundation Source, “the nation’s largest provider of support and advisory services for private foundations.” Their brief pamphlet, Engaging the Family in Your Philanthropy, highlights why families create foundations and how they often develop two missions—one external, the other internal. It is this latter mission that holds such value for any family. How might a foundation increase family engagement or help to carry on family traditions? For each family it will be different. Take some time to read the advice and examples from Foundation Source clients. We all can learn from families engaging in philanthropy together.

How will you and your family fall in love with giving?


Sahar and a young Bosnian girl (Photo courtesy of Sahar Afrakhan)

Sahar and a young Bosnian girl (Photo courtesy of Sahar Afrakhan)

Watch out Berkeley! Here comes Sahar Afrakhan, a proud member of the class of 2018! This young woman is passionate about giving back. I had the pleasure of meeting Sahar last spring when she participated on a panel I moderated on engaging the next generation in philanthropy. Her poise and passion inspired everyone in the room. Maybe some of her thoughts on philanthropy will inspire you.

Deborah: How do you define philanthropy for yourself? And how are you engaging in philanthropy? Who are you engaging in philanthropy with?

Sahar: Service and philanthropy have always been naturally a part of my life. I’ve never thought about what philanthropy means to me because I’ve taken it for granted (its role in my life). My parents have just raised me with the idea that giving back and opening your eyes to something bigger than yourself is part of the recipe for success and a way to further one’s education. Since I’ve become involved with philanthropy I’ve worked with children from ages 4-16, I’ve spoken to adults about how to get the youth involved, [and] I’ve spent a lot of time with members of other family foundations that are under 18 and getting hands-on experience. It’s really cool to see a group of people so dedicated to the same project, like YPC (Youth Philanthropy Connect).

D: Who influences you in your philanthropy?

S: Again, my parents were the initial push for my interest in the philanthropic field and working with NGOs, etc. but I’ve really been inspired by a multitude of mentors. My social justice teacher at school, Mrs Levine, has been phenomenally helpful and so supportive in planning my trip to Bosnia last summer, where a friend and I conducted a multiethnic summer camp for children. Additionally, Anita Roehrick, my first official advisor/mentor with Positive Impulse (PI), who pushed her daughter Miranda, and then us, to truly take charge of our passions and the work we wanted to complete. Nobody held our hand with PI and I always value those experiences—struggling and failing a few times is much better than getting it right the first try—in terms of a learning process and developing critical thinking and problem solving skills. Lastly, everyone I’ve met through YPC—you, Dana Marcus, Annie Hernandez—continue to push us one step further with our ideas and turning them into concrete, feasible tasks.

D: How have you learned about philanthropy?

S: I didn’t even know what the word philanthropy meant until a couple years ago. I’ve never thought of it as something I needed to dive deeply into defining it or analyzing its role in my life. That would ruin the fun for me and make it feel like a job rather than a free flowing passion. What I’ve learned from philanthropy doesn’t come from a book or a dictionary, rather it’s a cumulative of my experiences so far.

Sahar and a young Bosnian boy (Photo courtesy of Sahar Afrakhan)

Sahar and a young Bosnian boy (Photo courtesy of Sahar Afrakhan)

D: Tell me more about your trip to Bosnia last summer.

S: I went to Bosnia with two of my friends to conduct a multiethnic summer camp in a town called Vares. We did it for about 10 days from 8-1 PM every day and had crafts, games, sports—just generic summer camp games, but the important part was that it was multiethnic.

D: What inspired you to go?

S: My friend is Bosnian and fled the war when she was born with her mom as a refugee. Her dad died in the war before she war born, and through her, I learned a lot about the war and thought it would be good to go over summer. Our school set up a summer camp program in Vares, but didn’t go last year so we took the initiative and went instead.

D: What was the most surprising thing about your experience?

S: How comfortable it was. We had our own apartment and met a bunch of kids in the town our age so we had people to hang out with after camp and they even helped us control the hyper little boys. I made friends that I still talk to on Facebook. It was kind of homey in the town.

D: How do you think this opportunity differed from your past philanthropic experiences?

S: It was the first time I was unmoderated. I had no adults, no supervisors. I was by myself in a pretty foreign, poor country. It was my first philanthropic, abroad experience. I loved the independence. I loved being in charge of myself and my decisions. And the camp was a success. It was the first year we had heard back that the local people weren’t annoyed with the Americans, which usually consists of a teacher and a group of students. So we were really excited to hear that.

D: How has this experience inspired your thinking about philanthropy?

S: It emphasized the importance of going out and away from your comfortable space and exploring other parts of the world and cultures. I think philanthropy is more than an act of kindness or a new English school in Africa. I believe it’s more about a curiosity and an openness to learning about how you can benefit the community around you, rather than “knowing” how to fix things. Typically I hear that service projects actually teach you more than you can give them, and I’ve found it to be true.

D: What is your philanthropic dream?

S: I think it would be really great to get teenagers really excited about philanthropy. A lot of my friends are busy with their own day to day lives and have the bigger world as the last thing on their minds, but if philanthropy could become a part of childhood and growing up and learning to channel compassion into action, the world might become a better place.

And this is one of many reasons why I like Sahar…We share the same philanthropic dream! Can you help us make it come true?



Alex in Chacraseca, Nicaragua (Photo courtesy of Alex Pollack)

Last year we both made our first trip to Nicaragua—separately. Alex Pollack, a sophomore at University of Colorado at Boulder, went with a group from school—HOLA (Health Outreach for Latin America)—to offer medical care for humans and animals. I was happy to hear about her experience and get tips for my trip to conserve sea turtles.

Ever since I’ve known her, Alex has been ready, able, and willing to help others. She is a passionate, energetic leader, making her mark on the world. Hopefully her desire to pursue her passions by giving back comes through in our recent interview.

Deborah: How do you define philanthropy?

Alex: It is taking your personal time to give back to the community or organizations that you feel are important to you in your life—something that enables you to want to give back and something that you really feel passionate about.

D: How are you engaging in philanthropy?

A: I am really active with an organization called Health Outreach for Latin America and I am the Grant Writing Administrator and Clinical Coordinator. Once a year we go down to Nicaragua and volunteer in Chacraseca and open up veterinary clinics and human clinics for seven days. We donate our time and energy and help to make the people and animals of Chacraseca feel a little bit better.

D: Who are you doing this with?

A: I’m doing it with a lot of other volunteers from University of Colorado, Boulder, and alumni of Boulder. Some are medical students, some are undergraduate students. It’s a wide variety.

D: What do you like best about this experience?

A: It identifies with my life because it’s something I’m really passionate about—giving back and specifically with health and medicine, which is a field I want to go into in the future. So, I’m able to gain a lot of experience from that….It’s something I’ll use in the future, but also giving back to people who aren’t able to get the kind of health care and medical care they need on a daily basis.

Alex in Chacraseca at vet clinic (Photo courtesy of Alex Pollack)

Alex in Chacraseca at vet clinic (Photo courtesy of Alex Pollack)

D: Tell me about the trips.

A: I’ve only gone on one trip so far and we’re going on the next one in the middle of May.Every volunteer pays for their own flight and is required to fundraise at least $600 to pay for the rest of the expenses of the trip and buy the medical [items] we need to go down there.

We land in Managua and travel to Leon. Chacraseca is a community outside of Leon with nine sectors and is one of the poorest communities in Nicaragua. Every day we go out to a different sector and open clinics. The veterinary clinic and human clinic may be in the same place or some days they’re in different places.

This year we’re putting in a traveling suture clinic for veterinary so we’ll be doing spays and neuters at the same time as giving injections for vitamins and deworming medicine. For the human clinics, we employ Nicaraguan doctors as well as fly down medical students from the medical school by University of Colorado, Boulder. They along with the volunteers help to triage and then the Nicaraguan doctors give out the medicines or the prescriptions they think are necessary for the patient. So, we aren’t going down there and taking our own knowledge and medicine. Instead we’re using the Nicaraguan medicine and their practices and helping to facilitate that.

D: What is the experience of traveling and volunteering like for you? What does it mean to you?

A: I think it’s really important, while I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, to experience different cultures and different fields and take personal time during my spring break or the start of my summer to go down to a different country, community, culture, and volunteer my time….I could be relaxing, [but] I think [it] is a lot more rewarding and something I can put to use when I go back to school or look for jobs. It’s really important for my own health and the way I see the world.

D: And your major is?

A: I am majoring in International Affairs with a focus in Latin America. So I’m able to go down there and experience the cultures I learn about in my lectures.

D: It brings it to life, doesn’t it?

A: Exactly.

D: Are there any other philanthropic projects you’re a part of?

A: Not at the moment. I have [done some] in the past, growing up with my dad and the impact he’s had in my life—having philanthropy be something that’s really important and giving back to the community. Right now I think it’s important to put all my energy into one organization that I can really donate most of my time to. So, that’s HOLA for me.

D: Tell me more about how your dad has influenced you in your philanthropy or anybody else.

A: He teaches Service Learning at CSUMB. For my Bat Mitzvah project, we cooked meals for Dorothy’s Kitchen for a couple months. It’s something that has always been a part of my life growing up. He really values [philanthropy] and has instilled that in me. Giving back to your community allows your community to benefit from everything that you do, but you also get a lot of benefits from the experiences you have. You learn from them and can use them in the future.

D: Any other ways you’ve learned about philanthropy other than through your family?

A: Through my sorority too. We try to do as much philanthropy as we can…we put on Chi O Karaoke and donate all the money to Make-A-Wish. My favorite way to do philanthropy is not just by donating money, but instead time. So, things like going to the Children’s Hospital and delivering Valentines like we did this year. That’s something that has also been part of my life.

D: What do you like best about giving and how does it make you feel?

A: It’s the rewarding experience that you gain from donating your time, energy, and moneyto an organization that you really think is important to you. When you are able to find that organization that you feel really passionate about, it’s a lot easier to do, rather than feeling like it’s something you have to do. You can enjoy it at the same time. So it’s rewarding to me and the people I’m giving back to.

D: What is your philanthropic dream?

A: Ooh, that’s a big question! It would be [to provide] education for women or communities of children and young adults that can’t get the education they can use to thrive in their lives and would be of benefit to them. Education is really important in everyone’s life and no matter where you are, you should have the opportunity to get the education you need. I’m really passionate about that, as well as medicine. However, in order to give medicine you have to have education.

Alex is definitely driven by her passion! Like me, and others who travel and volunteer, she’s found it to be quite rewarding, on many levels. I’d be interested in hearing from those of you who have also volunteered while traveling. Please share your comments below.


Why Do You Give?

March 31, 2014

Take a few minutes and consider—why do you give?

If it helps, think about some recent donations you made. Why did you choose to give money to an organization? Or why did you decide to volunteer to help put on that event?

Do you give because you:

  • Are compelled by religious tradition?
  • Want to give back?
  • Want to support a cause that you care about?
  • Want recognition?
  • Want tax benefits?
  • Want to build a stronger community?
  • Feel good when you do it?

Anne Frank quoteReminding ourselves why we give allows us to reconnect with our giving. It also serves as reinforcement of the giving we are already doing.

I often open conversations with clients or presentations for groups with this question, so I thought I knew all the possible answers. However, I’ve found in reviewing my own giving history, facilitating Philanthropy Camp for Women, and participating in weekly Why I Give chats on Twitter, that there are many more reasons to give than I thought.

Philanthropy Camp for Women

The women who have joined Philanthropy Camp are helping me see that why we give isn’t as easy a question to answer as I thought.

Here are just a few of their reasons for giving:

  • I can.
  • I see a need.
  • I was asked.
  • I want to make a difference.
  • I feel guilty if I don’t.
  • I find it’s a way to meet new people and make friends.
  • I like to help people help themselves.
  • I like to pay it forward.
  • I know my small donation can make a big difference in someone else’s life.
  • I feel a spiritual connection.
  • I know it’s the right thing to do.
  • I care about the person or animal or environment and I want to feel more connected to them.
  • I want to combine my efforts with others to synergistically effect change.
  • I want to feel part of something larger.
  • I want to feel like a good person.
  • I was once a recipient and now I want to give.

What is interesting to note, and you may have noticed this too when you reviewed your own reasons for giving, is that we don’t have just one reason we give. The reason may depend on the situation. Or it may depend on who’s asking.

Why I Give

Last year, I discovered the Why I Give chat on Twitter. This “global generosity movement” attracts givers from all over the world. You too can follow @WhyIGivechat and join us Tuesday nights (5-6 pm PST) with #WhyIGive (hash tag created by WhyIGivechat and Michael Chatman).

I find it truly inspiring to read why other people give. There’s something motivating and comforting about joining with other givers in a celebration of generosity.

I’ve also learned from participating in the chats week after week that again, there are many more reasons for giving than I could imagine. Giving is very personal.

Here are some of my favorites:




WhyIGive chat



WhyIGive chat



WhyIGive chat



WhyIGive chat



WhyIGive chat



WhyIGive chat



WhyIGive chat













Do any of these reasons resonate with you? Or do you have a reason that hasn’t been shared? Please feel free to share your own reason for giving in the comments below.

I hope to see you on Twitter too. I’m @dagphilanthropy.


Hannah Grogin and her dog, Bianca

Hannah Grogin and her dog, Bianca

Hannah impressed me the first time we met. My interview with her revealed why. Although I’ve known Hannah for some time as her youth group advisor, our conversation introduced me to all the great work she is doing in our community. I bet you’ll be impressed by this 16-year-old’s contributions too.

Deborah: How do you define philanthropy?

Hannah: Philanthropy is giving back to your community or causes that need help and making a personal sacrifice whether it be time or money or your energy put into it.

D: How are you engaging in philanthropy?

H: I am part of NCL, National Charity League, and we have a bunch of philanthropies that we help. I like to volunteer through that. I’m also in BIRTY [Beth Israel Reform Temple Youth group] and so we have our social action project, which is Save Our Shores. We help benefit the program by doing beach clean ups or bake sales and help raise money to raise awareness for them.

D: Tell me more about NCL and the different organizations you work with.

H: We have a list of philanthropies that we do with them, such as the SPCA, Project Linus, the Salvation Army, Operation Yellow Ribbon, Dorothy’s Kitchen, Nancy’s Project, Habitat for Humanity, and a lot more. NCL provides opportunities for you to help those programs. They have a website where you can check for events they are having or help they need in the community through local branches. It’s really fun. You do it with your classmates. And it’s a mother daughter organization, so you can do it with your mom. It’s good bonding and good for the community.

D: What has been your favorite experience with NCL?

H: More recently I started volunteering for the SPCA. I don’t have a lot of time during my week, but I go on Sundays and I help out there. I walk the animals, care for them, clean up after them. It’s really fun because I love the animals. It’s a fun way to spend time and be able to help them. I’ve been working with them for a month now.

D: How long have you been working with NCL?

H: Since seventh grade. Three years.

D: You’re the President this year?

H: Yes.

D: What sort of responsibilities do you have as President?

H: I make up agendas for our monthly meetings and make sure everyone does their jobs. For example, there’s a secretary, treasurer, people who bring recognition to the charities, and advertise for upcoming events.

D: How many people are in NCL?

H: There’s 7th through 12th grades [represented] and about 15-20 girls per class. And their moms.

D: And the chapter has girls from all over the area?

H: Yes. You meet a lot of people and it’s fun.

D: What are you looking forward to for the rest of the year with NCL?

H: We had a fun event recently where we went to the SPCA and made sock toys for cats. We filled [the sock] with catnip, fluff, and put a bell at the bottom and tied them up. We got to visit with the animals afterward. We do philanthropic activities for our meetings sometimes. We made placemats for Meals on Wheels once. We do activities that we can do after or during our meeting.

D: So you meet once a month with your board. How often do you meet as a whole group?

H: We have events once every four months or so. We have an Enrichment Day where a speaker will come and talk about anything that’s pressing for women and being active. There’s a Philanthropy Day where we get together in a gym and set up different stations where you can do philanthropies. So that’s fun. And then we have an etiquette practice too when we have teas. That’s interesting.

D: Are there other people you’re engaging in philanthropy with?

H: There’s also philanthropy through school [Santa Catalina]. We do the Child Fund and we have certain children that we sponsor through school and we help them raise money for their basic needs like food and shelter and clothing. We raise money as a school to help them.

D: Nice, so you’re doing things with your classmates, youth group, and your mom.

H: As a family, we have a tzedakah box in the kitchen where we put our loose coins and we plan to donate it to charity when we fill it up.

D: You and your brother get to choose?

H: Uh huh. So we get to choose and we have to count it up and put it in the rolls [to take to the bank] and we’re kind of in charge of that. So last time we got $60 from one tissue box [their tzedakah box], which was pretty cool.

D: Where did you give your money the last time?

H: We haven’t decided yet.

D: About how long would you say it takes you to save up $60 in loose change?

H: Six months maybe.

D: So everyone contributes.

H: Yes, it’s easy. If you just have a bunch of change sitting around or you go to the store and get extra change, you put it in there and it adds up.

D: How would you say you learned about philanthropy?

H: I’ve always been influenced by school in terms of philanthropy. I went to All Saints and they are very into philanthropy and charities and outreach as they called it. I remember “bean bagging” or bagging beans and Nancy Costello delivered it. We would do food drives and clothing drives. And we were connected with a school in Haiti, so we would raise money to buy them goats and wells for fresh water.

D: What do you like best about giving?

H: I like that I get to make a positive impact in someone’s life and that what I’m doing is not just making me feel better, but also making a difference with other people.

D: So how does giving make you feel?

H: It makes me feel good. Being Jewish, you’re encouraged to do good to others and so it makes me feel like a good person and I like helping people.

D: If you could fulfill a philanthropic dream, what would it be?

H: I think everyone should have the basic necessities of life—food, water, shelter, clothing—because without those you can’t really survive or do anything else beyond trying to find things for survival. So I think that to get anyone who can those basic needs. And once those are satisfied, you can work on other things.

Until I met Hannah, I was not familiar with National Charity League. If you’re a mother and looking for ways to bond with your daughter and give back to the community, this sounds like a great opportunity! If you’re local, you might just meet Hannah and her mom!



Have you ever wanted to give back, but been at a loss for what to give or how to give?

Try asking yourself this question:

What do you have in abundance?


Where are you abundant in your life?

Take a moment to think about how you would answer these questions.


Last week, I joined with the ladies of my Women’s Wealth Group in a brief discussion of abundance. Here are just a few of the things we listed:

  • Smiles
  • Hugs
  • Flowers
  • Books
  • Energy
  • Time


The follow up question was then: What can you give? Well, when you put it that way, I have a lot to give! And who doesn’t love to give or receive a smile? Or a hug? Or your energy?

I loved this way of backing into a discussion on giving. We all have a lot more to give than we think we do. Often because we’re thinking in terms of money! Why don’t we start by thinking about what we have in abundance?

An Example of Abundant Giving

Later that night, I was watching CBS Sunday Morning, which I had recorded. One story was a perfect follow up to our conversation about abundance.

I’m not sure what Jim O’Connor was thinking when he decided how he was going to give. However, he found two wonderful things that he has in abundance.

Jim O’Connor has blood and love in abundance. And what a beautiful way he has decided to give back.

Tell me below, what do you have in abundance? How can you share that with someone who might need it?


Bryce Rosenau and his bracelets (Photo courtesy of Julie Rosenau)

Bryce Rosenau and his bracelets (Photo courtesy of Julie Rosenau)

Just after the start of the new year, I was thinking about who to interview next for this series. The answer came to me in the Monterey County Weekly. They had written a short piece on Bryce Rosenau, a fourth grader at Junipero Serra School. Bryce sold bracelets he made at the Rio Grill’s Resolution Run to raise funds for the Natividad Medical Foundation’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

I tracked Bryce down for an interview.

Deborah: How did you get the idea to make bracelets and sell them?

Bryce: My mom was working with this project and I just wanted to help. I knew how to make the bracelets so I said how about I make money this way.

D: What kind of bracelets are they?

B: They are called rainbow loom bracelets and you make them on a loom with rubber bands. I made 100 bracelets.

D: How long did it take you to make all the bracelets?

B: I started in September and I finished in December.

D: And you made every single bracelet yourself?

B: Uh-huh.

D: You asked people to make a donation for the bracelet. Did you ask for a certain amount?

B: It was $5 for a bracelet.

D: Did you sell them all?

B: No, I sold about 50 and got donations. $300 total.

D: Before this did you know anything about Natividad Medical Center?

B: Not really. The only thing I knew was that my mom worked with them last year and I helped set up and got everything ready [for the Rio Grill’s Resolution Run].

D: What did you do this year?

B: This year I did the bracelets and then I also helped get more money for the babies at Natividad Medical Center [in the neonatal intensive care unit].

D: Why are the babies at Natividad so important to you?

B: The babies are sick and were born early. I just wanted to help out. I wanted those babies to survive.

D: Have you had a chance to visit the NICU? What was it like?

B: Yes. Well, they had all their machines for them and I think there were 10 babies there.

D: What does giving mean to you?

B: Helping or giving up something I have to other people.

D: Was this your first time doing something like this? Volunteering?

B: Yes.

D: Who was your biggest influence in deciding to do this?

B: My mom.

D: What is it about your mom that really made you want to do this?

B: My mom said if you really want to do something about this you can and then that’s when it hit me what I wanted to do.

D: What have you learned about giving from your mom?

B: Don’t keep everything to yourself. Share with other people.

D: What did you like best about this experience?

B: Seeing the NICU.

D: So you got to see how the money you raised was being used?

B: Uh-huh.

D: How did that make you feel?

B: Happy.

D: Do you think you’d do something like this again?

B: I might do something different. Maybe save money [and support the NICU].

D: Do you want to get your friends involved? How would you get them involved?

B: Yes. Maybe ask them “do you want to help?” and it’s for this certain cause.

D: How do you think people reacted to you doing this?

B: Maybe they’d want to help after I do this. Some of the people [at the Rio Grill’s Resolution Run] were surprised and excited.

D: Before you did this, did you think a nine-year-old could save a life?

B: No.

D: Do you think you can now?

B: Yes.

This last exchange was so heartwarming and powerful. I truly believe that Bryce will be forever changed as a result of this experience. He’s starting to learn the joy of giving. It can mean changing a life!

If you know a young philanthropist in your life that I should interview, please contact me.


Last fall I had the opportunity to facilitate a conversation with a group of Girl Scouts who were preparing to work on their Gold Award, the highest honor they can achieve. We talked about what philanthropy meant to them and I led them through an activity to help them think about the impact they want to make in the community.

Rachel Bend

Rachel Bend

One of the young women I met was Rachel Bend, a senior at Monterey High School. She caught my eye again when I saw her on the news promoting the Girl Scouts One Warm Coat Drive over the holiday season. Rachel has been in the Girl Scouts for 10 years and plans to continue as an adult scout to help younger scouts and start new troops. We sat down this week for an interview.

Deborah: How do you define philanthropy?

Rachel: Giving because you want to, not because you have to. Doing it because it makes you feel good.

D: Tell me about the different ways you’re involved in philanthropy.

R: I try to volunteer as much as possible. I help with my orchestra on weekends and doing my Gold Award project with my music program. So far I’ve gotten 30 hours of volunteer work and I still have 10-20 hours to go.

D: Tell me more about your Gold Award project.

R: I am organizing all the music in the Monterey High band room—finding out what we have and don’t have and putting it on computers for them to use in the future. [Students] will be able to check out music like in a library and teachers will know what they have and don’t have. Usually students will take the music and won’t give it back and the teacher forgets to collect it. By putting it on the computer, it’s a more accurate way to find what’s missing and who has what.

D: Tell me more about what the Gold Award means to you.

R: It’s a step up into the real world. This is the final stage of Girl Scouts. I still get help from my mom and teachers, but it’s mainly me working on it. It makes me feel good to do something for my school that also helps my Gold Award.

D: Anyone else you volunteer with?

R: I’ll volunteer sometimes with the SPCA when I have time. I’ll drive out to Salinas and clean pens, take dogs out for walks, and play with the cats, get them exercise. It’s all stuff that I like. I also help with the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Getting to drive a golf cart and possibly see celebrities is pretty fun.

Rachel buying coats at Old Navy for the One Warm Coat Drive

Rachel buying coats at Old Navy for the One Warm Coat Drive (Photo courtesy of Laurie Bend)

D: I saw you around the holiday season on TV. Tell me more about the One Warm Coat Drive.

R: It’s a coat drive for adults and kids, a local event. All coats collected stay in the community. They don’t go to San Francisco or Oakland. They stay here and in Salinas. First we take them to Country Club Cleaners and they clean the coats. Then they distribute them to Dorothy’s Place in Salinas and the Boys and Girls Club in Seaside.

D: How many coats did you collect this year?

R: 1,394

D: That’s incredible. Have you done this before?

R: Yes, I think this is my eighth or ninth year doing it. Last year we collected 1,165 coats.

D: Are they mostly new coats or are people bringing new coats?

R: It’s a variety. Some people buy coats. One time this lady went into Macy’s and she came out with a brand new $100 coat and donated it. There was another time a couple years ago that a guy was walking by and he gave us the jacket off his back. This year my mom got a grant for $500 from Salinas Valley Business Women’s Network and we were able to purchase 26 coats ranging from children to adult [sizes].

D: It’s inspiring to see someone walk by and take the coat off his back isn’t it?

R: Yes, and it was a nice leather coat too. It was a big bulky leather jacket.

D: Who are you engaging in your philanthropy with?

R: Usually it’s either my mom or my friends. Next week, my friend Ciara and I are going to Pebble Beach to help with the Pro-Am. My friend Nick is helping with the music program at my school. I don’t usually do it alone. I have some friends go with me.

D: Who initiates the volunteering?

R: Usually it’s me saying, “Hey, do you want to come?” And they say, “Yeah, why not?” We usually end up having a fun time and saying, “We should do that next year.” Like the Jazz Festival, I do that with my friends Ciara and Melisse and Sarah every year. We have a contest to see who can sell more programs.

D: What do you do with your mom? Is it different from what you do with your friends?

R: I usually go to the SPCA with my mom. She likes helping too. I usually do the SPCA and beach clean ups with her.

D: Who would you say influences you in your philanthropy?

R: My mom. She does a lot of volunteering. She recently volunteered her time to talk to my art portfolio class about her career as a graphic designer. I thought that was really cool.

D: That’s a great example of philanthropy. Not everyone thinks about that, however it’s a great way to give time. All parents can come talk to their kid’s classes. How else would you say your mom influences you?

R: She has her drive to go and do something. If she’s given a project to do she works non-stop until it’s done.

D: What are the skills or strengths that you bring to your giving?

R: I am a leader. With my Gold Award project, this was all leadership. I had to put together the dates. I had to talk with my teacher about doing it and I had to get people to volunteer. And if they didn’t show up when they said they would, I got on the phone and asked where they were. I’m pretty straightforward. I ask people, “Why aren’t you here when you said you would be?”

D: Tell me more about what you like best about giving?

R: It’s the feeling of being able to help someone who needs it the most. They may not even realize they need it until you help them. At the SPCA, they have so many pets and so much to clean. Just being able to say that I can do a load or two of wash for the dogs’ blankets. Or I can clean a couple pens. It helps the staff because they don’t always have time to do that.

D: Any other ways that giving makes you feel?

R: Tired.

D: Why?

R: Because you’re doing a lot of work. It’s good in the end because you get to work and then you get tired and then you get to sleep well.

D: If you could fulfill a philanthropic dream, what would it be?

R: To go to other schools and help them with their music programs and help them organize. I’d love to go to other schools to do that because I know my school isn’t the only one to have lost music.

I was so impressed by the numerous volunteer opportunities that Rachel has engaged in over the years. It also struck me that at 17 she has found something she’s passionate about—music. She’s now been playing the cello for five years. And she has this desire to give back to an organization that’s provided her so much—Girl Scouts. She’s got a bright future ahead!