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Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, was recently quoted as saying "We have seen donations for a hundred years ... and the problems and poverty are bigger. They have not solved anything." I'm perplexed by this statement.
If you are a type A personality (like I am), you may think to yourself that Slim may be right. Though global poverty has decreased over the last five years, according to a Brookings Institute study, the number of fragile states is increasing and the potential impact on the poor is troubling. According to the Economic Policy Institute, poverty is on the rise in the U.S. and the "poor are getting poorer." Despite great strides for poverty alleviation in Mexico (Slim's home), a large part of the workforce, informal workers - defined as non-salaried workers who are self-employed - remain in poverty and are considered a "basic challenge to the country's development."
So, is Slim right?
According to Merriam-Webster, philanthropy means "goodwill to fellow members of the human race" or "the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes" if you prefer the Oxford English Dictionary.
Philanthropy is a generous act: an act of giving and receiving. I would contend it provides the framework and hope that can help cure all social ills. Philanthropy is an action that unequivocally states that helping people, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, is an important thing to do.
Americans lead the way. The greatest generation may be the most generous generation to have ever lived and I believe the Millennials will push us to new and greater heights. Even though we have seen a slight decrease in overall gifts to charities during the Great Recession, Americans continue to donate nearly $300 million - more each year - and volunteerism is on the rise, with 63.4 million volunteering in 2011 ( Giving USA).
The holidays will quickly be upon us and each of us may be a little more aware of those with less or without. Though a global solution to poverty may not be in the cards this holiday season, your gift, time and charitable efforts may help a person struggling or in need. Give often and generously. It will make a world of difference to someone - perhaps even someone you know.
Your act of philanthropy can make a real difference. And who knows, perhaps the wealthiest man in the world will be moved to give more by your example.
Photo credit: Mindful One