5 Habits of Happy Philanthropists

5 Habits of Happy Philanthropists

Can philanthropy bring us happiness? I say yes, and more. 

There is being a philanthropist, and there is being a happy philanthropist. 

Happy philanthropists are keenly aware that building relationships with nonprofit leaders and communities served is the foundation of the most significant impact. 

While being a happy philanthropist committed to meaningful change isn’t all roses and puppies, it can bring purpose and happiness to life, through time, focus, a desire to be part of community, and a willingness to be vulnerable. 

We can adopt and learn from these five habits that help make a philanthropist happy – with practice.


1.  They put relationships and trust first

There is no denying that funders who invest in relationships built on respect and empathy drive change. This happens because authentic relationships are the spark of energy that drives the change.

 People who are truly passionate about philanthropy know that their joy comes from the building of meaningful relationships with nonprofit organizations and grassroots leaders.


2.  They focus on not just listening, but deep listening

In work and life, few things can compare with being heard; honestly heard. Donors need to understand their stakeholders’ needs to support meaningful social change.

How do they do that? They do it by listening on a deeper level.

It’s so easy to talk about ourselves and our experiences when we try to relate to others.

Deep listening, however, requires the ability to center on others rather than oneself.

When investors and collaborators engage in deep listening, they can inspire more equitable practices that can help to correct unequal power dynamics and foster trust.


3.  They show up with humility

Happy philanthropists show up quietly and open-minded. Although they recognize the importance of their financial resources, they also realize they have much to learn from the communities closest to the issues. 

They know they are not the experts, and the world is full of ways to know beyond the dominant methods.


4.   They do their inner and outer homework

Happy Philanthropists know inner reflection is essential if their actions are to be meaningful and just. People who do Inner work aren’t afraid of discomfort, because that means examining biases and taking responsibility for how our privilege shows up.

By stepping into our power and using our privilege for good, we spark a desire to engage with people in a more relationship-based way.

It also involves accountability, and requires digging into the issue they want to serve with curiosity and an open mind. They know what the issues are, what the solutions are, and don’t expect to be spoon-fed by nonprofits. 

Showing up well-versed shows respect for those doing the work. Change happens at the speed of trust.


5.  They lead with love

If you can’t show your warts then no one else will show you theirs, even if you ask nicely.

Happy Philanthropists show up with an open heart, open mind, and without fear. They are willing to be vulnerable for their leadership and know that change starts within. Their giving is focused on transformation over transaction.

Being a happy philanthropist committed to meaningful change isn’t all roses and puppies. It takes time, focus, a desire to be part of community, and a willingness to be vulnerable. 

Social change takes time and a lot of work.

Showing up as our whole selves to our grantee partners means offering our vulnerability, respect, humility, compassion, care, and love for those doing the work.