The power of philanthropy

It’s the best tool we have for making the world a better place

Alexa Benson-Valavanis is CEO and executive director of the North Valley Community Foundation.

Alexa Benson-Valavanis is CEO and executive director of the North Valley Community Foundation.

Showcase event tonight, Sept. 15, at Thursday Night Market in downtown Chico.
Annie B’s Drive ends Sept. 30

As the fifth annual Annie B’s Community Drive nears its end on Sept. 30, after a successful two-month run, I am reminded of the unique power of philanthropy. I am reminded again that each of us has the ability to make the world a better place. As clichéd or optimistic or perhaps naïve as that may sound, I happen to know it to be true.

You see, I know people who have done just that!

Six years ago, two community members walked into my office with giant hearts and a desire to make a positive and lasting impact in our communities. With seed money and an idea, Annie B’s was born.

Annie B’s is a grant program that provides a financial incentive for donors (individuals, families and businesses) to give to the charities they value. They give, we give, the charities receive—it’s that simple.

The grant program named in honor of the late local philanthropist Annie Bidwell has quickly become the largest discretionary grant program in the region in both size and reach.

During its first four years it helped raise nearly $4 million for more than 500 local nonprofits and charitable causes—programs that feed local homeless people and provide support for health care, public safety, education, senior services, the environment and the arts, as well as dozens of projects worldwide, from building water wells in Africa to orphanages in Asia.

During a time when our communities (here and around the globe) are facing new and rapidly evolving challenges, limited resources and increased demands, exploring any strategy to engage the private sector in developing solutions is worthwhile.

In fact, many of my philanthropic clients have made this their personal mission—not just to give, but also to encourage giving from others.

By modern and practical definition: Philanthropy is private initiative for public good.

For me personally, this is where it gets exciting. This is how we can demand heightened efficiency and minimize waste. This is where solutions are formed.

Philanthropy can identify and support highly functioning and impact-driven charities while deploying financial capital in a way that fosters innovation and collaboration among all sectors.

Philanthropy can leverage expertise and resources to maximize impact without limitations to one charity, one agency or one for-profit. It can focus on short- and long-term goals, as well as adapt and respond in emergency situations.

Recently I read an article on philanthropy in which the authors recommended we shift our vision of philanthropy from a means of “giving back” to a means of “giving forward.” This deeply resonated with me, as there is no movement “back” whatsoever with mindful, organized philanthropy.

In fact, philanthropy is perhaps one of the greatest mechanisms we have to meet current needs while preparing to meet the needs of the future. Moreover, it gives individuals outside of the political sphere a voice and tool in developing and sustaining social changes.

I believe more than ever before that this is the time for philanthropy. Thank you, Annie B’s donors. In your own ways, whether you gave $5 or $50,000, you are truly making the world a better place.