For the second time today, a donor described what they were doing with us as fun. I thought this was brilliant, and have been reflecting on it ever since.
So much of what we do is serious stuff. We’re working on a new edition of Oxfordshire Uncovered that will peel back the layers of wealth and beauty to show that our county is also a place of disadvantage where people on our doorsteps are struggling. We strive to provide a professional service to our donors and operate in an ethical and responsible way. The issues facing our communities are unacceptable, and the charitable sector is starting to buckle under their weight.
But we also believe that Oxfordshire, of all places, is somewhere where the solutions to problems can be found. The intellectual promise, the openness, the capacity to invest in the charitable sector - they are all here and so full of hope and potential. To change Oxfordshire for the better is only possible if we can inspire people with their very own potential as an agent of that hope.
After an online donor event this evening, a key person emailed to tell me how fun it has been to see different people inside and associated with OCF share content about our current focus and projects. At the event, donors spoke with passion about the day-to-day stories that have led them to give large sums through OCF.
Another donor I spoke to this morning described how philanthropy had become a third career; how proactively engaging with his local community made the place he had chosen to live really feel like home; how the role he was taking was keeping him active and alert in later life - and having fun.
Could it be that philanthropy is an opportunity to truly become the best version of yourself, to give but to get back more than you ever imagined? Well, yes! It turns out there is loads of fascinating research about this, collated in the presentation below by the perennially brilliant Dr Beth Breeze. As the late Mike Oglesby put it, "The huge pleasure and satisfaction that is to be gained from spending one’s time in giving in your later years far outweighs any pleasures that you can possibly gain on the golf course, on the beach or on the back of the yacht in the Mediterranean sipping martinis."
There are plenty more quotes along these 'self-actualisation' lines, and they really resonate with me, perhaps because of my feelings about volunteering as previously shared.
Philanthropy can also create imbalances of power, paternalism or increased division between 'haves' and 'have nots'. But I truly believe that when done with thought and humility, philanthropy is an idea to reclaim and an activity to feel proud of - especially, of course, when done in partnership with a community foundation that understands the needs, and is close to the solutions.
The huge pleasure and satisfaction that is to be gained from spending one’s time in giving in your later years far outweighs any pleasures that you can possibly gain on the golf course, on the beach or on the back of the yacht in the Mediterranean sipping martinis.