My Turn:How to become a philanthropist

Are you a philanthropist or a wannabe? The term philanthropist conjures up names like Gates, Rockefeller, and Buffet. In other words, BIG MONEY. That’s misleading. You don’t have to be a billionaire to be a philanthropist.


Being a philanthropist is about giving back to your community and the people who live here. Anyone can “give back” regardless of income bracket. Philanthropy means a voluntary giving of time and/or money to help others without expecting any type of reward in return.

If you never seriously considered being a philanthropist, now is a good time to give it some thought. It’s a new year, ripe for new thinking.

Consider the following:

• Look locally at causes you care deeply about. Visualize what you believe is most important for your community. Make your generosity meaningful to you.

• Make inquiries. One simple way to find out who and what you want to support is to contact the Juneau Community Foundation. You’ll learn about the various funds it manages that support a wide variety of community needs, and more about non-profits in which you could become active.

• Volunteer. If your discretionary funds are limited, donate your time. Become active with your chosen charity or non-profit organization.

• Budget. Really? You’ve heard the old-fashioned term “to tithe” which we usually equate with giving to our place of worship. Those who tithe, budget a certain amount each month or year which makes giving simple and automatic. Your philanthropy habit can be planned in the same way. Budget for it rather than have it become a missed afterthought.

• Take it easy. No need to make your personal philanthropy practice complicated or mind boggling. One easy route is to Pick-Click-Give on your next PFD application. You have until March 31, 2013 to apply for your PFD, on which you can pick a charity, click on it, and give through a deduction from your next permanent fund dividend check. Easy. Wow!

• Make an Estate Plan. Plan to give back to Juneau, even if you may be leaving town. Many people live in Juneau for their earning years, raise their children here, earn a decent living, and then move south to warmer climates or nearer family. Consider giving to Juneau before you leave, or include Juneau in your estate plan with a financial bequest through your will or trust.

Why become a philanthropist? Besides the obvious never ending needs of a community, many people leave the giving to others, thinking it’s not their job. The fact is, in a civil, democratic society we each have an obligation to contribute what we can to keep our community safe, healthy and culturally vital. Moreover, giving back is a personal feel good. Our reward will not likely be a statue downtown, or a park or building named for us. Instead, and trust me on this one, we will simply feel satisfaction and peace of mind knowing we’ve done what we could.

I encourage you to make this a happy new year by taking some action now toward becoming a philanthropist. A quick and easy first step is to contact the Juneau Community Foundation at 523-5450, or at, and by visiting the JCF website at You’ll be very glad you did.

• Douglas is thankful she has lived in Juneau for 36 years and serves on the Juneau Community Foundation Board of Directors.


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