How to Write My Obit

There’s so much good happening in the nonprofit world.

In 2016 over $1 trillion was contributed to the US Economy, according to The National Association of Charitable Statistics. That’s a lot of charitable work being done! And, it’s all done freely through generosity of people’s limited financial resources.

Unlike with paying our taxes, this is an investment into our world that we can control and feel good about. That’s something we can all be proud of—and evidence we are wired for meaningful and positive connection to each other. I’m particularly proud as an American, which leads the world in charitable donations.

When searching on the internet for the word “philanthropy”, I noticed many of the results that come up are actually obituaries of people who were labeled philanthropists. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was a disappointment that most of these people are extremely wealthy (and generally white and male).

While proud of the overwhelming success of the industry, it does still frustrate me that there’s a lack of diversity. Unfortunately, these obituaries are just a reflection of our society. Today, many people are standing up for equality. There’s a hope and commitment for change, but my hope extends beyond gender and race.

My hope in being labeled a philanthropist also extends to more diversity in our economic classes.

It’s unlikely that when my obituary is written that it will say I gave away my entire billion-dollar wealth and lived off of the remaining $2 million, like the story of Chuck Feeney. It’s unlikely I will have a building (or two) named after me.

By today’s terminology, it’s unlikely that I will be labeled at all a philanthropist.

But I beg you, when they write my obituary, please be sure says it says I was a philanthropist. Please be sure it includes all my volunteer work, my nonprofit career work, and my everyday acts of kindness. I hope my life can be defined as a giver. For me personally, more important than being rich is being generous. Generosity does not have to do with millions of dollars.

As I near middle age and reflect on my own legacy, I wonder what will be said about me when I am long gone?

Hopefully, I will have built a reputation that my children and grandchildren will be inspired by and want to follow in. Hopefully, I have left the world a better place.

Leave a Reply