Being a philanthropist is often of the fantasy of most would-be billionaires. It conjures up images of dedication ceremonies and schools built in your honor with plaques memorializing your generosity. Some philanthropists are in fact known for giving away substantial amounts of money for majestic causes that aid society. Some notable examples include John D. Rockefeller and Warren Buffett. There are also philanthropists who have dedicated their very lives to causes they are passionate about, such as Mother Teresa and Paul Farmer, both recipients of numerous humanitarian awards.

That being said, there are countless philanthropists who aren’t even remotely famous, and it suits them just fine. The origin of the word was coined by the Greek playwright Aeschylus to describe a love of humanity. Today it has evolved to mean generosity in all forms, not just monetary or even grandiose, and it is practiced by over 36 million Americans. The gift of philanthropy means a choice of time, talent, or treasure. In addition, most active philanthropists today seek to solve major problems at their root causes, not just to promote one-time projects. There is a deep desire to make the world literally a better place, whether it be through climate change, animal rights, or social issues. The U.S. government endorses the idea of charitable giving by offering tax incentives such as deductions against capital gains, income, and estate taxes. 

In addition to helping others, there is a lot to be gained from being a philanthropist. From a mental health perspective, it feels good to know you can make a difference in helping the world or a cause you feel passionate about. There are even resources to help you decide how to best use your time, talents, and/or money. For many people, time is the most precious commodity there is, so donating it is a gesture of dedication and commitment to a cause. People volunteer in soup kitchens or tutor teenagers. This, in turn, leads to greater overall happiness for the giver as well, leading to lower overall stress levels. Humans are very social creatures, so it also enforces a sense of community. 

Boosting your giving IQ is a series of steps to help identify causes that impact you and then selecting the most productive way to accomplish your action plan. In some cases, this might mean setting up a long-term fund that will support your causes long after you are no longer around. Some people create giving circles that bring like-minded people together to make a greater impact.