The power of philanthropy: building social bonds in communities

If one were to assess the current levels of development and growth — worldwide —, one would notice that these were only possible by extraordinary acts of greatness carried out by individuals. Yosef Meystel knows that for the world to be a non-sectarian place, — the desired concept of world — the intervention of individuals and leaders committed to serving those in need — whether they belong to the same community or not — is crucial. It is through selfless actions that the world, the continent and the cities can be transformed into a much better and less hectic place.

great passion for philanthropy_chicago_Yosef Meystel

Image courtesy of Shalin Pinto at

Community philanthropy?

Across the world, the use of what is known as community philanthropy has become more regular than ever before. Citizens of different nations and cultures have created different organizations that manage and channel economic resources and other assets of a specific community or place. They have also developed social programs focused on fulfilling the existent needs within a community — and within those similar regardless of where they are —, and on raising awareness on the current issues that keep the community from achieving a higher level of development. This long term-conceived model of philanthropy is the most common; however, there are also another kinds of organizations willing to defy the model: it has become more and more popular to see a new wave of community philanthropic organizations able to adapt themselves properly to different conditions and situations. These also refuse to apply a particular concept whatsoever.

In its essence, community philanthropy is nourished by people: their motivations, their feelings, and their commitment to helping one another; it is a resource that has always existed in every society and culture. In fact, community philanthropy has also been conceived and defined as a community impulse and as an organizational form. Thus, community philanthropy possesses the distinctive ability to channel such impulse through local institutions so that the needs of the donors are adapted and personalized to the local circumstances. It is not rare, then, that more and more communities are starting to show interest in this topic.

Community philanthropy in action!

In Chicago, the biggest and renowned philanthropists come from the corporate world. They have done a remarkable job by donating, helping others and helping organizations seeking different streams of funding. Though this is the most common modus operandi, a bigger number of donors, professionals, and social promoters have started to explore new strategies to strengthen and increase the development of community philanthropy at a global level as a development tool and community force. In order for it to have the desired impact as an effective development practice, the community philanthropy requires support. This support must be based on the substantial needs that exist within a community, realizing what is really happening and must refrain from operating based on external interests and impulses. In Chicago, this trend can be achieved if both regional and national organizations support the creation of community foundations. Community philanthropy has proven to be both effective and convincing at many levels and throughout different contexts, whether cultural or geographical. Communities in Chicago must go beyond barriers — either cultural or racial — in order to help each other by conceiving this trend as a development strategy. As technology has been enabling external donors to contribute much easier, these communities are required to seize properly such donations. If communities realize that bonding together is all they need to improve their conditions and grow, then the process becomes a much more feasible one.

Chicago_Chicago’s Philanthropy_yosef meystel

Image courtesy of Tony Webster at

How can this be implemented in the cities?

First, in order to achieve what this trend suggests, community philanthropy promoters must explore and answer a series of questions as they develop the strategies to strengthen communities: How can the exchange of knowledge — between different communities and individuals — be facilitated? How can this model be communicated to all? Which are the most effective mechanisms to get all the emerging community philanthropy organizations together and consolidated? How can external donors support the community philanthropy model by minimizing the outdated dynamics that might end up damaging these new efforts? Is there any specific type of international infrastructure able to fund pilot programs, manage funds, gather and summon new leaders, create a solid networking base and strengthen the model?

The last October 17th, the Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS) highlighted the implication different types of organizations have had on the ongoing creation of the community philanthropy trend. The city of Chicago (the tenth most philanthropist city in the United States) must understand that applying what the community philanthropy model suggests is how the different communities within the city can be strengthened at the same time by conceiving a model that focuses on a greater good past the cultural and racial boundaries. Bonding these communities together and thus enhancing their conditions will lead the city to a greater level of development.


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