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OPINION: Cancelling National Philanthropy Day party – not the spirit

Nov. 15 is National Philanthropy Day – how will you feed your philanthropic spirit this year?

Little known Canadian fact: On Nov. 22, 2012, the National Philanthropy Day Act declared, "Throughout Canada, in each and every year, the 15th day of November shall be known as National Philanthropy Day."

Last year, it was easy to propose a social gathering that convened a group of women who are active in the business of community philanthropy. Our first goal was to host a party at YWCA Banff.

The next goal became – let's keep the energy going and mark National Philanthropy Day as an important date on our local calendars. The third goal was to act on the slogan: Humankind. Let's be both.

Canada was the first country to officially and permanently recognize Nov. 15 as National Philanthropy Day. The preamble states:  “Philanthropy is the spirit of giving without expectations of reward ... Whereas Canadians continue to be inspired by the dedication of volunteers who devote themselves to improving the lives of others." 

It goes on to state: “Whereas philanthropy helps build strong communities and active civic participation by bringing people together to serve a common goal." 

This cct decrees that “throughout Canada, in each and every year, the 15th day of November shall be known as National Philanthropy Day.

On the two occasions that our local women's group met, we thought about the various roles and special gifts that women bring to the community's philanthropic sector.

We drew up some lists of how women enrich, engage, commit to the work being done and give back. The group wondered if we should replace the word philanthropy with a different word – a word that is easier to pronounce and more commonly understood.

We searched for a word that embodies the concept of friendship, kindness, belonging, empathy, and sharing gifts that may or may not be dollar amounts.

Ultimately, we decided to embrace the concept, make it our own and we named ourselves the Bow Valley Philanthropy Project – TPP for short. We have a Facebook page, a small working group and a blank calendar.

For 2020, TPP organizers unanimously agreed that hosting a face-to-face celebration on Nov. 15 is too risky and we have nixed the plan to reconvene.

The ext question was that if we can't gather in person, what might each of us do, keeping the philanthropic spirit alive?

Here are three ideas for how to celebrate National Philanthropy Day 2020:

• Buy some gorgeous postcards taken by a local photographer and deliver them to a local business. An independent artist, consultant, restaurant owner or community innovator would certainly appreciate hearing that you have noticed their civic minded goodness.

• Give the cashier an extra $5, saying that you are contributing to the order for the next person in line.

• Be a Human Telegram. Write a thank you letter to someone who has touched your life in a special way. Arrange to meet that person and read your letter out loud, letting them know how much their kindness has impacted your life and genuinely say, "Thank you."

A strong philanthropic ideology inspires a culture of care – as citizens, as leaders, friends, business owners and neighbours. Starting with simple acts of kindness, we are strengthening Canada's social fabric, at the local level.

Our TPP work started with the recognition that the woman's role in community is very special. But obviously all people from all walks of life are needed when we are talking about diversity, inclusion, community and working together with good things in mind.

Regardless of gender, when kind-hearted people agree to work together in the direction of a more equitable and just society our communities will be healthier, more resilient, safer, more confident and inclusive. How will you feed your philanthropic spirit this year?

After working in a broad cross-section of Bow Valley initiatives, Lorraine Widmer-Carson now commits her time to writing, Gratitude Zooming, blogging and savouring nature in the company of her family, which happily includes two delightful granddaughters. She can be reached at