Philanthropy can seem like a big word. It might remind you of Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller (see left), or big names with big money. Or you might think its for people with enough wealth to put their names on schools in Cambodia or endow executive directors at museums. These people are out there, certainly, and their wealth enables organizations to reach large goals, expand into more countries, and take risks. This kind of philanthropy is necessary, but for those who don't walk the halls of the country's private foundations, philanthropy might appear entirely unapproachable.

But this isn't the only way. Philanthropy, after all, is an "altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property, or work to needy persons, by endowment of institutions of learning and hospitals, and by generosity to other socially useful purposes." Philanthropy is about generosity, in all its forms. 

Another way to approach philanthropy, and one I would argue is tremendously important, is defining the role you want to play in your community, the example you want to set for your friends and family, and how you plan to contribute throughout the world. And the good news is, it's never too late! You can begin any time, at any stage in life, and with any income. This isn't about money. It's about knowing what you care about, beginning the process of educating yourself, and determining which organizations would be a good fit for your support.

We talk a lot about the food system here because educating you is part of The Giving Table's mission, but you also need tools to put your knowledge to good use, so get ready. Over the next few weeks (and probably months!) we'll be delving deeper into this issue by looking at ways to help you develop your personal philanthropy strategy, better understand how to evaluate an organization, and how to get involved in a way that best suits you.