Why “Philanthropy” Is My Favorite Word

By Vince Fabra

Recently, I was asked, “What is your favorite word?” My response was “Philanthropy.”

I know what some of your are thinking. “C’mon. The guy that teaches values-based recruitment says his favorite word is ‘philanthropy?!’” It’s a little cliché, but I can honestly say that of all the words I know, ‘philanthropy’ is my favorite.

First of all, the phonetics of the word are beautiful. It is wonderfully constructed, rolls off the tongue perfectly and hits the ear nicely. Say it out loud… “Philanthropy.” It’s so beautiful!

Then, after adding meaning and context, the word maintains its beauty and also becomes powerful.

philanthropy:  goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially: active effort to promote human welfare

Fraternities and sororities were created to be philanthropic organizations — to actively “promote human welfare” and spread “goodwill to fellow members of the human race.”

Both as an undergrad and as a fraternity professional, I have witnessed organizations work very hard to change the meaning of my favorite word. ‘Philanthropy’ on some campuses is now synonymous with ‘competition, bitterness, drama’. With the constant flow of embarrassing news stories in the media, we can add ‘inappropriate’ and ‘misogynistic’ to the list of twisted synonyms too.

To all of my philanthropy chairs across the country, allow me to share a message with you. This is the same message I’m trying to get across to your recruitment chairs.

Philanthropy does not equal event. (and Recruitment does not equal event.)

It is fine to host philanthropy events, but the act of spreading “goodwill to fellow members of the human race” is not exclusive to dance competitions and food events. It can be done every single day with a budget of $0.00. You don’t need to reserve rooms on campus, “get the word out there”, or drive fellow organizations into a competitive frenzy over a trophy THAT DOES NOT MATTER!

All you need to do is actively promote human welfare and spread goodwill to fellow members of the human race.

However, if you feel like an event in necessary to your philanthropic efforts, by all means, I hope you plan and execute an immaculate one. But during the planning process, please continue to ask yourself and your members…

  • Does this event promote human welfare?
  • Does this event spread goodwill to fellow members of the human race?
  • Or does this event exist to serve our chapter’s ego (and oh yeah, we raised some money for the kids— Philanthropy, right)?

Philanthropy is still my favorite word. It still sounds beautiful. I want to thank the thousands of fraternity and sorority members that work towards preserving and restoring its true meaning —also, in the process, thanks for spreading goodwill to fellow members of the human race.