Ready to know more about San Diego?


What You Don’t Know About Charity

Outgoing San Diego Foundation CEO Bob Kelly reflects on the “San Diego Way,” and offers five surprising facts about giving

On His Resume:
The UC San Diego alum has spent more than 20 years in the nonprofit sector

Fast Facts:
There are 1.5 million nonprofits in the country, generating $1.5 trillion in spending per year, and employing one in ten Americans.

1/ Philanthropists are not all wealthy. If you don’t have a lot of money, try thinking about what you do have to give —your time, your talent, or your treasure—and what you care about. Service-oriented nonprofits need hands-on volunteers of time. There is no better way to feel of service, frankly. It does something for your soul to serve in a soup kitchen or elder care facility. Nonprofit, mission-driven organizations are often lacking simple basic resources. Doing some heavy lifting, envelope-stuffing for a fundraising campaign, or offering pro bono professional services can be the most timely gift.

2/ We need to interact with the needy. I adamantly believe awareness is the greatest barrier to increasing philanthropy in San Diego. If you live in a coastal community, you can travel from the airport to your door without seeing communities of need. That is simply not the case in Boston, Chicago, or Los Angeles. Sometimes, we have to personally witness the struggles to have a human connection and commitment to resolving those issues. When I met him, one of the first things Deepak Chopra shared with me was, “We just need to get the money from where it is to where it needs to be.”

3/ Raising money is NOT a competition. Eliminating competition and creating a mentality of abundance is critical for our nonprofit sector. It is important to remember because donor passions are so varied and are often determined by life cycle and personal experience. Families with young children are often driven to support elementary schools and mentorship programs, while adults with aging parents may support hospice or a chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Also, membership-based organization like a Rotary, one of The Foundation’s nine community foundations, or San Diego Women’s Foundation can provide a sense of community for donors, connecting you to issues within your own backyard.

4/ Social media is essential to philanthropy. In 2000, Robert D. Putnam wrote Bowling Alone about the breakdown of social capital as families decentralized becoming increasingly disconnected. But then along came Twitter. For the past 10 years, we have been reconnecting in virtual spaces, sharing every action on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. That brings me to another way to give back—mobilize your social network. Spread the word. Hashtag. Pin. Yes, I am on social media. Ping me at @sd_fdn with #TheSanDiegoWay.

5/ Nonprofits contribute to the local economy, just like for-profits. I believe that the nonprofit sector is becoming increasingly more important to our economic vitality. The sector continued to grow during the down economy. The size and scope of the nonprofit sector may come as a surprise. There are approximately 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the country, including well-known brands and more community-based service organizations. The sector generates almost $1.5 trillion in spending per year and employs about one in 10 American workers, or 13.5 million people. It is the third-largest labor force behind retail trade and manufacturing. That might has always driven me to help nonprofits grow.

Kudos to anyone already living “The San Diego Way.” Everyone else—take one of these steps today.

What You Don’t Know About Charity

Photography by Bob Ross

Share this post

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA