Philanthropy. It’s a word that reads and sounds like something big, important and monied. defines philanthropy as “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.”

Even philanthropy’s definition conjures up thoughts of rich and powerful people, big business and mega corporations all with plenty of money to share. But take another look at the definition. “Altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement.” If this is philanthropy’s bottom line, couldn’t it apply to any one of us? The answer is yes, and no event evens the philanthropic playing field like North Texas Giving Day.

Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT) launched Giving Day 10 years ago to raise awareness of nonprofits, of which there are thousands addressing concerns of every kind: health, environment, education, children, homelessness, hunger, and many, many more causes. People from all walks of life, with or without big bank accounts, are genuinely eager to be part of solutions to the world’s problems. They saw Giving Day as a way to connect people with proven, reputable organizations where they can invest money, resources, time or all three to make a difference to specific issues about which they personally care.

The Green Brigade Drum Line plays during the North Texas Giving Day Opening Ceremony on Sept. 11. (Photo from the North Texas Giving Day Facebook page)

During the first 18-hour North Texas Giving Day in 2008, 6,500 gifts totaling $4 million were shared among 145 local non-profits. Average people were empowered to give via the easy-to-use online platform, and they liked it. Donations came in every size, small to large, to arrive at that number. The realization that many individuals giving what they can has the same impact as one philanthropic financier ignited a movement for community giving that has become part of the fabric of our culture.

North Texas Giving Day is now the largest community-wide giving event in the nation. Last year, $39 million was raised through more than 137,000 gifts that went directly to 2,723 North Texas nonprofit organizations. Add the cumulative 636,600 gifts over the past nine years, and together we have poured $195 million altruistic dollars into our community.

The 10th annual North Texas Giving Day is this Thursday, September 20th. What will the day look like in Denton? It’s a festival, of course, on the courthouse lawn. Nobody loves a party like Dentonites do, and this is a party with a purpose. While online giving lasts all day until midnight, from 5-7 p.m. amidst music, games, characters and fun, scores of local nonprofits will have booths with staff, volunteers and information to educate about their missions.

A friend told me recently that North Texas Giving Day is a tradition now for his family. “The kids put back part of their allowance to save for it. We visit all the booths, and each chooses where they will give their savings.” He says the kids learn about caring for others and taking action to make a difference.

What a great idea.

New this year at North Texas Giving Day is yet another opportunity to participate in giving: get a beard! Having the genes to grow one is not a prerequisite. This beard-to-beard contest welcomes all beards from naturally grown to totally fake. From tiny tots with tied-on beards to bearded pets, they’re all contesters. $10 and a beard and you’re in. A panel of Denton celebrity judges will narrow the field to one grand-prize winner. It’s a hairy new twist to the fun, and all those $10 entry fees add up.

Just like my friend’s children’s allowance. Just like your gift and mine. That’s the key. Collectively, what we do is significant.

North Texas Giving Day Torch Run from Communities Foundation of Texas on Vimeo.

Former First Lady Laura Bush is quoted on “The North Texas community is so generous, and the Communities Foundation of Texas’ North Texas Giving Day is the perfect day to help our neighbors and invest in our local nonprofits. I’m happy to serve as the inaugural Honorary Chair of North Texas Giving Day. Please join me in supporting your favorite North Texas charities on September 20th.”

North Texas Giving Day is every person’s opportunity to be a philanthropist. The online platform lets givers direct their dollars to specific nonprofits and causes. I like watching the totals for my favorite ones rise, the tally of much-needed funds going up every time I check their pages. It is exciting to be part of equipping these organizations to do more, reach more people and have more impact on every Dentonite’s quality of life.

Community-giving is the new philanthropic financier. This Thursday, be part of it. Together is the way we’ll build an even stronger and more vibrant Denton.

For more information, see these links: Giving Day Denton Facebook Page  • Giving Day Denton on the Square • Beard Pageant Registration