Dame Stephanie Shirley is the British Government’s Founding Ambassador for Philanthropy, and the Chairman of the Shirley Foundation. The keynote speaker of the upcoming ICare4Autism International Autism Conference, Dame Shirley, recently expressed her thoughts on philanthropy and how to invigorate a giving culture.
Dame Shirley explained the result of having arrived in theUKin 1939 as an unaccompanied child refugee fromGermany, “my personal history is the main reason why I give. As a refugee, I need to justify the fact that my life was saved while so many others were lost. I’ve been the recipient of charity and have been sensitized to issues in a way that people who have always had enough money – not to be hungry anyway – find hard to imagine”.
She sites her two life-defining ideas as first, knowing that there is always hope and second, that even after losing everything she was never the victim of bigotry and cruelty.
Dame Shirley believes that it is important not to patronize beneficiaries and the key to this is for modern philanthropists to be actively involved. She also believes the more open we are about our giving the more we will encourage a giving culture saying, “If I don’t talk about why and how I give, how can I get anyone else involved? A society needs models, strong models, to display personal vision and leadership.”
She also noted that there needs to be a shift in the way that governments, media and nonprofits interact with philanthropists. Dame Shirley states that giving is voluntary and philanthropist don’t always respond to the most ‘needy’ so it is naïve for governments to rely on philanthropists to pick up the slack when services are cut. She states that that the media need to find a way to both praise and critique the work of philanthropists. Dame Shirley believes that nonprofits need to encourage their donors to voice their support to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
The thoughts she wanted to leave the audience with were succinct and inspiring, “One: Be strategic in your giving. Make a difference. Two: Provide a role model. Be prepared to stand up and be counted. And: Always, but always, be humane.”
ICare4Autism International Autism Conference will be held in Jerusalem on the 1st and 2nd of August 2012. Autism: A Global Perspective will bring together top leading medical and educational professionals and researchers working in autism.
The purpose of the ICare4Autism conferences are to share current groundbreaking research into the causes and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders , and to be a catalyst for powerful interdisciplinary collaborations to tackle the global autism crisis. Registration is now open.