Taking Off - Retirement Net by Margaret May

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Taking Off

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What a dragonfly can teach women about philanthropy

Posted July 23, 2012

“Myth tells us that dragonflies are associated with special characteristics which may remind us of who we are as women,” according to Dorothy Allen, interim senior vice president and chief development officer at Florida Institute of Technology.

During my recent visit to the FIT campus to give my keynote speech on “Living a Purposeful Life: Values, Voice and Vision,” Dorothy shared her dragonfly research with the capacity audience. It was amazing to hear that “in almost every part of the world, the dragonfly symbolizes change, and in particular, the change in self-realization and the drive to understand life’s deeper meaning,” Dorothy said.

The dragonfly myth I was most familiar with tells the story of the water beetle’s transformation into a beautiful blue-tailed dragonfly with broad wings designed for flying and seeing the beauty of a whole new world.

As I listened to Dorothy speak, it occurred to me that, yes, the metaphor appropriately describes the dedication of purpose that inspires many of those leading the exponential growth of the women’s philanthropic movement. In my travels, I am meeting lots of dragonflies, passionate about the causes they support with their time, talent and treasure.

History tells us that in prior centuries, women’s philanthropy was traditionally acknowledged more as a “Badge of Citizenship,” an obligation for the greater good of the community. The overt difference in 21st century women’s philanthropic endeavors is that for those who have “spread their wings” and stretched their ability to give larger monetary gifts, there comes a profound feeling of the freedom to see “the beauty of a whole new world.”

Freedom also drives a donor’s transformation from a checkbook giver to being a heartfelt philanthropist. And heartfelt philanthropy often opens the door to a greater understanding of life’s deeper meaning.

“Making my million dollar gift was like jumping off a cliff and then finding out you can fly.” That is how Women Moving Millions donor Jodie Evans describes her experience of giving $1 million to fund the Women’s Media Center to support women in politics and media. Yes, we all may not be able to make a million dollar gift to the causes closest to our heart, yet we all can be dragonflies with the resources we have in our life.

Happy flying! It’s good for the soul.

Margaret May empowers others to create their public and private wealth legacy unique to their passion and purpose, inspiring them to make a difference in the world through philanthropy. May is an accomplished author, trainer, philanthropy commentator, thought leader and public speaker. She is the founder of The Institute for Women and Wealth and her latest book is Women, Wealth & Giving: The Virtuous Legacy of the Boom Generation. Her website is MargaretMay.com


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