What makes a philanthropist?

Marcey Ciaccio, Interim Executive Director, The Community Foundation for McHenry County

On Tuesday, November 15, The Community Foundation for McHenry County will celebrate our favorite holiday—National Philantrophy Day.

The term “philantrophy” sometimes intimidates people, but Merriam-Webster offers a straightforward definition: goodwill to fellow members of the human race, especially an active effort to promote human welfare or an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes.

In McHenry County, we are surrounded by philanthropists of all backgrounds—people who spread goodwill, help their neighbors and give time and treasure to uplift their community. 

What inspires someone to step into the role of “philanthropist?”

At The Foundation, we love learning the stories behind the giver.

Take for instance, the Cooney Family.  Kent Cooney served as the Foundation’s first executive director from 2001-2006, and he was also the first donor—a title he explained was born of necessity.

“We needed to open a bank account. To do that, we needed money,” Kent said.

So as the Foundation’s new executive director, Kent wrote out a check for $100.

Not much later, Kent’s mother, Karlen, was the second person to establish a charitable fund with The Community Foundation—the James and Karlen Cooney Fund. She contributed to it until her death in 2017. Kent and his sisters loved helping their mother review numerous grant applications and make recommendations.

GIVE360 is proof that philantrophy is something we can all share—hand-in-hand.

The Foundation’s Give 360 program is a gathering place for budding philanthropists, young donors and established givers to collaborate for the greater good.

For some, simply learning about a program like GIVE360—a philanthropic initiative where members pay an annual fee of $360 which is pooled to benefit local charities—is motivation enough to step into the circle of giving.

For others, a life event can spur their philanthropic calling.

There are many reasons people approach The Foundation for philanthropic guidance, from estate planning to memorializing a loved one. Some come into possession of wealth, resources or property they want to thoughtfully channel into trusted, local charities while maximizing impact. Often times, donors encounter hardships or learn of issues that compel them to improve opportunities for others.

Our 2022 Philanthropists of the Year, Greg and Dana Gliniecki, have always prioritized volunteerism and charitable engagement. However, in 2015, when Greg sold a business he co-founded, it allowed the couple to expand their philanthropic impact in McHenry County. Working with The Community Foundation, they made a series of transformative donations.

Having raised their family in the Village of Cary, Dana and Greg embraced the opportunity to support several key initiatives there, including a new community plaza.

When The Community Foundation moved to its permanent home in Crystal Lake, the Glinieckis’ generous donation helped open the doors to the Philanthropy Center—a hub for charitable collaboration.

And when Dana learned about a Chicagoland charity that increased book ownership among underserved children, she and Greg wanted to bring its benefits home. Bernie’s Book Bank has expanded its reach to McHenry County youth, placing over 170,000 books in the hands of over 14,000 McHenry County children in its first year.

Some parting thoughts as we celebrate National Philantrophy Day…

My hope is that in reading these stories, each of us has the opportunity to not only pause in recognition of how philanthropists shape our community, but how we see ourselves in the role —because goodwill, no matter what form it takes, is only good when it is shared.

If you would like to join me in celebrating National Philantrophy Day and learn more on how The Foundation can amplify your charitable impact in McHenry County, my door is open! Call 815-338-4483 or email [email protected]. You can also donate online to a local fund of your choice at thecfmc.org.