How to Make a Difference: 3 Unexpected Lessons Learned from My Family about Philanthropy

By Kwanza Jones

how to make a difference in the world

Part 1 of a 3 part series (one lesson shared in each)

I wanted to be many things when I grew up -- a lawyer, a singer, an elected public official, a world traveller... 

A philanthropist was not one of them. 

But, I always knew I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others and in the world.

Lesson One:  You Don’t Have to Have a Foundation to Set a Foundation

Most people in the world of giving, nonprofits, public service, and the like, want to make a difference. For some, it means setting up a public charity as a means to carry out their philanthropy. For others, a private foundation is the vehicle used to drive their giving and grantmaking.

Those structures may be nice to have but you don’t NEED to have a private foundation to make a difference in the world and in the lives of others.

My lawyer parents knew how to form those nonprofit structures, but they did not set one up for our family. Although we did not have a private foundation, my parents undoubtedly set the foundation for how I make a difference today.

So, how did that happen?

Almost daily, I saw their examples of altruism.

A Land Yacht and a Legacy

I remember heading home from a late night choir practice. Because one of my siblings had “called it,” I didn’t get the coveted front passenger seat. Instead, I was sitting in the backseat of the large light blue family station wagon (a.k.a. the land yacht). It was made to seat 8, but, if we were cramming in members of my high school track team, we could make it uncomfortably fit 10. Whenever that happened, we endured the temporary discomfort because it made a difference that all of us could be together.

This one night in particular, as we drove down a dimly lit section of 14th street, one of the major transportation corridors connecting Washington, D.C. to Northern Virginia, to the south, and Silver Spring, Maryland, to the north, my mother saw a woman sitting alone at a bus stop.

What did Mommy do? Something she had done many times before; she stopped the car and asked the woman if she was ok, then she offered to wait at the bus stop with her until the bus came.

With every bus stop pit stop, the foundation was set and the lesson was learned. How do you make a difference in the lives of others? It starts with giving a damn about your fellow human.

Coming Soon: Part 2: It's Not What You Give, It's That You Give.

Care like Carnegie, Roll like Rockefeller, Wow like Walker, and Motivate like Me.

Who loves you? I do!⠀

Bye for now,

Kwanza Jones Signature

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Kwanza Jones

Kwanza Jones is on a mission to boost a billion lives through culture, community, and capital. She is a sought-after speaker, accomplished artist, impact investor, and philanthropist. With a multifaceted background spanning music, media, production, law and business, Jones is an energetic and visionary leader. She is CEO and founder of SUPERCHARGED® by Kwanza Jones, a motivational media company. Jones has served on numerous boards including the Apollo Theater, Bennett College, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer, and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Through her Jones•Feliciano Initiative, she has committed over $165 million to education, entrepreneurship, equity and empowerment organizations. Connect with me on Instagram | LinkedIn | Facebook | X (formerly Twitter) | Kwanza Jones Boost Friends™ Community.