By Kristen Seeber

Women’s Fund of Smith County

It’s true. I am new to the Women’s Fund of Smith County and new to this column. But, I am not new to this community we call home, nor am I new to the blessings of its giving. When I think about all of the organizations that have touched my life over the years, I am filled with wonder. Literacy Council of Tyler, Bethesda Health Clinic, The Hospice of East Texas, Junior League of Tyler, Women’s Symphony League of Tyler, Historic Tyler…I, like so many of you, feel immense gratitude for these and for countless other nonprofits – all of which serve in the most remarkable ways and give our home heart.

 As our boys were growing up, I would tell them often and still remind them today, “Happiness happens, but joy abides…Find your joy.” I have found my joy in giving to and serving others, and I have come to understand that is what true philanthropy is all about.

Learning more about philanthropy and the deeper impact of gift giving is a reason which drew me to the Women’s Fund. The servant leaders involved in this giving circle are more than just givers. We are givers with purpose. We want to be educated givers. We want to know what the gift means, both to the giver and to the receiver – to know that the investment matters. A search of the definition tells us the word philanthropy is a combination of two words: philos (loving) and anthropos (human being.) Philanthropy is the love of humanity, in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing and enhancing what it means to be human. It involves both the giver identifying and exercising her values, and the beneficiary receiving and being blessed by the gift given. When this type of giving and receiving occurs, joy is discovered – the gift lasts, it abides.

Serving others also builds a kinder community. As we all know, there are many worthy causes calling out to us in our community with earnest pleas for help. How do we answer? First, we must listen.

The most compelling part of any appeal is the cause, and, if the cause speaks to our hearts, we are more likely to listen and to respond. Often, the cause resonates because missions match. In all of the organizations of which I have had the privilege to be a part, the mission is paramount, and it should be! I am a believer in mission mindedness – mission driven initiatives, mission building strategies. The strength of an organization is the strength of its mission and how it is communicated or lived out. In the same way, many of us have personal mission statements – what gives us purpose, direction, what guides our hearts. So, it makes sense then, if an organization’s mission attracts the mission of an individual, joy is found, a match is made, and something beautiful is about to happen. A gift will be given. A gift will be received. Lives will be changed. Philanthropy.

The mission of the Women’s Fund of Smith County is to leverage the philanthropic capacity of women as a catalyst for positive change. Each of us, on our own, has the ability to practice philanthropy. But, as philanthropists together, we can do even greater things for others in our community. This week, the Women’s Fund will announce and award our 2016 High-Impact Grants to three deserving agency programs whose missions go hand-in-hand with ours. This lengthy process of receiving grant applications, researching and ultimately awarding major gifts is the heart of our organization. Each of our members has a vote and a voice in this important journey. And, together, we are teaching and learning about philanthropy along the way.

Authentic philanthropy begins with pure intent. So, on this Valentine’s Day, be pure of heart. Find joy. Love others. Serve others. Listen. Be giving and be intentional about giving. Your heart matters to the hearts of others.

Kristen Seeber serves as president of the Women’s Fund of Smith County. Membership in this giving circle is open to women who would like to learn more about philanthropy. Community members also are invited to the Women’s Fund 2016 Annual Grants Announcement Reception, set for Wednesday, February 17 at 11:00 a.m., One REALTOR Center, 2772 SSE Loop 323 in Tyler. Visit for information about our mission, membership application and additional ways to give.