It's natural to conclude that those on the receiving end of philanthropy are the ones transformed. But the act of mindfully giving time or money to advance a cause or to right an injustice is a powerful force that can change a person's life.

Once while mindlessly flipping channels, I encountered – on a reality show of all places – one of the most profound quotes I’ve ever heard. The show featured a group of semi-celebrities who travel the country building new homes for families in need. On the screen at the very moment I flipped over was the owner of a small construction company in Whatevertown who had been asked to help with that episode’s project. What he said was something to the effect of, “I had to consider this very carefully. Because I knew that if I helped this family it would change me, and my life would never be the same.”

Last Friday at noon, the ballroom in the Anchorage Hilton Hotel seemed like the center of the Alaska nonprofit universe. It was the annual Alaska Philanthropy Day Lunch and Awards Ceremony. I looked around at the hundreds of faces, most aimed at the proceedings on stage, but all sharing smiles and glances that communicated one truth: philanthropy changes lives.

The event sponsor, Alaska Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, is mainly geared toward those in the development (i.e. fundraising) field. The group helps build leadership in the field, promotes best practices, and, once each year, hands out awards on Philanthropy Day for those who have done good things. This year they selected an esteemed slate of do-gooders to recognize.

They were:

GCI – Outstanding Business

Denali State Bank – Outstanding Small Business

Mary Ellen Segelhorst – Outstanding Philanthropist

Corbett Mothe – Outstanding Volunteer

Lye-Yeng Wong – Outstanding Youth

Ivy Spohnholz – Outstanding Professional

Grace Berg Schaible – Eugene R. Wilson Award

What these award winners had in common – indeed what connected us all to each other – were lives transformed by connecting resources to need. It’s natural to conclude that those on the receiving end of philanthropy are the ones transformed. But I believe that the act of mindfully giving time or money to advance a cause or to right an injustice can be a powerful force that propels you into a new way of seeing and connecting with the world around. It is something that we all can, and indeed should, experience.

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners. May their lives never be the same.