Read These: The Best Quotes to Prepare You for International Day of Charity

Tomorrow we rule. At least for the day.

September 5 is International Day of Charity, designated by the United Nations General Assembly as a day to shine a light on charity-related activities worldwide. On this day, individuals, nonprofits and volunteer organizations raise awareness, organize special events and build support for charitable works.

Making the day more meaningful, September 5 was chosen to commemorate the anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death in 1997.

I like to think she’d be proud; the giving spirit worldwide remains bright. According to the 2018 CAF World Giving Index, giving has increased in developed countries and more of us are willing to lend a hand to help a stranger.

Certainly, more can be done; that is the ever-evolving plight of humankind. But International Day of Charity reminds us that people are indeed willing to give—and create philanthropic legacies that enable future generations to thrive.

In honor of International Day of Charity, we’ve curated quotes from charitable, civic and corporate leaders. Some of our favorites at Stelter, they inspire others to feel confident, engaged—and to get going! A tip after each “category” prompts you to apply the quotes in your own work settings and donor relationships.

Other people’s words—from all over the world—can shake up status quo thinking, allow us to dream bigger, and motivate us to consider new solutions to old problems. We hope they do for you too.


 “I would ask you to question who’s at the table and who’s not at the table, and to think about those voices that aren’t represented when you’re making decisions.”

—James Halliday, Board Chair at Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy

“The impact of nonprofit organizations is indisputably far-reaching and vital to the United States’ economic well-being.”

—Matt Berg

“Fear is useless. What is needed is trust. As social innovators we’ve got to be tenacious, gritty and courageous. We deal with cynicism and rejection, especially when what we’re working on is important. So we can never give up. Ever.”

—Jim Ziolkowski, Founder, President, and CEO of buildOn

“The small charity that comes from the heart is better than the great charity that comes from the head.”

Ivan Panin

TRY: Using these quotes in team meetings as springboards for informal conversation with leading questions like, “What’s the meaning behind these words?” “In what ways does this quote apply to our organization? “Do you agree with the quote?” Challenge team members to find a quote that resonates with them and develop a “mood board” that visually represents the quotes from their perspectives to share at a future date.


“Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.”

—Hank Rosso

“Donors don’t give to institutions. They invest in ideas and people in whom they believe.”

—G. T. Smith

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

Pablo Picasso

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

—Winston Churchill

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.”

—Dalai Lama

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

—George Bernard Shaw

TRY: Creating a wallet-size, laminated card of quotes to give to your team. Whenever they need mini motivation or a confidence boost (before a prospect meeting or legacy society event, for example), they can look to these wise words. Or try using them in donor and legacy society marketing materials—at the end of an email or in your signature bar to subtly instill pride and action in charitable giving and creating a legacy.


“Governance is not management.”

—Kenneth Dayton

“The Board’s role is to pull management out of the trees to see the forest.”
—Pearl Zhu

“Beyond the duties of care, loyalty and obedience, there is, I suggest, a fourth board duty: the duty of imagination.”

―Alice Korngold

“Tend to the people, and they will tend to the business.”

―John Maxwell

 “The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘we’ve always done it this way.’”

―Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, USN

 “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellenceonly in constant improvement and constant change.”

―Tom Peters

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

―Jack Welch

TRY: Opening board meetings with a quote, like the ones above, and take five to 10 minutes to talk it through. Light a fire of engagement, deeper thinking and even pride in how board members serve your nonprofit and the larger community.

Prepare advance questions that help board members delve into the quote and formulate substantive thinking. “What, in your opinion, is the difference between governance and management?” “In what ways can we do a better job of managing people within our organization?” Write responses on a flip chart and present a recap of favorite quotes and insightful responses at an end-of-the-year board meeting or gathering.


“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
—Charles Dickens

“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”


“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

—Winston Churchill

“The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.”

—George Eliot

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

TRY: Reading “Why It’s OK When Not Everyone Likes You.” Letting go of what holds you back, personally and organizationally, opens you up to receive more. Also, find out how to foster stronger donor bonds and uncover what drives their capacity to care about your nonprofit’s mission.

Any words of wisdom or favorite quotes to share? What quotes do you repeat to yourself when you need professional motivation or a lift? You never know: You might say what someone needs to hear. Celebrate the day by sharing a quote on your social media channels and be sure to tag #CharityDay

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