Dr. Una O. Osili Ph.D.: “Why I Want To Encourage a Shift In How We Think About Generosity”

Yitzi Weiner
Jan 13 · 6 min read

I would encourage a shift in how we think about generosity and make it part of everyday life. Everyone has resources to contribute. It’s about expanding the meaning of generosity that brings change to our communities when people give their voice, their time, their stuff, or their money. Giving of our time, talent, networks and even our testimony brings a positive change in the lives of others and is a fundamental value we can all act on. Whether it’s making someone smile, helping a neighbor or stranger out, showing up for an issue or people we care about, or giving some of what we have to those who need our help, every act of generosity counts. With technology continuing to affect the way some people in the U.S. give, this has the potential to expand the impact of individual action. New modes of engagement like crowdfunding platforms, peer to peer fundraising social media and advocacy, and more, offer new donor outreach opportunities as messages spread through networks. Of note, social advocacy has been gaining momentum globally. This means liking causes on social media and sharing stories about giving with your friends and family are some of the best ways to make an impact.


had the pleasure to interview Una O. Osili, Ph.D.. Una is an economist with significant experience in research and policy in the fields of household behavior and economic policy. She is also associate dean for research and international programs at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the world’s first school dedicated to increasing the understanding of philanthropy and improving its practice worldwide. An internationally recognized expert on economic development and philanthropy, Dr. Osili speaks across the globe on issues related to national and international trends in economics and philanthropy. She testified at the U.S. Senate subcommittee on the role of philanthropy and remittances in foreign aid and has been quoted by international and national news media outlets such as The New York Times, Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

She has served as a member of several national and international advisory groups, including the African Development Bank, Social Science Research Council, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the United Nations Development Program. Dr. Osili leads the research and publication of Giving USA, the annual report on American philanthropy. Beginning in fall 2016, she has led the research and publication of Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances and Index of Philanthropic Freedom. She has pioneered new approaches to using data to better understand global and national trends in philanthropy with the Million Dollar List and the new Generosity for Life project.

She directs the school’s research program with its partners including Bank of America, United Way Worldwide, Coutts Inc, and National Collegiate Athletic Association. She has served as an associate editor for the Journal of African Economies and guest editor of the Journal of African Development. She earned her B.A. in Economics at Harvard University, and her M.A., and Ph.D. in Economics from Northwestern University.


Thank you so much for joining us Una. Can you describe to our readers your work with Paypal about the impact of GivingTuesday?

have had a commitment to studying how giving is changing around the world. This year, I partnered with PayPal on GivingTuesday to learn how people across the country are giving all they can, and I’m happy to share that more than 1 million PayPal customers across 184 markets donated a record-breaking $106+ million to charitable causes. PayPal has participated in GivingTuesday since it began in 2012 and harnesses the power of their technology and scale to enable unprecedented levels of support for charitable organizations around the world.

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and create the world they want to live in. Being part of GivingTuesday means joining a community committed to making generosity a part of everyday life, where the social sector thrives, and where people are working together to solve societal challenges. According to recent data, Americans donated $427.71 billion to charity, according to Giving USA 2019.

Can you tell us a story about the impact of GivingTuesday?

Millions of people around the world are impacted by the generosity of others. Beyond monetary donations in the U.S., the most popular way to give is helping a stranger or volunteering. Over the last 10 years, 72% of American adults helped a stranger according to the CAF World Giving Index. Altogether, Americans volunteered nearly 6.9 billion hours, worth an estimated $167 billion in economic value, based on Independent Sector’s estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour for 2017.

Further, what many may not realize is that giving back can also be in the form of supporting small, local business. Particularly in New York City, small business struggle to keep up with sky high rental prices so PayPal stepped in to help five small business making a big impact in the world, to inspire holiday shoppers to give thoughtfully made gifts from thoughtfully owned small businesses making a big impact in the world. Each of the small businesses including, Hazel Village, Askinosie Chocolate, Block Shop, Bee Raw and Misha and Puff, were given their own shoppable holiday window display on 5th Avenue in New York — where every year, shoppers from around the world go to see dazzling window displays from big name retailers like Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and more.

Giving back does not stop there. For the first time, PayPal has set out to make every Tuesday GivingTuesday by inspiring generosity around the world — whether it’s volunteering time, lending skills, buying gifts that give back, performing acts of kindness, or donating on paypal.com/giveback.

Are there other things the community or society can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Making monetary donations is the most popular way to give. In 2018, 55.1 million people from over 200 markets contributed $9.6 billion to more than 665,000 charitable organizations via PayPal. However, that is not the only way to give back. There are many other volunteer activities people can participate in, such as donating blood, mentoring, and preparing or serving food to those in need.

It’s important to also note that businesses and corporations play a valuable role in giving, and many are incorporating giving and volunteering into their corporate cultures. According to Giving USA 2019, charitable giving by corporations in the U.S. increased to over $20 billion in 2018, including cash and in-kind contributions made through corporate giving programs, as well as grants and gifts made by corporate foundations.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would encourage a shift in how we think about generosity and make it part of everyday life. Everyone has resources to contribute. It’s about expanding the meaning of generosity that brings change to our communities when people give their voice, their time, their stuff, or their money. Giving of our time, talent, networks and even our testimony brings a positive change in the lives of others and is a fundamental value we can all act on. Whether it’s making someone smile, helping a neighbor or stranger out, showing up for an issue or people we care about, or giving some of what we have to those who need our help, every act of generosity counts.

With technology continuing to affect the way some people in the U.S. give, this has the potential to expand the impact of individual action. New modes of engagement like crowdfunding platforms, peer to peer fundraising social media and advocacy, and more, offer new donor outreach opportunities as messages spread through networks. Of note, social advocacy has been gaining momentum globally. This means liking causes on social media and sharing stories about giving with your friends and family are some of the best ways to make an impact.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can follow me on Twitter @UOsili and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/una-osili-809a4316. You can find more information on PayPal’s giving efforts at paypal.com/giveback.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Yitzi Weiner

Written by

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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