Give and Get

Our Philanthropic Journey

Most of us do not relate to the word philanthropy. It is Bill Gatesian, John Rockefelleresque, foreign word that is reserved for the Bentley crowd. Even wealthy donors do not use the "P" word. Yet the literal meaning of philanthropy is beautiful. From its Greek origins it translates to Love of Humanity. In other words giving is a way of expressing our love for one another. 

Regrettably only a few of us can be on the Forbes 400, but all of us give. We give as much as we can. Most of us could give more---time and money--but we all have a generous spirit.  Philanthropist

Yet giving away money is a mysterious business. To the uninformed, giving away a lot of money would be easy and fun. Like most things it is not what you think it is. I was with a nameless billionaire the other day (you are so important John!!) and he complained about the "burden" of his giving--that "there is no way I can give away all of my money before I die." I know some of you just want a name and and contact info :) But in all serious pursuits, in all careers--when you fully engage yourself in the art and science of something--challenges are revealed. You begin to realize how much you do not know. It can paralyze you or it can liberate you. To most it causes a brain freeze bigger than chugging a giant milkshake.

Funny thing, people with wealth or any extra money will tell you they love their philanthropy. They will tell you how fulfilling it is. Similar to any of us when asked about our computer skills--no one is not "proficient"! People who give away money who generally have been successful in life find it hard to admit that their philanthropy is transactional, random, and a "burden".

As I have said in this space for years, the key principle in life is to give without an expectation. Be ready to give first. Lead with your giving. Not just money, but with your attention, time, and expertise. When you are truly philanthropic with your life and have turned off WIIFM (what's in it for me), you benefit in ways that far exceed your giving. 

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

All of our journeys are philanthropic. We do not have to be billionaires to make a difference. We forget how much we have when we focus on what we want. We love humanity but do not know where to begin. 

As you know I help people give their money away. But I have learned that if the giving is not tied to the donor's heart, passions, their authentic interests, their core values, then their philanthropy is limited and unfulfilling. Giving becomes a task even a source of stress (like with my new billionaire buddy:). That's how many people feel about networking and mentoring. We can view time as our greatest asset and we become time hoarders--or so we think. We view it as precious and hold it back from others on one hand and then just waste it like we have all of the time in the world.

I literally get sick when people say things like, "Can't wait until this day/month/year is over!" You never get the time back. You can get your money back! Time is irretrievable. 

Reminded of Seneca's incredible 2000 year old book On the Shortness of Life

It is not that we have a short time to live, but we make it short by wasting a lot of it. We are frugal in guarding our personal property, but as it comes to squandering time, we are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.

Do I have to regale you with the physical, spiritual, intellectual benefits of giving? The increase in endorphins, oxytocin or just plain old satisfaction. Studies abound that show that generous people are happier, live longer and are healthier. In the newish book, The Paradox of Generosity, philanthropic families "had broader social circles, less self absorbed, and a greater sense of purpose." I had the great pleasure of interviewing Nicholas Kristof about his new book A Path Appears, perhaps the best book on philanthropy I have read. This is like 8 great books in one. And Nicholas and his partner Sheryl have done a wonderful job of making the case to give more and how to do it. 

It is also well known and verified through research that you give like your network. If you live in a gated community you give 40% less than the average American! Because wealthy people who live in wealthy communities are trying to keep up with the Joneses. If you hang out with people who are less generous, chances are you are too. And "live more cynical and narrow lives" according to the research. Giving broadens your network to new worlds. Worlds outside of our bubbles, "gated communities" of homogeneous people who reinforce each other's perspective disconnected from reality. Susan Fiske's research at Princeton is the most disheartening. The wealthier we are the more we view poor people as objects instead of people. In other words, when we reside in a biosphere protected from the harsh realities of the real world, poor people are things not human.

So reach out and connect. break your bubbles and break out of your biospheres. Seek people and charities you love and help them. Get the benefits of giving and giving more. 

So as we meander down our philanthropic paths, consider how much you have and start giving it away. Lead with your giving and it will take you to places that you want to go. Places that show you purpose, meaning, and why you are here.

I developed a special edition of my SWiVEL doc  Download SWIVEL Philanthropy_2014 for people to help one another with their philanthropy. Share it.

I get so much out of writing these posts--way more than you! Thank you for the gift of your readership. John

 


Give AND Get

We have all been told that it is better to give than to receive. I know as a kid this was never intuitive. We constantly wanted to receive. We had so many needs and wants. As a child, receiving was way better. But as we grew and matured we understood the wisdom in this maxim. You realize that you Get what you Give. That sharing is not an act of generosity but a necessity of the soul. Material things fade in importance and meaning replaces money. We understand that we have much more to give from our wealth, our wisdom, and our work. Guilt can motivate but gratitude sustains our generosity. We learn the intrinsic benefit of giving that redeems us as givers.

When you give, you feel generous, you feel powerful. When you think about others you strengthen yourself. While we may give to get these benefits, we need to always remind ourselves that we have the precious opportunity to give--we get to give.  Give-get1_11-282

For it is in giving that we receive. Francis de Assisi

As a country we are generous. We have been a model of philanthropy and giving of time and money for the world. But when we measure our efforts not as a comparison to other nations but to our own expectations we might come to different conclusions. 

The average US household gives about 4.2% of their income. Most of it goes to church , alma mater and to the hospital, about 67% of all giving. *

Wealthier people give less. Households making over $200,000 a year (top 5% of earners) who live in really nice neighborhoods give 50% less than the average American household. In fact only one zipcode of the top 20 wealthiest zipcodes (where average income approaches $500,000) is in the top 1000 zipcodes of giving %. *

So it is also surprising how little we give. Aren't you surprised? What should we give 5%, 10%, more? 

If we moved the needle to 5% fo all Americans individual giving would increase about $60 billion a year!

Each of us can give more. We can. 

But why do we give? What motivates us? 

In a newish book by Adam Grant, Give or Take, he details the benefits of giving. With decades of research he concludes there are three types of people. 

Givers: They give without expectation and make giving a priority. They look for giving opportunities not just react to them. 

Matchers: They keep track of the score. Who owes whom. They believe in full reciprocity and equity. I scratch your back......

Takers: They always make out  in all transactions even in giving. They are Me first.Only give if they gain.

Of course, few admit they are Takers, but we all know them. I meet gobs of them. They try to be subtle and sly but you spot them a mile away. Their favorite radio station is WII-FM. What's In It For Me! Giving to them is a deal where they reap the profit. Most people think they are Matchers, some are disguised Takers. Matchers see equity in giving. Matchers beleive in equity and that they should always get their fair share. Givers trust others intentions. They believe in giving first and last. Givers are represented at both ends of the barbell. Super successful and failures. People who give generously ascend their worlds or they foolishly give everything away without any self-interest. But givers who are not fools are the most successful.

Grant makes many surprising findings that basically reinforce the idea that unconditional giving to those in need, to a cause greater than themselves, builds a base of support and connects them to new worlds. In other words, it strengthens your network! A network that is diverse and "touches multiple domains and worlds."

Grant asserts that giving always helps the giver most. He describes many studies and cases here. Once the Giver understands the need, meets the people with need, connects with the need, then the Giver benefits more. Givers think of themselves as role models. They think about the consequences of not giving. Givers care. 

So as a fundraiser, I have met all types with every conceivable motivation and angle. In the non-profit world there is usually a "Give or Get" requirement for members of boards of directors. Meaning you have to give or get money for the non-profit with some $ minimum. Even though this is a "requirement" many do not meet it. I prefer Give AND Get--meaning you must give something personally to have "skin" in the game. The amount is what you can afford, but you need to be personally invested. My experience is that few board members meet and exceed these duties. They refuse to give. I have watched hedge fund managers whine like babies. Super wealthy folks give more excuses than a tardy teenager. These are phony givers. They masquerade as givers but do not give. They are Takers who are not truly committed to the cause or the organization they brag about serving. 

Some jaded and cynical people tell me that rich people got rich by being Takers. But as Grant shows in his book, true Givers are the ones who go to the top. 

On the other hand, I have met so many truly generous people who I aspire to be like. To always help. To always give. To always personally invest myself. These giving mentors have shown me the way. Taking is short term, and matching takes a lot of effort to keep track.  I have learned that my capacity to give can grow with practice and exercise. I can and must give more. 

So in life you have to Give AND Get. We all want to be givers. The more you give proactively the more you get. Your giving and the way you give mentors your children and everyone else who looks up you. If you give more without an expectation, without listening to WII-FM, you will receive so much more than you imagined. 

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. Winston Churchill

Thank you for giving me your attention. And for what you give to others. John

*Chronicle of Philanthropy study of giving 2013