Five Questions That Will Make Your Giving Meaningful   

by | Oct 17, 2023

Why should you give philanthropically and strive to make a difference? The answer goes beyond different vehicles for giving, choosing the right organizations, and even knowing your giving style. Here’s a hint: you need to know your Why.

Some years ago, Curtis Meadow, past president of the Meadows Foundation, dove squarely into this question while speaking to a group of philanthropists in Tyler, Tx. Curtis shared a wonderful quote that day by Walter Brueggemann, considered by many as a master theologian and master preacher. He said, “What God does first and best is to trust us with our moment in history.”

Think about that for a moment. God places unfathomable trust in you and me. That makes us stewards right now, today. Not tomorrow or next month. Not when we earn more money or have more time, but now. That’s the simplest answer to why – it’s our moment in history.

Five Questions to Go Beyond the Simple Answer

Curtis advanced five questions to challenge us as we think about the responsibility of our moment in history.

  • How will you account for what you do with your time?
  • How will you use your energy, talent, and resources for this time?
  • How much should you be concerned with an uncertain future?
  • Why should you personally be engaged in the problems of our community and our world?
  • How can your limited resources possibly make a difference?

Good why questions deserve how answers. The sum of your answers is your personal philosophy. It is the answer to why you give philanthropically and strive to make a difference.

Curtis went on to provide a suggested list of answers. Here are the ones that still resonate with me today. They explain much about my decisions and personal involvement to change something or give to change something.

Three Answers That Matter to Me

  • Whatever problems this community or a group of individuals or an institution faces, no one else may fix them if you don’t.
  • If you don’t fix them, they may stay broken. It’s not an invitation to fix the problem alone. I encourage you always to look for others to join you in the fix, whatever that may be. Take the challenge to give from this deeper level so that something doesn’t stay broken.
  • His third reason goes deep into my why. No one else will fix them your way. No one will or can do it exactly like you. Take another moment to reflect on that statement. It is often easy for me to read about or see a situation and believe I know exactly how the fix should occur. It’s not so easy to embark on the work needed to move toward the fix. Truthfully, it’s easy to put off my solution because I don’t think I can give enough of my own time or enough of my own money to make a difference.

Only after we aim at something specific can we begin to explore and study an issue and the organizations working in that area. Then, we can identify where and with whom we want to combine our giving capacity with others to make a difference. Our resources of time and money have great power when leveraged with that of others.

Never underestimate the power of an extended invitation to join you in the work required for the fix. One individual’s giving energizes others’ giving by focusing on what we can accomplish.

The Greatest Meaning of All

 Finally, Curtis mentioned a fourth reason for philanthropic action. “It gives meaning and profound purpose to our lives to engage significantly in such work on behalf of others.” Isn’t that what we all seek, meaning and purpose?

Philanthropic action does not begin or end with check-writing. It is the process of identifying your why of giving, finding the best partners to join for the fix and staying engaged after the gift to learn about the impact of the work.

What we make of this community and our world is our responsibility because this is “our time in history.” How do you answer the five questions? Which one resonates most with you?


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