Why should you give philanthropically and strive to make a difference?
You have to think about it for a minute to catch the importance of the “and” word. And it is very important. In our philanthropy we often assume we’re making a difference. We take the idea of difference making for granted.
The question was posed by Curtis meadows, past president of the Meadows Foundation, in a talk to philanthropists. Quoting Walter Brueggemann, considered by many to be a master theologian and preacher, he said “What God does first and best is to trust us with our moment in history.”
Good why questions deserve how answers. The sum total of your answers is your own personal philosophy. It is the answer to why you give philanthropically and strive to make a difference.
Curtis offered 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?
Here are four of the answers he suggested.
First, because whatever problems a community or a group of individuals or an institution faces no one else may fix them if you don’t.
Second, if you don’t fix them, they may stay broken. This is not an invitation to fix the problem alone. In fact, I encourage you to always 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.
Third, and very important, 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. In fact, 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.
It is only after taking aim at something specific that we can 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 own giving capacity with others to make a difference. Our resources of time and money have great power when leveraged with that of others.
Important note: Never underestimate the power of extending an invitation to join you in the work required for the fix. The giving of one individual energizes the giving of others by focusing on what can be accomplished.
One more reason for philanthropic action according to Curtis goes deep to the why of donors I work with every day.
“It gives meaning and profound purpose to our lives to engage significantly in such work on behalf of others.”
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.