If I say $3.99 or $4.05, you already know what I’m talking about – the fast-rising cost of gas at the pumps. It’s suddenly such a common conversation that most folks can quote the exact gas price on their daily route within pennies.
My husband and I needed to stop for gas on a recent weekend trip. On one side of the street was a Valero station with near $4.00 per gallon gas prices. Directly across the street sprawled the local Wal-Mart, where gas prices were considerably lower. And, of course, the Valero pumps were empty, and every pump at Wal-Mart had a waiting line.
Reports on the news track the price in far-away states, and media articles remind us that it is still on the rise.
It’s easy to talk about the impact of increasing costs on our pocketbooks. But we quickly shy away from conversations about giving.
The amount of money flowing out of our giving pockets is often taboo.
You were probably raised like me to keep all things about money private because the subject was no one else’s business. I can’t entirely agree and think conversations about giving should be common. Oh, I’m not interested in the size of a donation. I’m interested in the how and the why of giving. Your how and your why.
Perhaps you think your giving pales compared to well-known philanthropists touted in the media. Of course, you’re right. The amount I give is no different. But my how and why is different from your motivations. We can learn so much from each other.
But first, we must get past the idea that we should never talk about giving because it’s about the money, as if a parent is watching with a disapproving eye. So instead, let’s have an uncommon conversation.
How much you give is unimportant. I want to learn what draws you to give to specific organizations, why one organization suits you more than another, and especially your disappointments. I want the opportunity to learn from your giving experience. I believe you have something to teach me that will help me be a better donor.
For many years I gave like most – privately and quietly. However, I learned that talking about the who, how and why of giving made me a better donor.
I wrote about this subject nine years ago, sharing my pursuit of the Philanthropist–Donor-Giver’s (PDG) opinion, ideas, and questions. The questions have hardly changed since that short blog.
A few questions I might ask you.
- How do you find new places to give?
- What gives you pause?
- How do you judge their work, know they’re successful?
- What motivates you – your heart or a highly effective organization?
- How do you know the difference?
- How often do you give to the same organization?
- What’s your favorite way to give?
In my search for answers I read, I listen to philanthropists and my donor friends when giving comes up. Then, if I have the chance, I ask questions and listen again.
I read a great deal – books, magazines, online. I’m often drawn in by titles and lead-ins, including philanthropy, donor, or giver.
Interviews with philanthropists catch my attention, like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, Michael Dell, or MacKenzie Scott. We hear their stories but still know very little about how they “do” philanthropy. Their stories are amazing, sometimes interesting but yield few helpful answers for my giving.
Our challenge is that philanthropy seems like giving multiplied by factors well into the stratosphere. We think mega-donors are who we should learn from, but they represent a tiny number of voices in the philanthropy sphere.
Who is missing: The voice of the common donor? How do we learn more from them about their who, how, and why?
Donors and givers, like us, are the hardest to find. Most donors hide in plain sight – friends, family, and co-workers.
We will become better givers when we start learning from each other.
It’s easy to find the voice of the nonprofit explaining what they believe the philanthropist and the common donor need to know. But, unfortunately, their needs bear little resemblance to our motivations – the why of our giving.
Where do we find the voice of donors like ourselves?
- With friends at the coffee shop
- Co-workers In the breakroom
- Around the grill at family gatherings
- While waiting for the fish to bite
- Getting to know someone special before the knot is tied
Anywhere and everywhere is the simple answer. Talk about giving with friends and family of all stripes, close and distant. It’s not about learning a wrong or a right way to give but picking up a tip here and ideas there that open your heart and mind a little bit wider.
Make it a point to have uncommon conversations about giving to grow in wisdom, becoming the philanthropist only you can be.
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