Tips for How One in a Row Can Remake Your Philanthropy

by | Aug 18, 2021

“She’s a bookworm,” a frequent description used to explain why I didn’t hear my mother announce dinner or remind me of chores. As a teen, I occasionally found myself in a waiting room with magazines strewn around on subjects of no interest. However, I was drawn to read, read whatever was at hand; so, I discovered an interest in what I didn’t know.

Now a deeply ingrained habit, I still read whatever is at hand. So, it should not surprise you to learn that I join a small group of friends once a month at 7:30 a.m. to discuss a book we all agreed to read.

My small group has been meeting for about twelve years, devouring over 130 books together. To say our home, office and virtual bookshelves are overflowing is an understatement. Our focus started on leadership-type books, occasionally branching out to include biographies and other funny titles that caught our attention.

Books we like are quickly dismissed, while those we dislike are the center of intense discussion and critique. Sometimes whoever suggested the book feels the need to apologize for the recommendation.

Recently, it was the book, Greenlights, by Matthew McConaughey, of movie star fame – suggested by a member already into the book. Uncharacteristic for me, I rejected it immediately. No way, I said, I’m not reading a book by him, to which my friends replied, “then we have to read it!”

And so, we did, or instead, I listened. McConaughey narrates the book in his southern drawl and uses almost every adage, saw, catchphrase, idiom, and euphemism I’ve ever heard, with a few bumper stickers thrown in for an extra punch.  Combined with his stories, narration style (or should I say acting while reading) and colorful use of words, he does catch me off guard with a useful phrase or thought.

(Forewarning: read Greenlights because you are curious about how McConaughey thinks, processes, learns, changes – in his own words- but with your eyes wide open, it’s a lot like a reality show that just won’t end.) Back to my story.

One in a Row

“One in a row.” What an interesting turn of words, causing me to wonder how often our giving might be One in a Row?

Our philanthropy – our giving– is often in a rut. We give to the same organizations for identical amounts, blindly giving and asking few questions. Our volunteer experiences are much the same – we go to the same safe places to volunteer with people we know and like. We get comfortable with our style of philanthropy.

I’m the first to say our giving and volunteering is best done when it follows our giving values – what I call Giving Fingerprints. However, if we’re creating deeper ruts year after year, never plowing new ground, then we’re not learning to be a better giver. And how is that best done – you guessed my next question.

How can our giving be one in a row?

Tips to be a One in a Row Giver

  • Look for one new organization to give to this year with a small gift and begin to learn more about their work.
  • Find a new volunteer opportunity where you will be slightly uncomfortable and volunteer for even a short time.
  • Ask a friend about their favorite issue and volunteer together, somewhere new, somewhere you wouldn’t go alone, but you’re curious about the organization.
  • Read A Billion Hours of Good: Changing the World 14 Minutes at a Time by Chris Field, then get started.
  • Read When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Corbett and Fikkert. You’ll begin to see giving through a new lens and give differently.
  • Organize a group for a volunteer project none would consider doing alone. Then, come together at the end to share what was learned.
  • Listen to the TED talk A Story of Giving and Receiving with Aldi Altschuler. Then see where a new gift takes you.

Every new experience, every new volunteer opportunity, every gift to a nonprofit you never funded before – each is your “One in a Row.”

What might you accomplish? Who will you meet? What will you learn?  Who will be changed? Maybe it will be you!

Our lives are full of One in a Row opportunities when we’re open to the experience. So, take full advantage of the moment to explore your One in a Row and let it guide your giving and volunteering.

Share your One in a Row experience. How did it change your giving? What did you learn about the world or yourself?

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