For 14 years now I’ve been obsessed with a single thought. It’s a question really. A question I’ve asked a million times. And it took flying all the way to Africa to even realize it was bothering me. The question is – Why is a charitable donation so disengaging? There are other words I could
Imagine with me for a minute. You have a son or daughter, or a best friend or a grandparent or someone special in your life. It’s Christmas or their birthday or some day that is meaningful to them and you buy them a present you KNOW they’ll absolutely love. But a few days before the big day you are required, for some out-of-the-blue reason, to be in a different city on the day they’re to open your gift. You try to work around it but in the end you just can’t be there.
So you leave the gift with a friend of yours and ask them to give it to your special person on the special day. This gift is better than a pair of socks or a half priced t-shirt. It’s something you know they’ll love.
Now imagine on the day the gift is given you’re sent an email from your friend that says, ‘I gave your gift just like you asked. Your gift was received. Thank you.’ Worse yet, imagine not hearing anything about it. Ever. Imagine the questions that leaves you with. Was the gift given? Did they love it? How did they react? Did it make their day? Did it make any difference?
Compare that to being in the room when it is opened. I have a 4-year-old son. When he opens that gift and he sees just a corner of it pop out of the wrapping paper, I know he’s going absolutely nuts and pulling out his crazy dance. But you know what? The best gift that day isn’t the one he opened – it’s the one I’m watching take place in front of me. The dancing and the thanking and the screaming. Nothing ever comes close to beating that.
What’s the difference in these scenarios? The receiver still gets the gift. The reaction is likely the same either way. he gift is still cherished and appreciated. The gift opener is still thankful.
The difference is you get to SEE it. You get to be part of it. You get to watch and listen and take it all in. For you, the giver, the difference is everything.
In the first scenario you get to know in your head that your gift was appreciated. In the second scenario every single part of you feels the awesomeness of that moment. You’ll remember it and you’ll smile about it and you’ll feel full. Because believe it or not, GIVING FEELS FREAKING AMAZING!
The problem is we don’t get to feel it. And so our heart is not engaged. This is the unfortunate state of the vast majority of charitable giving around the world. The good work gets done, but the good givers don’t feel it. The less we feel it the less real the need becomes. The less we think about it. The less we want to do it. Requests for donations become, let’s face it, tough sometimes. It’s not that we don’t want to make a difference out there. WE DO. We really do. In fact, it’s one of the most burning desires we have. But over time we’ve become oversaturated with requests to give without the ability to feel and engage and see.
In Namibia, Africa, in 2002 I saw for the first time.
In Las Vegas in 2013 I saw it happen again to a complete stranger next to me. Ironically she was ‘forced’ to give of her time and did so begrudgingly. But after a 60 minute exercise where she built something for someone else, she saw for the first time. She watched a video that showed what was about to happen with the thing she had just made, and how it was about to be used, and the difference it was about to make for someone somewhere in the world. And after finally seeing it, she sobbed. Uncontrollably. And she turned and said to me, ‘Jay – this just changed my life.’
That day she changed mine. I’ve been on a mission ever since to show people the difference they make when they give. More than anything else, I want people to see. And I’ve got this thing in the pit of me that believes if we can get a million people to see, and then a billion people to see, we’re going to overwhelm the world.