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
On our website, the 4th point under ‘What is Givesome’ reads,
‘we believe that when people experience the impact their dollars have on the lives of others they also benefit from the experience – and are more likely to want to give again.’
Rather than try to prove this with fancy arguments and scientific research, I’ll instead share three short stories that capture and demonstrate the heart of this statement. You will do well to think back over your own experience and see if this is true for you. If you’ve ever seen for yourself I believe you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Story number one. A few months ago I had the privilege of spending an hour or so comparing stories and seeking the advice of a very successful executive director of a well known charity. It was our first time meeting in person and after sharing with her what Givesome is about, she shared with me the one thing that she believes makes her so successful in fundraising year after year. She is consistently able to meet her substantial fundraising goals because she does one thing very well. And this she compared to the heart of Givesome. She told me that as often as it is physically possible, she refuses a significant donation from a new donor until that donor agrees to travel with her to one of the sites of her operation. She won’t take their money until she is able to show them what their money is about to do. When they arrive she introduces them to the programs she has in place, the people doing the work, and most importantly, to the individuals being cared for.
She has found that this one activity leads to greater transformation in the giver than anything else she could ever do. And that at the point of seeing for themselves, the donor often gives more than they initially planned and that they don’t need to be asked or reminded again. They are in.
This is not a trick or a game – it is the opportunity for genuine connection that we all seek. The gift is no longer a mental exercise but a heart sacrifice. Only for those who know what it is like, it really doesn’t feel like sacrifice at all.
Story number two. In 2004 and 2005 I had one of the best ‘jobs’ in the world. I worked for a charity based out of Toronto and my role was three-fold: travel southern Africa to find team-based opportunities for service; travel Canada coast to coast talking primarily to university students about those opportunities; and then forming and preparing teams of students for 4-8 week trips to fulfil the work needed. As a bonus, I got to lead and be a part of a number of these teams.
It didn’t take long to discover the most consistent comment made from these participants after returning back home. They would prepare mentally for the change in culture, they would get ready to serve and they would go over to help make a difference. And when they returned, almost every one of them would tell me the same thing. They’d explain/lament, ‘I feel like I did so little for them and they did so much for me.’
This is not because they did nothing. This has everything to do with their ‘giving’ becoming real and then understanding and experiencing the beautiful reciprocation of a selfless act – giving often does just as much to the inside of you.
Story number three. I often draw from the incredible experience that I had when I lived in Namibia in 2002. It was my first time living outside of Canada and it became the single greatest life lesson that I’ve experienced. I learned that you can never ‘outgive’ whatever it is that you receive back when you give. And I’m not talking about a tax credit. I would more accurately describe it as a fullness of heart or a completeness of person. I flew back with no money and only the clothes on my back and I was more full and complete than the day I arrived.
How is that possible? When you’re able to see for yourself it’s more like, how is that not possible?
When you can experience the difference your giving makes you realize that giving can be a two-way act. You’re helping someone else can do as much for you as it does for them. All it takes is the opportunity to see it.