Monday, January 20, 2014

Are you giving to what you really want to change in the world?


"Everyone is a philanthropist whether you're giving five dollars, or fifty thousand dollars. What sets this apart as philanthropy is, are you giving in a way that really affects your passions, your interests, what you really want to change in the world. . . . Are you giving mindfully? That to me is really the mark of thinking about this as a philanthropist." ~ Lauren Brownstein on the Tranquility du Jour podcast.

While listening to Kimberly Wilson's Tranquility du Jour podcast interview with fundraising and philanthropic consultant, Lauren Brownstein on Saturday, the quote above really resonated with me.  When it comes to giving donations, I don't think I've ever really thought about it that way: am I giving to what I really want to change in the world?

I use that framework when choosing where to volunteer, but not necessarily when I make a donation.  Maybe that's because I usually donate to a cause because 1. someone I know asked me to give, 2. a crisis happens (e.g. earthquake, tsunami, fire), or 3. I like the org because I'm connected with them in some way either through a friend, work, or volunteering.

Over the last few years, I cut back on my donations because I felt like they were all over the place and not making much of an impact (especially when I give my little donation to an organization and I feel like they spend it by sending me pounds of direct mail).

This year, I would like to be more mindful with my philanthropic giving, even if it isn't a huge amount. Each year, Lauren picks three causes that are a priority for her, and gives money and time to them.  She offered a handful of questions during the podcast to help determine personal giving priorities:

  • What brings me joy? What really excites me? What inspires me?
  • What makes me sad?
  • Is there a way that I've needed help that someone, or an organization reached out to me?
  • Are there things that my family gave to when I was growing up?
  • Is there is someone I want to honor?
  • Do I want to pool my money with someone else and/or put together resources with a group of friends to have a bigger impact?

Some of my answers to her questions would be:

  • What brings me joy? What really excited me? What inspires me?
    Cooking. Making things. Writing. Social innovation.

  • What makes me sad?
    The state of our public school system. Lack of arts in the schools.

  • Is there a way that I've needed help that someone, or an organization reached out to me?
    Having arts and great theater and writing teachers in school changed my life.

  • Are there things that my family gave to when I was growing up?
    Groups working on poverty and homelessness issues.

  • Is there is someone I want to honor?
    Not at this time.

  • Do I want to pool my money with someone else and/or put together resources with a group of friends to have a bigger impact?
    I would actually. I've always been interested in giving circles.

Looking at my answers, I would say that the three causes to prioritize my giving to in 2014 would be  public education, arts in the schools and social innovation.

How do you prioritize how you give your time and money?
 

Do you feel like you're giving to what you really want to change in the world?

Flickr photo credit: Colored pencils by Alan Cleaver.


5 comments:

  1. This is a lovely, personal account of the way you have started to structure your giving. I tend to have my one main charity that I support - World Vision UK http://www.worldvision.org.uk - but at Christmas I sit down and work out where I think the money is most needed and make a few different donations. Perhaps I need to be thinking longer term.

    On a separate note, I have a blog dedicated to personal experiences of charity and would love you to contribute a post or collaborate on something if you are intrerested: thecharitywebsite.wordpress.com

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    1. Thanks for sharing how you prioritize how your giving, Liz!

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  2. Britt, what a great topic! I subscribe to Julia Butterfly Hills and she just listed the 12 charities she donated to last year (she tried to donate once a month). I'm finding lots of people are talking about this lately.

    As I start building my second career and consider ways I can pay back, it's really helping to hear from other people about this topic. These are great questions to ask and I will be referring back to this page as I determine where I will donate. I especially like that she suggests to think about what really brings you joy and honor that!

    I don't know much about giving circles - have you profiled any in your blog?

    Happy January!

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    1. Thanks for pointing me to Julia's blog post. If other folks are interested, here's the link: http://juliabutterflyhill.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/in-honor-of-friends-framily-birthdays-and-blessings

      I'm a big fan of Dining for Women, which is a network of Giving Circles. I've interviewed its founder, Marsha Wallace, a couple times about their work:

      http://havefundogood.blogspot.com/2010/10/girls-night-out-with-twist-dining-for.html

      http://havefundogood.blogspot.com/2007/09/power-of-giving-circles-interview-with.html

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  3. I could not agree more. Everybody is a philanthropist regardless of the age, gender, race, and economic status of the person. As long as you have the heart to help others, you are a philanthropist!

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