Gift of Giving

Today I attended a San Diego Women’s Foundation membership committee meeting. I’ve been a giving_moneymember since 2008 and was selected to be a 2008 “class coordinator”, meaning that I am in charge of encouraging people who joined in 2008 to attend events and meetings. This is a unique organization in a sense that we give out a certain amount of money to different worthy organizations, but we do not do any fundraising event. The money comes from membership contribution ($2000 a year). The idea is that there is a limitation of what $2000 individually can do, but if we pull every member’s contribution together, we can collectively do a lot more things that are beneficial to the community.

As you can imagine, attracting new members and retaining them is essential and membership committee is in charge of pulling that part. Actually, today was the first meeting I ever attended and it was quite interesting – the committee members are all very talented women, typically fast-spoken and with very good sense of humor. One hour went by so quickly and I felt happy that I was among such impressive group of women. Towards the end, one member shared her frustration when she tries to invite people to join the foundation, and encounters people’s unwillingness to give money. Even though they live in nice houses in La Jolla or Rancho Bernardo, some would still complain about lack of money while they have a barn for horses in their back yard. She seemed to be really irritated by that, and that got me thinking. Yes, you would think that people who have lots of money “should” give to those who don’t have as much. Why don’t they? But then, it is not our decision to make how their money should be spent. I felt that it is a little bit judgmental for us to say who should give more, how much or to what cause. I am almost certain that they must have really good reason not to give. One reason could be that they have had a bad experience in giving out money or they are tired of getting unsolicited requests constantly. Or, perhaps they were not as appreciated for their generosity as they had expected to be. Maybe they believed that giving out money to charity does not really help anyone as it creates dependency in the recipient. Or, maybe, they have never experienced the true impact of giving – what difference it can make in physical form, or in their hearts.

I think that it is just like anything; you get as much as you put in. I am sure there are many rich people who give plenty, as well as those who have never given any money to anything. This is my biased opinion about it; they don’t know what they are missing by not giving. So while their pockets might be filled with money, they might not be feeling as much fulfillment, love or joy compared to those who give (again, they will not know what they are missing!) John Assaraf always says “Money is not supposed to make you happy; it’s supposed to make you comfortable”.

So here is my “call for action”. If you felt compelled to experience how actually giving money to certain cause could make you feel, visit this site: http://www.charitywater.org/AONC/

It’s a cause that my role model Chris Guillebeau whom I respect and trust believes in. I’d appreciate it if you would consider giving whatever you can to this cause. As I wrote this, I donated $20 and I got this message on the screen saying “$20 can give one person clean water for 20 years”. How do I feel? What do you think? I just made a difference in one person’s life (or for 20 years). It feels pretty good.

3 comments on “Gift of Giving

  1. Another cause you might want to check out is Kiva.org (http://www.kiva.org) You can lend from $25 to entrepreneurs in developing countries and help them grow their businesses. And when they repay the loan (98% return rate), you can lend the funds to someone else.

  2. My wife recently coerced me into giving to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Besides the satisfaction of helping the children a little, I may have received a valuable lesson on how to run a successful non-profit campaign.

    St. Jude is good at making everything a personal experience. They use email, snail mail, pictures, and video in a professional yet candid way. The EXPERIENCE of PERSONAL benefit and value is made clear from the perspectives of both the donor and recipients. It looks like they’ve taken some effort to know their contributors and to profile the core reasons which motivate them to give.

    The message about $20 for 20 years of water for one person is a way of making things a bit more personal. People are more motivated to give to people or ideals with which they have a personal identification or connection.

    Especially in this world of rising social media, the identification, connection, and the relationship often turns out to be a much bigger asset than any immediate donation of money.

  3. I hope to see your voice amplified because your thinking and values benefit the world, my world. I think the woman with a horse barn complaining about not having enough money to give… well. Thank you.

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