An important new philanthropy book has hit bookstores nation wide. The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan, by Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon (Chairman and President of The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies respectively) is one of the best books I’ve read that captures the knowledge of professional grantmakers and distills it down to a readable, useable, functional book targeted at individual donors.
Today, I’m going to be featuring a guest post from Mr. Bronfman and Mr. Solomon. Tomorrow, in cooperation with the publisher Jossey-Bass, I’m going to run a long excerpt from chapter one of the new book. On Friday, the authors will offer a set of questions that every donor should consider. My hope is that readers will take the opportunity to discuss WHY they give, a topic given top priority in The Art of Giving and a topic that rational, metric focused, impact maximizing donors sometimes forget to address.
As an added incentive to spur along the conversation, 21/64 a philanthropy consulting arm of the Bronfman Philanthropies that specializes in generational transition, will be giving away free sets of their Picture Your Legacy tool. The tool contains 52 colorful images designed to spark discussion among funders of any generation, facilitating greater understanding of an individual and groups’ philanthropic identity and aspirations. We’ll be giving away 25 free sets of the Picture Your Legacy tool to the first 25 readers who offer substantive responses to this three part series of posts via comments.
What motivates you to give?
By Charles Bronfman & Jeffrey Solomon
Philanthropy is often thought of as “Step 1” in the social benefit supply chain. Dollars help to fuel mission-driven nonprofits, which in turn provide aid and assistance to under-served and needy populations. In this model, funding is the primary input and social benefit is the primary output. One shortcoming with this model, however, is that the end-user is the primary beneficiary in the system. In the medium term, it does not capture the intrinsic return to the funders, organizations, volunteers, and many others players that make up the supply chain itself.
As philanthropists/donors/funders, we spend so much time thinking about how to maximize social benefit through our activities, that often we lose sight of the personal benefits that we experience from these endeavors. And let there be no doubt, giving can and should be a deeply rewarding experience. Ironically, the pleasure received through giving can be just as tangible, and arguably just as important to the overall success of the social sector as a 501(c)3’s ability to execute against its mission.
At face value, what we’re saying is not revolutionary. Obviously, the more rewarding philanthropy is for the donor, the more likely he/she is to do more of it. And even if this is a self-evident truth to folks within the Tactical Philanthropy community, it should not be minimized. However, we believe that understanding the WHY behind our respective giving decisions is critical in a much more literal sense – particularly in these depressed economic conditions when often we’re asked to decide between a multitude of worthy causes and grantees.
Whether you sit at the helm of a family foundation, are looking to invest with a donor-advised fund, or simply want to increase your annual giving percentage, it is essential to understand WHY you give. Only when we are equipped with such an understanding are we able to determine which deserving project is simply interesting as opposed to something that will resonate with us at a fundamental level. The WHY becomes our giving compass, which in turn informs our basic giving strategy (the vehicle, outlets, structures, and gift types that we use.).
Thinking about it in these terms, the donor who understands the WHY behind his or her giving will likely be more invested in their gift. They might become a passionate and outspoken advocate for the cause, or take a board seat. They will likely follow the philanthropic return on their gift and use this information to support specific gaps that have been shown to exist – capacity building, marketing, fundraising, and programs.
Another way of getting at the WHY is to ask what motivates you to give? Does your giving manifest as increased self-worth, or perhaps a boost in your social status? Does it feed your ego or provide you with a profound sense of purpose? Perhaps your giving is a tool for bringing your family together in a meaningful way. We think all of these are perfectly valid reasons for giving. However each indicates a drastically different approach to how you go about doing philanthropy.
From our perspective, all donors can and should find personal reward through the act of giving. But it’s not enough to have a vague sense of doing good … you should be able to articulate what you get clearly. Only by understanding what motivates you to give are you able to really nourish your soul, and in so doing, maximize the impact of your gifts for all of society.
What motivates you to give?