Over the years, I have met many donors who donate thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. When I have asked them about how they feel about their contributions, I have heard time and time again that they feel "OK".
Just OK??? There is definitely something wrong when one makes a significant contribution and gets no real satisfaction. To get to the root of this, my next question is “What would make it better?” Here, the answers vary but they often include things like:
- “I wish I could get my kids involved but I just can’t get them interested.”
- “I just give when someone asks me to give and these are not causes that are important to me.”
- “I have a foundation and have to disburse a certain amount every year and it feels like such a chore.”
- “I give to the same organizations every year without really thinking about it.”
- “I don’t really know how my money is making a difference.”
- “I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job of my philanthropy.”
The common thread to these comments is a lack of devoting to philanthropy the attention that it needs in order for it to be meaningful.
On the heels of the 2016 Olympics, we have just witnessed exceptional commitment, focus and hard work to reach a goal and the jubilation when the goal is achieved. Even with everyday life, we know that the more we are engaged with a project and the more intention and effort we bring to it, the greater the sense of reward.
Yes – you do have to try, try, try. Engaged and satisfying philanthropy includes:
- determining how you wish to involve your family in philanthropy
- exploring and articulating your values, the things that are important to you and how you want to make a difference
- creating a practical and customized, flexible giving plan that aligns with your goals
- prioritizing areas of interest and determining criteria for making gifts
- working with recipient organizations to ensure that expectations are communicated and you are updated on progress, and
- monitoring and evaluating your impact.
Each of these steps can be very interesting and fulfilling in and of itself – especially when working together as a family in a meaningful way.
The good news is that I know and have worked with many philanthropists who have given their philanthropy this kind of attention and instead of singing the “I Can’t Get No – Satisfaction” blues, they are positive, engaged and know they are having an impact.
As a philanthropy advisor, I enjoy working with families and individuals to create and facilitate a safe and productive environment to articulate values, interests and goals. Together we develop and implement a plan to make giving meaningful, satisfying and effective.