Challenge The Reasons You Give
Mindful Giving is the practice of examining all the reasons you give to charities, including the less benevolent reasons. It is challenging. Some would say it’s a radical act.
I think a lot about our system charity or philanthropy. I became extremely disillusioned when I worked in non-profit world and took part in the culture of philanthropy required to sustain the industry.
I was uncomfortable with the way donors, staff and clients are treated, in the name of doing good. The evaluation criteria the gatekeepers of grant money used to distribute it and the requirements involved to apply for the funds disappointed me.
Something was decidedly wrong. At the same time, I recognized that, like most systems, it was likely reflecting why people contribute to charities.
I decided to focus my thinking on the act of giving itself. It’s the linchpin. If the reasons we donate shift, then the mechanisms to receive will change to conform to the new reasons.
Giving is not a pure, selfless act.
It taps into a great deal of our self-image, our values, our ego and our shadow side. It’s not polite to bring this up. Giving always has an ulterior or perhaps additional motives. Not me, you maybe thinking? Please, read on.
We have three assets, time, money and energy. In daily life, we are in a dance trading them back and forth. We give time and energy to get money; we give money to use our time and energy to achieve what we desire. We live transactionally, all of us.
Why would we imagine supplying our wealth to those in need to be any different? I know we want to see ourselves as altruistic, as pure, but it isn’t so.
Here are four reasons our giving is more complex:
- We decide the amount we donate based on how much we have or how much we feel like giving
- We decide when to contribute (and when not to)
3. We decide where to give
4. We determine the above based on feeling positive or better about yourself
And why not, you may ask, after all they are my resources to distribute. What do you expect?
And there it is: it’s mine and I will do what I want with it.
The problem with giving out your resources in this way is that the causes that are most pressing in your own community, in your country and in the world are not necessarily getting the resources needed to effect significant change for the sake of humanity.
You are not an expert in the areas of poverty, climate, etc. Your choices are filtered through the lens of your own priorities and interests. To a certain degree, your choices are narrow-minded and self-centered.
An uncomfortable thought, I’m sure. But there is truth in it.
Mindful Giving is challenging the reasons we donate.
It is taking the personal reward out of the equation as much as possible and shifting our relationship to resources.
Three ideas we have to challenge are:
- Those with the greatest resources worked harder than those without them, so they deserve more control
2. Those with the highest wealth were given it (by a deity or fate) to further their values
3. The more resources we have for ourselves or give to others, the better
Heed The Rule of 3
My suggestion to anyone who wants to take the challenge of Mindful Giving is to begin by dividing your donations into three categories. Think of them as the past present and future.
Give one third to whatever is most important to you. This is the past. It’s what you identify with based on who you’ve been.
Give another third to an urgent cause, but don’t leave that choice up to yourself. Look for a local or international cause that will accomplish the greatest good, one that addresses a pressing problem that isn’t ordinarily your focus. Ask your local Community Foundation for their perspective.
Give the final third to organizations that educate and engage youth in philanthropy. This is the third dedicated to seeding a healthy future for giving.
Don’t forget that you own three types of assets: your time, money and energy. Contribute each of these supports to each category too.
One More Mindful Giving Practice
Recognize and admit how you benefit from giving. Write it down. Examples are tax advantages, your self-image, how others perceive you (including the organizations you support), the favors, perks and acknowledgements, your religious or spiritual identity.
As you grow aware of the rewards you earn by giving, you gain the perspective to evaluate your motives and give according to the needs of others ahead of yourself. It’s a harder choice.
It’s your choice.