From time to time I am asked to give seminars to MGO’s. One of the things I like to ask them to do is share stories about their own giving. What did their families do about giving to charity? What do they do in their own lives?
The stories are always fascinating and they inform the MGO’s about their own thoughts and attitudes toward money and giving it away.
I try to get MGO’s to think about this because I believe that if we are in the profession of asking, then we (you and I) need to be giving too. In other words, we have to walk the talk. I think this is crucial because if we are asking donors to give of their resources, shouldn’t we be willing to do the same?
A few months ago I wrote about how I believe something truly mystical happens when people give. That mystical experience isn’t just for our donors, it can be for us as well.
Let me tell you my own story of growing up in a family who made it a priority to give.
I came from a working class family. My father was an electrician and we didn’t have a lot of money. Anything extra I wanted, from clothes to my own bike, I had to pay for from whatever work I could find.
Every Friday afternoon my father would come home, gather us around the kitchen table and show us his paycheck. He would pull out his checkbook and start writing his regular checks to charity. Then, he would pay the bills and, after that, whatever was leftover had to last us the rest of the week.
This became a weekly ritual. When I was a kid, I didn’t understand the significance. I remember asking my dad, “Why are we giving this away? We could use it to go to the movies or something.” My dad would say, “Jeff, we’ve been given so much and there are so many people who have less than we do, so we need to give back.”
I remember long stretches of unemployment, up to five months at a time. It didn’t matter. My father would still write out those first checks to charity, giving from his unemployment checks.
Some might call that foolish, but I never remember us wanting for any necessity. We might not have had everything we hoped for, but we always had what we needed.
The impact that my father’s giving has had on me as an adult is enormous. Is it any wonder I’m in the profession I am? But more than that, it showed me the power of giving – it brought our family together and showed me that, no matter how little or much you earn, you can give significantly and make a difference in the world.
That is really powerful.
I have found that if we ourselves can give significantly from our own resources, it makes it much easier to ask others to give of theirs. Is it impossible to ask others to give if we are not giving significantly ourselves? Of course not. Can you be a vegan cattle farmer? I suppose so, but when asked to talk about the quality of the beef to a consumer, it just doesn’t have the same impact when you haven’t tasted it yourself.
To be honest, there are years in which I have personally given significantly and years when I haven’t. But, I’m always trying to figure out how to give more away. Sometimes I fail. Like our donors, though, I know that the more I to give away, the more good things seem to happen. I always tell my own kids that I’ve found it to be one of those laws of the universe that the more positive things you put out there, the more you receive back. It’s that mystical thing I was talking about earlier.
What’s your giving story? How does your giving affect your life? What is your attitude toward money? These are all questions that you’d be good to ask your donors, but before you do that, have you grappled with them yourself?
Thanks, Dad for showing me how to give.