Hijacked Generosity

GenerosityIt occurs to me when it comes to generosity we are living in a state of liminality. That which has always worked is not working quite so well any more, and that which will work is not yet fully known.

You see, in many ways generosity has been hijacked by organized philanthropy and we’ve gotten hypnotized by complexity. As a result, thousand dollar a plate galas, measuring social ROI, who are we kidding?

Here are a couple of facts that provide evidence for my claim. Since, the most generous nation on the planet has been stuck at around 2% GDP with its charitable giving…..for four decades according to the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Imagine what good could be done if we helped donors boost that by one percentage point.

In addition, the Corporation for National and Community Service has reported that one in four Americans volunteer. This means that three out of four of us do not even volunteer an hour a year! We know what happens to people who volunteer. Their hearts are changed and they become donors. Imagine if two out of four Americans volunteered!

Now, I admit I am guilty as charged in making generosity complicated.  One client in our firm is a Christian couple and we manage their private foundation. They have essentially three questions for grantees, and these three questions ussually asked by them in a face to face conversation. So how do you see God? Moreover, What will you do with our money? And most of all, how will we know you were successful?

Our team has complicated this “grant application” process by requiring a letter of intent and then a thirty question online grant application, grant agreements and reports. Therefore, we get to the answers these donors want but we are “organized” about it. Hypnotized by complexity.

Larry Johnson is right. Donors are the drivers and I would add, donors who know their heart’s desire for change are, by and large, writing the biggest checks …and writing them often. Donors who spend themselves and not just their money are the most gratified donors. Donors who selflessly make connections between other people are spending their relational equity, a powerful generosity currency. Donors who volunteer and spend what they are best at, and not just trade time for obligation, volunteer again and again. And finally donors who see a portfolio of resources with which they can be generous, not just their money, are living out fulfilling Generosity Gameplans.

John Stanley

A reformed, philanthropic advisor

Author of Connected for Good, A Gameplan for a Generous Life

Creator of the Generosity Gameplan


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.