In several ways, Jackson is one of the philanthropy “capitals” of America, if not the world. Jackson is the home of dozens of nonprofits, both large and small, focused on numerous worthy causes. Every week it seems, there are fundraisers and other events calling our attention to challenges and issues in the world.
Most of us want to help to make the world a better place both now and in the future. But herein lies a dilemma: with the sheer number of nonprofits, the diversity of causes, and the volume of requests for contributions, how do we act in a generous yet thoughtful and authentic way? How might we contribute wisely, responsibly, and fairly?
Without attempting to answer these questions comprehensively, here are a few thoughts:
1. We owe it to ourselves to identify and articulate our deeply-held beliefs and worldviews.
If we haven’t thought deeply about why we do what we do or why we want what we want, deciding on a course of action can be confusing and a bit overwhelming. This can be especially true when it comes to philanthropy and charitable giving. Discovering our motives, how to give, and why becomes an important precursor to fulfillment and meaning through philanthropy. 123
There’s a paradox in asking “why” we do things, however. In our experience, people get stuck trying to answer “why” questions. If you’ve ever dealt with a child’s endless asking “why”, you know what we mean. “Research has shown that we simply do not have access to many of the unconscious thoughts, feelings, and motives we’re searching for…we tend to invent answers that feel true but are often wrong.” 4 Instead, we’ve found and research verifies that asking “what” leads to greater self-discovery and self-awareness. 5
2. Inevitably, we must learn to say “no” kindly and with gratitude.
Sometimes it’s not easy to say “no” to nice people with a worthy cause. Yet, if we are truly to live our lives deliberately and intentionally, we must be discerning in our contribution choices. At the same time, gratitude – expressing respect, appreciation, and generosity of spirit for others and what matters to them – remains foundational in all of our endeavors.
3. With an over-abundance of choices, it might make sense to foster collaboration among competing interests.
Our experience has been that seeming cooperation among competing interests has often masked a quiet, unspoken competition for dominance and control. We can passively accept this reality or we can learn new ways of coexisting, collaborating, and thriving. Much of our work is dedicated to teaching and learning better ways to collaborate.
1) Wealthy People Give to Charity for Different Reasons Than the Rest of Us, Daisy Grewal, Scientific American, July 25, 2017.
2) 5 reasons why people give their money away – plus 1 why they don’t, Sara Konrath, and Femida Handy, The Conversation, November 26, 2107.
3) How to Get Donations? 14 Reasons Why People Donate, Network for Good, Best Practices, October 6, 2015.
4) What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It), Tasha Eurich, Harvard Business Review, January 4, 2018.