September 3, 2014

The Tale of Two Gifts

Written by 

Once upon a time, a giver had a choice between two opportunities for making a charitable gift. It was a choice between two best opportunities.

08 short be grateful cause manifesto sqThe first choice was an opportunity to make an unrestricted gift of money to a pool of funds, in response to an appeal from an organization the giver already supported. The giver knew she could simply write a check, and her desire to be generous would be fulfilled. This choice would have been made because she knew it was the right thing to do, but it wouldn’t really touch her heart.

The second choice was more limited in scope, directly impacting a family in need. The appeal to give was based on a personal story told to the giver. This particular act of personal philanthropy would not be tax-deductible, nor would the giver’s name ever appear on a donor roll of honor for making this gift. 

With the first choice, the giver considered that her gift would be one of many that would be given. The giver knew the money would be well invested and handled responsibly. While it would contribute to the collective impact and a meaningful cause, the funds would be distributed at the discretion of others.

The second choice presented an opportunity to make a gift as a personal response directly to the family in need. There was no doubt that the giver’s heart would be touched by her connection to the family impacted by the gift.

Either way, the giver had the means and the motivation to choose either opportunity. It was not a choice between good and better, but between two best opportunities.

Writing a check for the first opportunity would have taken no more than five minutes, and may have included the expense of a stamp.

Instead, the giver spent three days tracking down items to purchase for the family in need. Her quest became a game, a challenge to bless the recipients with an act of outrageous generosity. After exploring multiple options, she was triumphant. She chose – and paid for – the specific goods that were donated.

What was most meaningful to the giver was the personal connection with the family and the personal satisfaction the giver had in directly meeting this need. Her joy in giving was not only in making the gift, but also in surprising the recipient with items she had personally selected to meet the need. The recipient’s story became her story; she connected powerfully with the recipient of the gift and the affect it would have on their life.

Collective philanthropy (financial donations) is important – even critical – to the work of charitable organizations. Personal philanthropy is often more meaningful because there is a personal connection – a connection that is seldom possible when simply writing a check.

After all, the most meaningful acts of philanthropy connect the donor’s desire for generosity with opportunities for impact.

The opportunity is most meaningful when the connection is personal and the impact tangible.

It’s important to remember that every gift is meaningful and there is room in the hearts and minds of givers (you may call them “donors” or “supporters”) for both personal and collective philanthropy. How might your organization adapt its fundraising to speak to a giver’s mind and appeal to their heart?

Create opportunities that provide a tangible connection from a gift to its impact. You’ll be surprised at how your givers respond when you give them a choice, and given them the opportunity to be part of the story.


This article was first posted on the Martina McGowan blog.