Just over a month ago I joined the board of my child’s private school. Before I even had a chance to settle in, I was immediately thrown into the chaos of a school that is way behind in fund raising and over two months behind in paying their teachers. So we got down to work and began figuring out how to raise the funds. After three weeks of this we were no further ahead, at that point we took the course of enough thinking “LET’S GET MOVING”. We compiled a list of the wealthy philanthropists in our community and set out to work. Our expectation was to get at least $10,000 from 15-20 donors, are assumption being that they are very wealthy and have millions of dollars, $10,000 to them is like 10 cents to us, furthermore we were asking them to give from their charity money not their personal funds. Well things didn’t go as expected, though the donors were very generous, the donations were more in the range of $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000. Though we did show sincere appreciation, in the back of our minds there was some frustration and indignation at the fact that these philanthropist would not step up to the plate in a massive way to help a school in need, especially when the people involved are part of their community.
After a week of feeling this frustration, I decided that it was time to try and get some perspective. I don’t function when I am in a negative mode and really needed to change my outlook.
So I asked the power question.
What is it really like to be a philanthropist?
To honestly answer this question, I had to bypass the reflexive self righteousness of ‘If I was that wealthy I would gladly help out without giving it a second thought’, self righteousness is dangerous because it is often uninformed.
I began to imaging what it would be like if overnight I had a charity account of $20,000,000. Well, in short order I would have a continuous flow of traffic at my door, ‘Support this cause’, ‘Help this person’, ‘Get your name on this foundation’. Initially I would most likely begin writing checks and supporting without thought, but then after a year I would be surprised to find that I have already given away 25% of my charity. Now being the brilliant math student I realize that in less that four years all of my charity money will be gone. After that there may be nothing, so I begin to realize that I may require some discernment in my givings. I want to be able to give for a long time and not miss out on the important and meaningful needs, so I decide to create a yearly giving budget.
Now when people start coming to me I start to ask more questions, look deeper into the cause, evaluate how much I can participate. I want to give to everyone, but I can’t be the white knight, some I give more some I give less.
This begins to work well and then comes an interesting twist. In year two, people that I gave to last year come again, and when I give them a smaller amount, they get upset “But last year you gave this amount, can’t you match you last year donation?” Now I realize I have to further refine my giving, whatever I give will create an expectation for the next time, furthermore if I give one cause a certain amount other causes of a similar nature will also expect the same.
So now I have to be even more careful, I evaluate each cause carefully and give a reasonable amount, one that I am comfortable repeating annually. I put large amount towards causes only if I feel very strong about them.
Though It is often hard for me to not help out as much as I can, I know that this is an effective approach to helping to support my community for may years to come.
Back to reality.
Now that I have taken the time to ‘see the other side’ I realize that it is far from a simple story. I can’t go around expecting others to jump on board just because I think it is important, I can try to give reasons but still I have to respect their choices. I have to appreciate that these philanthropist have a ton of responsibility in giving out the right amounts of money to the right causes, and no they don’t want to give all their money away in one year. I also should be careful to not expect the same donation on a continual basis, I don’t know how their situation changes from year to year, furthermore I should make sure that I am deserving of their donation year to year and not take them for granted.
I feel that this post was more of an opportunity to aid in further the removing of my mental road blocks to clarity, but it can also be an opportunity for you to clear some of your own clutter.
Are there any situations in your life now where you could try looking at things from the other side?
Turn off your personal judgment filters and try to see things in the best light from the other persons perspective, more than likely you will quickly see that all was not as you first thought.
Have a great day,