Big thanks to Holden at GiveWell
for the personal invitation to join this week’s Giving Carnival
, which is focused on the topic of “What charitable cause are you personally most passionate about?” He wrote, “I've seen the interest you've taken in what motivates others (including me) to give; I'd love to see something about what motivates you.” Well, how could I say “no” to that?
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Tracy Gary of Changemakers
speak on the topic of creating a personal giving plan. After her presentation I stood in a long line to buy a copy of her book, Inspired Philanthropy: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Giving Plan
. She autographed my book writing, “Be focused and audacious. Give strategically.”
With my trusty highlighter in hand, I finished reading my new book in one weekend. Soon I ordered the companion workbook
, which with simple forms and easy exercises provides a good roadmap
for creating your own personal giving plan.
I’d like to tell you I finished that plan, but my mia culpa
is that have not. Here we have another example of the old truism, “those who give advice would be best served by following it themselves.” So don’t listen to me, listen to Tracy. I know I should.
But if I were to become more focused, audacious and strategic about my giving, the first step would be to ask myself how I currently give of my time, talent and treasure. After a bit of reflection, I find it falls into four levels—from outside to inside—they are friends/family, work, self and spirit.Friends/Family
As a professional fundraiser, I really appreciate it when my friends and family get involved in supporting causes that they care about. Honestly, I love it when they ask me for help, and I’m always willing to contribute a few dollars. The cause may or may not motivate me, but by giving I know I’m honoring our relationship. The size of the gift is usually small, but this past year it includes the most generous single financial gift I’ve
given. They range from contributing to my friend Anna’s bike trip
to donating money to a fellow fundraiser undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Later this month I’m looking forward to attending a fundraiser for the Square Peg Foundation
, organized by my talented 15 year-old-cousin Natalia. Though I’m happy to give financially to these groups or offer advice when asked, I find I rarely donate my time to these causes.Work
Given the huge demand for professional fundraising support and because there are only so many hours in the day, I find I’m in the enviable position of turning away jobs on a regular basis. This allows me the freedom to partner with organizations whose values reflect my own. Look at my project
list and you can get a good sense of what I care about. One of the practices I’ve
made regular habit since consulting is to financially donate to these nonprofits, usually before I start any work. In this way, I try to model one of our core teachings, “we can’t ask others until we give first of ourselves.”Self
As someone who identifies as queer, it is probably not surprising to learn that the majority of my personal giving is within the LGBTQ
community. In particular, I donate and volunteer with organizations at the vanguard of the struggle for gender equality and personal liberty, such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights
or the Transgender Law Center
. I’m a former Board member and current legacy circle member of New Leaf
, San Francisco’s mental health and outpatient center for LGBTQ
individuals and families. Last year I helped lead a volunteer effort to remember the 40th
Anniversary of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot
, San Francisco’s version of the Stonewall Riots
, but which happened three years earlier. Internationally, I support the Global Fund for Women
, which makes grants to women's groups that work to gain freedom from poverty, violence and discrimination. (Whom I should mention, has most savvy direct mail materials I've ever seen. I'd donated just to be on their mailing list.)Spirit
Like many people, I moved to San Francisco over a decade ago looking for a dream, a dream that has unfortunately died in the hearts of many people. One place that I found that it still lives is Glide Memorial Church
, a non-denominational, multi-cultural, social justice community rooted in the values of the civil rights movement. For many years they received my largest donation, and over the years I’m sure I’ve
given them more money than I have any other group.
But I left Glide a few years ago, looking for a more personal spiritual practice not rooted in Christianity. I’m drawn to the ethics of Buddhism, but as I like to joke with my mentor
, my meditation practice is not to meditate. So though I occasionally sit with half-a-dozen various groups in town, I have yet to commit
to a particular sangha
—a group of people with whom to cultivate wisdom, mindfulness and compassion—that I would call home.
What I am slowly coming to believe is I don’t need to go to a church, temple or any building to practice the precepts
in my life. Rather my life, and particularly my work as a fundraiser, is becoming my spiritual practice. For are not those of us working in development called to help people remember the joy of giving, build connections with their neighbors, act on their values and help those in need? From this vantage point, fundraising becomes a sacred activity, one I am grateful to practice in my daily life.
So in fact I do have a sangha
, the Development Executives Roundtable (DER
). If how we spend our time and money is any indication of what our values are in the world, than DER is at the center of my life right now. Formed over 30 years ago by Hank Rosso
, the godfather of professional fundraising, DER is dedicated to growing and enhancing the community of development professionals by providing low cost, accessible learning and networking opportunities directed towards fundraisers at every stage of their careers. The impact of our work, though hard to measure, is quite large. We are a small group of volunteers serving hundreds of nonprofits reaching tens of thousands of clients. So it is not too surprising to discover that last year they received my largest combined donation of time, talent and treasure.
Labels: DER, Generosity