I had a fascinating, far-ranging conversation today with a friend about philanthropy, touching on giving, donor accountability, what an individual gift means in the context of larger pools of money, how people really make philanthropic decisions…the works. Out of the blue, he says, “this is highly emotional, this business of giving.”
In another conversation today, another friend told me that his giving is “an expression of who I am in the world.”
Pretty heady stuff.
People can write analytical papers until they are blue in the face about the efficient allocation of philanthropic capital, but unless they spend some time on the front lines, I worry that all the real substance around how and why people give – for expressive, emotional, personal, sometimes selfish, always human reasons – is and will continue to be lost. This is part of the reason I wrote a manifesto a while back, because I think the business of giving – how and why it’s done; but also how important it is to raise money in the right way – is often fundamentally misunderstood.
People bring their whole selves to their giving decisions, and if you are going to engage with them at that level, you have to be prepared to bring your whole self to the conversation. This starts with knowing who you are and knowing why you’re there, talking to someone, and asking her to give.