As Christmas and December 31st approach, we are heavily into the season of gift giving – both personal giving to family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers but also year-end charitable giving. I am reminded during this time of heightened generosity of that old expression, “Give until it hurts.” I believe that instruction, however, has it all wrong. It should be, “Give until it feels good.”
Anyone who has been involved in philanthropy, either as a donor, volunteer or professional fundraiser, knows the good feeling – the joy – that comes from giving generously or serving as an intermediary to a generous gift. Those who work in the field of fundraising need not apologize for or feel uncomfortable about what they do for it provides others the opportunity to experience the true joy of giving. In fact, as Hank Rosso, the founder of The Fund Raising School, said so well, “Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.”
During my years in fundraising, I have been blessed to know many people who have learned well the lesson of giving till it feels good. One individual stands out because of a note she sent in response to a thank-you letter she received from the institution I represented.
Mary, a widow, had decided when she reached her 80’s that it was time to begin “letting go” of her possessions . . . and she had many. In particular, she had a large collection of antiques. She began selling her antiques and setting the money aside until she had accumulated $50,000. She would then make a gift in that amount to my institution. She continued this practice for several years.
Of course, over this time Mary was thanked in many ways – handwritten notes, personal visits, phone calls — by various people connected with the organization. One time she sent a note in response saying, “Your gift to me is just being there as an intermediary . . . for without a recipient, there can be no gift. It is a privilege to give . . . and I am grateful to be a tiny part of your apostolate. Thank you for offering me the joy of giving.”
As we close another year and look forward to 2014, my wish for you is that your organization will be blessed with many Mary’s and they and you will feel the joy that comes from generous giving. Happy Holidays!