By Jim Greenfield Aug 23, 2012 No Comments

By: James M. Greenfield, ACFRE, FAHP

OneOC Consultant Advisory Group member

The very instant someone mentions a charity, a nonprofit or philanthropy we assume it’s about money.  Just another cause looking for a gift.

Giving is about much more than money.  Yes, there are those overused bromides about giving “time, talent and treasure” along with “wealth, wisdom and work.”  What more is there?

Consider advocacy.  The term itself implies action – doing something such as writing a letter, calling a friend, joining in a walk or a run.  Why would you bother to do any of these?  You don’t have to.  Why do you believe you were asked to help in the first place?

Was it for a “cause”?  Was it because it was easy to respond, to participate or to join, especially if others already have?

What is being asked is for you to act.  Ah, that’s the rub.

Robert Payton’s definition of philanthropy is “Voluntary action for the common good.” [1] The key word is “action” because it implies doing something.  Action needs a motive, a purpose such as the “common good” that benefits someone else, maybe even you.

For some of us to act, we need to be convinced our time or effort has value.  Maybe that’s where “talent” and “wisdom” fits, but does it also imply we have to get something back?  Does our action need to benefit us too?

To act also takes time and time is that most precious of gifts we covet for ourselves.  So, before we act, we often need a reason.

In the past, “people helping people” was more than an adequate reason.  Does it still apply today?  How strong is the “helping” motive?

Opportunities to help others are all around us.  Helping is the basic role of nonprofit organizations and is embodied in each mission statement.  Read your mission statement.  Does it explain what you are doing today?  Does it explain how it is making a difference to others?

The mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving reads:  “To stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.”  That sentence is a clear, succinct and action oriented statement and explains why MADD exists and what it is committed to do.  It also asks you to understand that it is a cause that’s on a mission too.

Good as MADD’s statement is, not everyone heeds its message nor shares the basic cause with others.  Yet it does remind us of the basic issue behind why MADD exists – the danger of drinking and driving.

Maybe, just maybe, each of us now will be more alert to drinking and driving by our friends and family.

Just one example of “Everyone has something to give”.

[1]  Robert Payton. “Philanthropy: Voluntary Action for the Common Good.” New York: Macmillan, 1988.

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