It’s the season of giving, and I’ve got the credit card bills to prove it. In addition to playing Santa to my twin five-year-olds, I’ve been using every spare second for holiday shopping for relatives and friends. It’s a frenzy, but like everyone else, I’m comforted by the thought of the smiles my gifts will bring to the faces of the ones I love.
I get the same feeling from making donations to the causes I care about, and I bet you do, too. There is something deeply comforting and joyful in knowing you’re providing much needed support for others.
The thing we have to keep in mind, however, is that while we may be feeling a sense of comfort and joy when we make our donations, it’s the way in which we make our gifts that determines whether the recipients share in those feelings of comfort and joy with us.
Dropping off a covered dish for your child’s holiday teacher luncheon can bring comfort (especially if it’s mac and cheese), but taking a moment to look your child’s teacher in the eye, tell her the great things your child says about her class, and let her know how much you appreciate her hard work? That brings joy.
Launching a $5 gazillion funding initiative based on your good intentions can bring comfort to your nonprofit grantees and the communities they serve, but asking people in those communities for their input from start to finish and valuing their abilities as thinkers and leaders will deliver true joy.
The best gifts are not necessarily the largest ones, but the ones given with a sense of respect and humility, recognizing the dignity of every human being regardless of their station or circumstance. So as you think about your giving going forward, ask yourself, “Am I giving comfort? Or am I giving joy?”
I wish a season filled with comfort and joy to all of you!
Kris Putnam-Walkerly, MSW, is a philanthropy expert and author of the forthcoming book, Confident Giving. To learn more about her consulting and advising services for grantmakers, visit her website or read a case study.
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