Do You Make Decisions From a Scarcity Mindset or an Abundance Mindset?

Abundance Mindset


Here are 8 sure-fire indicators to find out!

Many people assume that wealthy people, foundation leaders, and corporate donors, and celebrity activists feel abundance. And we assume their mindset reflects this abundance. After all, they have big money, big ideas, and often big passion. 

While it’s true that they do have an abundance of resources and desire to do good, that doesn’t mean that they themselves have a corresponding abundance mindset. 

Instead, they often feel guilty about investing in themselves, their organizations, and their philanthropy. They think all their money should go directly to grantees, and not be frittered away on overhead. Their mindset is one of scarcity, not abundance. 

An abundance mindset is a belief that investment in yourself is important, and the more you put into your operation—and yourself—the greater the return. I firmly believe that adopting an abundance mindset (the antithesis of a scarcity mindset), leads to better outcomes and greater change in the world. The greater your abundance mindset, the greater your impact velocity. 

Of course, adopting an abundance mindset doesn’t mean leasing a floor of luxury office suites or flying foundation trustees to exotic resorts. What it means is believing that you not only deserve to strengthen, grow, and improve so that you are best positioned to help others, but that you must. That you can continuously improve, despite adversity. It means investing in the people, technology, operations, and expertise that help you and your team deliver value on your mission—and therefore to the grantees and communities that you serve. You think big. 

What does it look like when you have embraced an abundance mindset? Here are eight sure indicators: 

1. You are proactively generous. You take initiative to share your time, experience, expertise, reputation, and resources. You regularly ask yourself, “What do we have in abundance that could add value to this situation?” I’m not talking here about monetary generosity. Sure, you can give a grant. That is generous and important. But you can also open doors for emerging leaders, offer honest advice to a nonprofit struggling through a transition, and take a leadership role in tackling a controversial issue. 

For example, philanthropists often conduct research (needs assessments, environmental scans) to determine whether or how to fund a particular issue. Based on the findings, the funder might decide not to fund the issue at this time. Philanthropists with a scarcity mindset will keep the research findings to themselves. Often, they are fearful of negative repercussions of sharing the information. After all, community members and those interviewed for the research might get mad that the funder decided not to support their worthy cause. Philanthropists with an abundance mindset will be happy to disseminate the findings widely with the field. They have confidence they made the best decision for themselves, and they recognize that others can learn from their research. 

2. You have courage to continuously grow and develop yourself. This can include intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and skills development. You might assume this means investing financial resources to support your development, but it doesn’t have to. Even if you can’t afford to retain an advisor or attend a workshop, there is an abundance of high-quality and free resources that can help you— podcasts, webinars, articles, white papers, and peer networks. Need proof? Just visit my website or the website of any philanthropy-serving organization. 

Your abundant growth and development often require courage. Courage to believe you deserve to grow and improve. Courage to carve out time in your day for your growth. Courage to listen to the opinions of people whose perspectives are radically different from yours (this can be as simple as watching a different cable news channel), because you feel confident in your beliefs and realize you can learn from others. Courage to change your beliefs or your philanthropy based on what you learn. 

3. You are resilient. We know that that society’s problems were not created overnight and nor will they be solved overnight. Tackling these issues likely means testing unproven ideas, taking risks, and making “big bets.” When you do that, you are likely to fail along the way. Heck, even when we make “safe bets” we might flounder! Abundant philanthropists recognize that the road to social change is full of potholes, unexpected detours, and blown-up bridges. They have a Plan B and probably a Plan C. They can rebound and recover from a loss or failure and learn from the experience. 

My friend and consultant Richard Citrin, coauthor of the book The Resilience Advantage: Stop Managing Stress and Find Your Resilience, explains that resilience is more than bouncing back to your previous state: “Resilience is our ability to address our adversities in an effective manner and to learn from them so that we bounce forward and improve on how we handle situations in the future.”

4. You embrace inclusion. It’s no secret that our world is becoming more polarized and increasingly intolerant with each passing day. You understand that solving entrenched social problems requires that we come together to identify common goals. To develop these goals, we must include voices and solutions across a broad spectrum. This requires an abundance of empathy, trust, and tolerance. 

Carly Hare recognizes the need to embrace an abundance of vulnerability and grace in philanthropy. Hare is the executive director of CHANGE Philanthropy, a coalition of philanthropic networks whose vision is to transform and challenge philanthropic culture to advance equity, benefit all communities, and ignite positive social change. “We need to remember that we are all entering conversations about inequities from different places on our life journeys. We need to allow people the grace to be themselves, be vulnerable, feel discomfort, and heal so that together we can have courageous conversations. If we don’t do that, we stay in a delusional state. We stay ignorant,” explains Hare.

5. You believe you deserve the best. I’m not talking about the best luxury yacht or Hermès Birkin bag. I’m talking about believing that you and your philanthropy deserve the best information, ideas, technology, and talent. That that problem you want to tackle deserves the smartest minds and best-equipped organizations to help solve it. That your relationship with your board chair is so important, you both deserve investing your time and effort to strengthen it. That it’s worth spending $250 extra on that nonstop flight (avoiding the time-wasting ritual of reviewing dozens of cheaper but longer options), because you know you will accomplish more for your philanthropy if you arrive rested and not exhausted. You believe you deserve the best because you want to give your best. 

I cannot emphasize enough that believing you deserve the best does not necessarily mean that you spend money. It could mean that you make sure you get enough sleep each night. It could also mean you want your philanthropic practices to be informed by the best ideas. As part of her effort to better understand food systems and identify opportunities where her foundation could play a role, Mary Anthony, executive director of the 1772 Foundation, contacted a best-selling author and award-winning expert on local food and nutrition to see if he might be willing to answer some questions and share his experience. The author was perfectly willing and ended up spending an hour talking with Mary. The conversation cost her nothing, and her philanthropy was informed by a nationally renowned expert. 

6. You think big. Think for a moment about what you would like to accomplish through your philanthropy. Now, imagine yourself five years from now. Will you have achieved your goals if you focus on the limitations of your current grant budget? If you busy yourself in never-ending data gathering or copy editing your board meeting materials? If that’s all you do, you will not. 

You realize that if you want to reach your goals over the long run, then you’ve got to start thinking big right now. This also means thinking about what you can accomplish beyond the confines of your grant budget. Mitzi Perdue thought big, and well beyond her grant budget. In 2019 she heard Paul Hutchison, founder of the Child Liberation Foundation, talk about how to rescue and rehabilitate survivors of child trafficking. The talk changed her life. She wanted to support his work. But as she sat in the audience, she calculated that by donating to his organization she would need to cut back on her donations to other organizations. 

Then she thought beyond her foundation’s grants budget. 

She thought of a prized possession: a seventeenth-century de Medici Cardinal’s desk given to her by her late parents (her father had founded the Sheraton Hotel chain). She realized she could auction the desk and donate the proceeds. She then wondered if others might have items they would be willing to donate to raise funds for anti-trafficking organizations. Within months, Perdue created the Global Anti-Trafficking Auction, Win This Fight.

Operating with a mindset of abundance, she leveraged her contacts to find other wealthy individuals and celebrities willing to contribute. A New York auction house agreed to manage the auction and forgo their commission. That meant people could use the anti-trafficking auction to convert their tangible items to cash for donation without having to pay the usual 20%–25% commission. Perdue secured PBS for production of a 30-minute television show about the event. She arranged for a major hotel chain to display images of auction items and promote the auction at their properties.  Auction items pledged for donation include a yacht, a building, a sapphire and diamond necklace worn by actress Marlene Dietrich, a 69.7 carat ruby from the early Qing Dynasty, and 12 Imperial banquet plates that belonged to Tsar Alexander II. 

All because Perdue was willing to think big and beyond her grant budget. 

7. You take prudent risks. We all know the old saying “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Getting a return on your investment requires accepting some amount of risk, and you embrace it. When you make an investment in your grantees, this requires trusting that people will do the right thing with the resources you’re giving them. Instead of obsessing about their overhead or trying to micromanage them, you say, “Here’s money for your planning, or your board development, or whatever you need to do to strengthen your organization. I trust you.” With an abundance mindset, are you looking at the world through rose-colored glasses? I don’t think so. The more you put into something, the more you get out of it. There are solutions to every problem, but they often require taking chances. 

8. You invest in your capacity and talent, and that of your grantees. So far, I’ve tried to emphasize that abundance is a belief, a mindset. Being abundant does not require spending money. Now I want to tell you that philanthropists also need to invest financially in themselves to increase their effectiveness and impact velocity. That means you. You also need to invest more in the nonprofits you support—the ones helping you accomplish your mission. 

In next week’s newsletter I will share eight ways you can embrace an abundance mindset and expand your impact by strategically investing in your grantee partners – and in you.

The good news is, you can shift your mindset from scarcity to abundance. And you can do it faster than you might think possible! But it’s hard to do it alone. As a trusted advisor and coach, I help foundation leaders and UHNW donors uncover what you want and what’s holding you back. We’ll create a game plan to help you quickly achieve your goals, stay accountable, and achieve rapid results. Just schedule a call with me today!


Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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