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At the root of giving is a desire to make a real difference. Whether it’s through our gifts, time, or legacy. We simply want the world to a better place for all.  But the specifics of how we give and why can make us feel overwhelmed. How we give is driven by our resources whether it’s time, cash, or some other type of charitable vehicle. A good deal of financial planning is involved in this step as well.


The issue of why giving is important to you and what you give to, and to take that one step further, why you give to what you do, can be tough to think about and most people really haven’t dissected that to get clear about their giving.  This is particularly true, and my experience, with mid-size and small-size companies and small private (family) foundations. Just the other day, I was speaking with a general manager at a local company who claimed that he gives A LOT of money away each year and that he gets 40 to 50 calls a day for donations. It appears that the company giving is on a first-come, first-serve basis and he gives to what he gave to the previous year, with few questions asked. Another example is a small family foundation, who has given to the same causes for the past ‘umpteen years’. Not that there is anything wrong with that and they are probably worthy causes, but to just keep cutting checks like as a canned process and, ‘Oh, it’s that time of the year’ has little value for raising issues around emerging needs or being vision based. Both of these are good examples of giving without getting to "why you give what you give to."


If you are a company or a foundation, you’ve got to get clear on what is important and what is driving your giving. It is all about focus, which is ideally all about where your interest and concerns are seated. So, it’s about your philanthropic passion. An excellent example, although not for every company to copy, is Wendy’s. The founder clearly had a passion for giving for adoption causes. His company giving was and still is tied to his own personal interest. This is a very unique scenario but one that depicts passion. I will say this, it is easier for a family foundation to get clearer about passion than a business. Businesses have other factors to consider.


The process of getting to the root of your intentions or passions, is what we refer to as "the heart of the matter".  To get the heart of the matter be it a company, foundation or family, is a process we developed called ‘givingmatters’. The first step of this process is purely exploratory. It’s probing deep enough to uncover personal values, community concerns and/or interests which answer the question, "What really matters to me, my business or my family?"


Your assignment:


Ask yourself  what are my philanthropic passions? Write them down and get clear about why you have a real interest in these areas.


Then, look at your giving history for the past year and determine if each contribution aligned with your passions.  If not, how can you better focus your giving with these areas?
Copyright 2006. Maggie F. Keenan, Ed.D. All rights reserved.


This Business article was written by Maggie F. Keenan, Ed.D on 2/13/2006

Maggie F. Keenan, Ed.D., is the Principal and Owner of givingadvice. We are a leader on philanthropy in the Southeastern region of the U.S. The firm works with companies and foundations to create giving programs that maximize their impact for communities and causes. We work with professional advisors offering philanthropic planning services that add value to their client relationships. or