Obligation: The Enemy of Generosity

In discussions with my husband about where we will give our money to, there are always a few organizations we feel obligated to give to. We kind of roll our eyes at each other and shrug asking what the “appropriate” amount is—an amount we won’t feel cheap about, but is no where near the level of giving to an organization we feel passionate about.

Feelings associated with obligation involve displeasure. We either want to give to it, but not a lot, or we don’t want to give to it, but feel like we should. These feelings of obligation restrain us from freely giving generously. You know what I am talking about! We all have these feelings when we feel like “we have to” do something—and this doesn’t relate just to giving to charity!

Your friend, for example, may have asked you to support them in a race for an organization you don’t feel as passionate about as they do. How can you say no to your friend? How can you not “feel bad” about not supporting them? And so, we give. We give…a little. Not too much, but not too little as to feel cheap. Now, there are redeeming qualities of obligation, after all, we did give to a charity and that is something to be proud and pleased about. But, were we generous? Did we give from our passion?

Did we feel overwhelmed by pure joy in the giving process or did it feel more like someone was taking money out of our pocket?

Now, some people feel this way about all giving to charity. That’s a reason they feel uncomfortable with direct mail solicitations or phon-a-thons. They simply feel obligated to give when these charities come knocking on their door. Sadly, they may never have found a nonprofit they feel passionate about because they just keep giving to all the charities that ask. For fundraisers, we need to keep in mind that these types of donors who give from obligation will likely either be a small donor or a one-time donor. Don’t chase them! They may never become a major donor even if they have been giving for years! They just don’t have the joy that comes from real generosity.

Here is my advice: let’s not give when we feel obligated. Let’s just say, “No.”

“No” to obligation and, “No, no more!” to the displeasing feeling of giving. Instead, let’s say, “Yes!” to our passion and “Yes!” to generosity. Let’s give from our hearts for that is where true philanthropy lies.

Now the hard part for many is saying, “No.”

Can you do it? Next time someone asks you to give to a charity you are not passionate about, you could say, “Thank you for asking, I’m happy you have a charity you are passionate about, but I have other philanthropic endeavors I prefer to focus my time and energy on. Good luck with your fundraising goals!”

Let’s make it a resolution in 2018!

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