The word philanthropy comes from the Greek words “philos” and “anthropos” which combined mean “love of humankind”. Giving is just that. It is one way that we can show our love for one another. It is certainly not the only way: simple acts of kindness and generosity are also ways to show our love for others, for example. But the best philanthropy, the most beautiful philanthropy, is when we are giving as an outpouring and expression of love.
Expectation of Personal Benefit
One may choose to give for many reasons and pull the trigger to actually make the gift for others. Whether it is because it is a financially advantageous time or initiated by an important business colleague making the ask, giving as a result of additional compelling reasons does not take away from its beauty. While giving only for the reason to gain something is not an expression of love, giving where both the recipient benefits and the donor receives a tertiary benefit can still be a loving, thoughtful gift.
Expectation of Recognition
There is value to giving under one’s own name. It can set an example and stimulate others to give. But there is also value in giving anonymously. When this is done, it makes it clear that one does not wish to be recognized. But more importantly, it creates more space between the donor and the recipient, and allows them to maintain a bit more of their dignity. By giving without any expectation of receiving recognition, the transactional nature of the gift disappears and the emphasis can be more on the giving and the donor’s intent.
Expectation of Appreciation
The best gifts are those that come from the heart for the pure benefit of the receiver. Expecting to receive gratitude or appreciation is reasonable, and can create a positive reinforcement for the donor to want to give more and more often. However, it is important to realize there may be many reasons why a recipient may not be able to or chooses not to express their appreciation. They may be uncomfortable with being a recipient or ashamed of their need. They made feel compelled to accept help that they otherwise would not. There may be a host of other reasons but the expectation of appreciation should not limit or drive one’s giving.
Mother Teresa was known to have said, “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” Subject matter expertise, lived experience to draw on, well-run nonprofits, and thoughtful leadership, are just a few things that are part of giving. But giving from the heart is truly an expression of love.
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