Saturday, November 02, 2013

Compounded Generosity

Little actions add up over time.  Financial planners advise clients to begin saving for retirement early, because there is amazing power in a lifetime of compounded interest. The same thing is true for giving to a cause.  If you start early and give small amounts of time or money, consistently, over a lifetime you will have an amazing impact and create a meaningful legacy.

If you wait until you are rich to support philanthropic causes, you may never contribute in a significant manner.  Sure, if you make it BIG (think Bill Gates, Michael Dell, etc...) you may have the ability to write giant checks, but most people will not create wealth at that level (nor will they win the lotto).  But with intention anyone can serve their communities.  

Small amounts of time and money over a lifetime will add up. When done properly, and tracked effectively, there is an amazing impact of "Compounded Generosity".

I used to believe you had to be rich to impact a charity.  There was a specific incident where a fundraiser made me feel insignificant because I could not write a check for $10,000.  I wanted to help, but was dismissed.  Too many philanthropic organizations focus exclusively on those they identify as wealthy, but it does not have to be that way.

Six years ago my family pledged a small percentage of the fees I earn as a professional speaker to a research fund at our local Children's Hospital though a named giving endowment for to the hospital's foundation .  Two years ago we expanded this giving to include a similar fund at the hospital where our child received treatment a decade earlier.  The checks we send are small.  On our daughter's birthday we host a minor fundraiser each year.  These donations, coupled with the success of the investments done by the foundations have grown over time to equal a substantial amount that has been marked for research and other needs of the institutions we support.  And we are just getting started.

A commitment to a cause over many years can grow into something more than you could have ever imagined.  My wife and I do not come from families that have our names on the walls of hospitals.  We are not seeking to build our own charitable foundation or create a new charity.  However, through a commitment to giving small targeted amounts, and in being steadfast with our giving in good times and bad, the endowment funds continue to grow.

It was not hard to establish these two endowments.  They were promissory agreements (not legally binding contracts).  Not not all charities are set up to manage giving endowments, but they can do so with little effort.  Some organizations scoff at the thought that someone who is not financially established will keep up their giving commitment, and others worry about their ability to track and manage the funds.  Yet future focused non-profits should not turn down what can amount to tens of thousands of dollars (or hundreds of thousands of dollars) over the long-run.

I am on a personal mission to inspire 10,000 entrepreneurs to discover a cause that matters to them and to create their own giving programs.  You do not need to found your own organizations and hire people to run them.  This is about partnering with existing and reputable programs and working together with them over time to build an endowment that can have amazing impact.

I received a note this week from an small business owner who heard me talk about our giving program.  This was not the topic of this particular presentation, but I mentioned how we came to our pledge to give.  She said she has now identified her cause and was going to move forward to support it for the long run.  Like my family, she could not write a single check for $10,000.... but she can give small amounts consistently going forward.

How about you?  Are you ready to join the ranks of those who promote Compounded Generosity?  This is not about giving to my cause, it is about finding your own.... but then taking action to be committed for the long run. It adds up faster than you might think.  And no amount is insignificant.  It matters.

Let me know what you do to give.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer


Marilyn Suttle said...

I love the phrase "Compounded Generosity". You've found a way to frame continuous small contributions in a more meaningful and impactful way. It all counts and makes a difference.

Tiffanie Kellog said...

In 2006, I started raising $$$ to help the fight against cancer, and it's a small amount we raise each year. This year, we hit $175,000 that we have raised, $10-20 at a time, for the most part!

Every little bit helps.