Step 1: Write Your Giving Story
Have you ever read an interview with a chef where he explained why he started cooking? The story of his first food memory, or working in his grandmother’s restaurant during long summers might seem like an inconsequential detail, but it’s more revealing then you might think. We no longer just know that he’s a great cook, but we know why he took the journey. We know what he values.
You can’t give in a meaningful way without first identifying what you care about. The first step involves taking inventory of your values, goals, and concerns, and reflecting on past giving experiences. By bringing your story to the forefront, you’ll see a pattern of values that will be indispensable to you when it comes to creating a giving strategy.
Define Your Motivation. These questions are rooted in emotion. What you’ll find moving through this process is the raw feelings you identify here will be turned into positive actions in subsequent steps.
• What factors motivate your giving? Religious, social, political, emotional?
• Do you have any giving role models?
• What personal values do you want your giving to express?
• What makes you the most frustrated about the world’s inequities?
• Think ahead to your retirement party. What would you like to be remembered for?
Reflection on Past Gifts
Giving should fulfill the emotions we discussed earlier, and when donations fall short, it only deters us from future giving. In addition to noting some of the most recent giving experiences you’ve had, equally important is your emotional response to those gifts. All emotions, positive or negative, are valid. Don’t hold back.
Some general responses to a gift might be “I never found out how the money was used” or “I enjoyed the personalized emails.” Maybe you donated to a cause on behalf of a friend who was running a marathon for charity, but never received a thank you note from her. Maybe an organization sent too many emails after your donation. Maybe you deepened your relationship with an organization and ended up attending a local benefit.
If you’d like to create a giving worksheet for past, current, and future gifts, set up an Excel spreadsheet with the following columns:
- Gift Type*
- Emotional Response
*Gift Type Examples: General Operating Support, Benefit Tickets, Program, etc. (Consult “Types of Gifts” list in Step 2.)
**Source Examples: Referral (from a friend, colleague, church), Mailing, Email