Giving and Receiving

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 3.07.24 PMThis post was authored by Alison Hastings.  Alison is an urban planner, a food system thinker and a people person.  She's also an EPIP member in Philadelphia.

There’s no denying that we’re in the midst of the holiday season and earnest end-of-year donor appeals from many nonprofit organizations.  Of all of the holidays, Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday.  I bring out recipes for rich hors d’oeuvres that I only make for special occasions, add bacon to Brussels sprouts, and bathe carrots in honey.  We set the table with my parents’ china and drink water out of crystal glasses. My mom uses the back deck as a de-facto refrigerator – condiments and plastic containers perched on railings so that we have enough room in the fridge for all of the Thanksgiving goodies.  I love Thanksgiving not just because of the food.  It also marks the passage of time and asks us to reflect on what we’re thankful for.  

Over the last year, I have been exploring Giving Circles with a group of EPIP Philly friends and colleagues.  We’ve been researching the impact and best practices of Giving Circles: How are they organized?  How much does each participant give?  How does the group reach consensus on which organization or cause to give to?  The more I researched, the more confused I became.  I didn’t know how a group of individuals could work together to land on one cause, let alone one organization to donate to.

Upon reflection, what strikes me is that we all have different definitions of “giving.”  Some give time. Some give money.  And some give expertise.  Some give to their church, some give to a charity, some give to their alma mater, and some give to a friend or a loved one.  And we’re affiliated with a whole field of professional fundraisers trying to uncover what motivates someone to give.

I have a personal philanthropy plan that helps me plan monetary donations as well as my time, expertise, and commitments (such as serving on an organization’s board or EPIP Philly’s Steering Committee).  I have made a commitment to give at least 2-3% of my gross income each year to “charity” – from my alma mater to the local land trust of which I’m on the board, and from a co-worker’s charity walk against hunger to a friend’s kickstarter campaign and from organizations I interned for during college and graduate school to organizations I currently work with.

Before EPIP Philly formalizes a Giving Circle, we’re going to explore the concept of personal philanthropy to find out what motivates each of us individually as well as what values and interests we share as a group.

I have had a personal philanthropy plan for many years – almost as long as I had a full-time job and needed a personal budget to manage my living expenses.  I am motivated to give of my time and make donations partly because I’m goal-oriented, partly because I (try to) live on a budget, and partly because I like to be involved in meaningful work.  But it’s mostly because I’m thankful for the opportunities I have been given and will hopefully continue to receive throughout my life.

So as we travel near and far to celebrate the holiday season, I’m reminded that we all give in our own ways.