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Giving for Perspective

Posted by Sam Neukom

I’ll start off by saying something you don’t often hear from an SVP Partner:  I’m not inclined to give financially.

I struggle with a mindset of scarcity, especially when it comes to financial resources.  I grew up relying partially on social security from my dad’s early death, and since then I’ve carried this sense that financial disaster could be right around the corner.

To counter that, I’ve always had a job (starting at age 14), and eye on the future. When I received an acceptance letter from my first choice school and my mom said we couldn’t afford it, I told her I was “running away” to college.  I got a partial scholarship and finished in three years to keep the cost down. (I just paid off my student loans five years ago.)

That’s pretty typical for me – financial insecurity followed by a where-there-is-a-will mentality that always pulls me through.  Now, I’m in my mid-thirties, a single mom with no family in town and a full-time job.  I just started my own business as a marketing and brand consultant.  I still feel as though I live in a very insecure state – who will my next client be?  How will I manage my daughter’s childcare and schedule?

Volunteering is the easy part for me.  Service has that boomerang effect – you get back twice as much as you give – so that it’s addictive because it’s so incredibly rewarding.

Giving financially doesn’t have the same emotional reward system for me.  I don’t expect to ever see my name on the side of a building, or any other “rewards” that might come with extraordinary philanthropy.

Serving food at a food bank or as a grief counselor for children who have recently had a parent die or going overseas to volunteer are all acts of volunteerism I’ve done, some regularly.  Each time, I’ve walked away feeling blessed, inspired by the people I meet, and filled with a sense of connectedness (that human paradox of “we’re all the same/we’re all different”) that keeps giving back to me during my own challenging times.

So why is it different with money?  It’s harder for me to give financially, which makes it even more important for me to do it.  In reality, I live with an abundance of resources and support, and I have always been able to find a way to accomplish what I want.

Giving back – and realizing I can and must do so – is the best way for me to regain perspective on just how fortunate I am.

My hand-written check may not give me a warm feeling of human connectedness, but it certainly re-sets my perceptions.  I have a house.  I own a car.  In fact, I have lots of things, many of which I have little use for.  I have work.  I can provide amply for my daughter and me.  I may always feel that I “need” more money.  But, I don’t.  I am among the luckiest on the planet when it comes to every kind of resource.

Giving is the best way I know to exercise that good fortune.

What’s Your Experience?

Why do you give?  What types of giving bring you the most joy?  And what types do you struggle with?

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