This is a very important question. Why should you give philanthropically and strive to make a difference?  In this column you read a lot about different vehicles for giving, different organizations, even different styles of giving, but not as much about the Why question.

Some years ago Curtis Meadows, past president of the Meadows Foundation, dove squarely into this question while speaking to a group of philanthropists in Tyler.  Curtis shared a wonderful quote that day by Walter Brueggemann, considered by many to be a master theologian and master preacher. He said “What God does first and best is to trust us with our moment in history.”

Think about that for a moment. God places unfathomable trust in you and me. That makes us stewards right now, today.  Not tomorrow or next month. Not when we earn more money or have more time, but right now. That’s the simplest answer to why – it’s our moment in history.

Curtis advanced five questions to challenge us as we think about the responsibility of our moment in history. How will you account for what you do with your time?  How will you use your energy, talent and resources for this time?  How much should you be concerned with an uncertain future?  Why should you personally be engaged in the problems of our community and our world?  How can your limited resources possibly make a difference 

Good why questions deserve how answers. The sum total of your answers is your own personal philosophy. It is the answer to why you give philanthropically and strive to make a difference?   

Curtis provided a suggested list of answers. Here are the ones that still resonate with me today. In fact they explain a lot about my own decisions and personal involvement to change something or give to change something.

First, because whatever problems this community or a group of individuals or an institution faces no one else may fix them if you don’t.  Second, if you don’t fix them, they may stay broken. This is not an invitation to fix the problem alone. In fact, I encourage you to always look for others to join you in the fix, whatever that may be. Take the challenge to give from this deeper level so that something doesn’t stay broken.

His third reason goes deep to my why.  No one else will fix them your way.  No one will or can do it exactly like you. Take another moment to reflect on that statement. It is often easy for me to read about or see a situation and believe I know exactly how the fix should occur. It’s not so easy to embark on the work needed to move toward the fix. In fact, it’s easy to put off my solution because I don’t think I can give enough of my own time or enough of my own money to make a difference.  

It is only after we’ve taken aim at something specific that we can begin to explore and study an issue and the organizations working in that area. Then we can identify where and with whom we want to combine our own giving capacity with others to make a difference. Our resources of time and money have great power when leveraged with that of others.  

Never underestimate the power of an extended invitation to join you in the work required for the fix. The giving of one individual energizes the giving of others by focusing on what can be accomplished. 

Finally, Curtis mentioned a fourth reason for philanthropic action. He said “it gives meaning and profound purpose to our lives to engage significantly in such work on behalf of others.” Isn’t that what we all seek, meaning and purpose?

Philanthropic action does not begin or end with check-writing. It is the process of identifying your why of giving, finding the best partners to join for the fix and staying engaged after the gift to learn about the impact of the work.

What we make of this community and our world is our responsibility because it is “our time.” Let’s do our best to give well in our time.

Dawn Franks, CEO of Your Philanthropy offers high touch advising services to families, businesses and foundations to enhance the giving experience and maximize impact. She writes a blog, the YP Journal, at Comments and questions are welcome. Send to .



Recent Stories You Might Have Missed