On Giving

In the space of 48 hours, JVSWorks has learned everything there is to learn about the practice of giving and, perhaps as a bonus, we have received several very helpful suggestions as to where/how we should give our time/heart/money. Ask us anything and we will “give” you our wisdom. OK, with tongue removed from cheek, let's back things up for a moment…

My giving musings (or in some case “mis-givings,” perhaps) are entirely in tune with this, the season of giving. Many of you, like myself, may still be battling off the post-holiday glaze of Thanksgiving and have arrived here on Giving Tuesday en route to completing our holiday shopping. All the ads say the same thing…it’s time to buy, buy, buy, so you can give, give, give. You can rest when the calendar flips to December 26, or perhaps to January 1, 2015.

Now we all know that Thanksgiving has nothing to do with presents. For that matter, neither does Giving Tuesday, a campaign which is all about giving back and which encourages participants to find a cause they believe in and support it:

From the Giving Tuesday website:

On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Join us and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity.

Given that ‘tis the season of giving and all, there has been a recent spate of articles about the nature of giving...why we do it, why we should do it, how it makes us feel. I went from Anna Goldenberg who bundled food and sex in with philanthropy in her piece in the Jewish Daily Forward (now there’s an attention-getter) to entrepreneur and philanthropist Tim McCarthy listing his “4 Reasons Why Giving is Good for You” in Working World to David T. Levinson’s exhaustive list of giving dos, donts and principles splashed across no fewer than five pages of the Jewish Journal.

All three are interesting reads for different reasons. None interweave or offer the suggestion that you – dear reader – should be writing a check to Charity X or Foundation Y. Granted, Levinson is the only one of the three who operates a nonprofit and he makes it pretty clear that if he ever gets to know you, he will eventually be asking you for something. Such is the nature of the giving/philanthropy beast. At least the man is honest and has a sense of humor about it.

The “Rules” and “Reasons” formats effectively breaks up the narrative of each of the articles, preventing anybody from getting too bogged down. Levinson’s story in particular – given that it’s offering 12 rules each for giving and getting – pretty much makes this formatting essential.

As noted, JVSWorks encourages you to read all three articles so you that you too may become as well versed in giving as we are.

You too can learn, for example, that giving has been known to successfully combat anhedonia, the inability to enjoy activities that are typically found pleasurable. McCarthy found philanthropy therapeutic in dealing with  his own post-wealth acquiring anhedonia.

Or were you aware that giving can both make you suffer (you will become a more effective and committed giver if you identify with the cause to which you are donating) and it will potentially make you a physically stronger person? So contends the Forward’s Goldenberg who also maintains that the mesolimbic system which produces the feelings of “empathic joy” is also the part of the brain that responds to food and sex.

Lengthy though it is, Levinson’s article – which came out just before Thanksgiving - is a must-read. I was not previously acquainted with his nonprofit Big Sunday. Nor have I read his book Everyone Helps, Everyone Wins: How Absolutely Anyone Can Pitch in, Help Out, Give Back and Make the World a Better Place. Regardless, this man knows whereof he speaks when he talks about nonprofits, the people who run them, and the people who support them. His advice is wise, down to earth, funny, shrewd, practical and in no way self-promoting.

Give the man a read.

And happy Giving Tuesday.