During a recent conversation with a multimillion-dollar donor (sadly not to my project), it was mentioned that the "giving generation" is dying off. This person mused "Seriously… how many personal residences do you really need?" As a professional fundraiser, I have noticed that personal consumption is a major issue with my generation.
Despite only a recession or two, we have become collectors of stuff. We have passed our love of stuff down to our children while our parents, who weathered the Great Depression, tried valiantly to pass on their spirit of giving and community stewardship. I think it's noble to some degree to work hard and gather up a fortune but there is some point where one must realize "you can't take it with you" and it's the life you make here, the love you gave and the lives you touch that create a legacy and immortality.
With National Philanthropy Day just around the corner on Nov. 7, thousands of individuals around the globe are celebrating the spirit of giving. The California Valley Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals will be honoring those individuals locally who gave generously of their time, talent and treasures. As a professional, I am honored and humbled to stand among them. What do they know that we don't know? What do Emmett and Desiree Castro or the folks at PG&E know that compels them to financially support causes in our community? What does Marvin Smith know that makes him volunteer his time and energy to St. Agnes? Just this: Giving from the heart is the Fountain of Youth!
Yes — newsflash — move over Ponce de León! The Fountain of Youth is not in Florida — it is alive and well here in Fresno, as it is around the globe in countless neighborhoods and communities. An article in the sSring 2008 Kaiser Permanente (a former National Philanthropy Day awardee) "Partners in Health" magazine reports that giving reduces the odds of an early death by nearly 60% compared with those who kept their wealth to themselves.
"Making a contribution to the lives of other people may help to extend our own lives," says the lead author, Stephanie Brown, a psychologist at the Institute for Social Research. The study, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, analyzed data on 423 older couples for five years. It was interesting to note that receiving help was not linked to a reduced risk of mortality, but giving truly promoted longevity. This confirms that "to give is better than to receive" and those who have a giving heart and an altruistic instinct for helping others live longer lives.
You may say "Dana, who cares about living longer if I'm miserable!" Well, money can't buy happiness my friend but you can get happy by giving that money to a worthy cause or something that feeds your passion. Psychologists found the greatest joy can be attained by giving money away. "People who donate their dollars to charities or splurge on gifts for others are more content than those who squander all the dough on themselves," says Elizabeth Dunn, social psychologist. Dunn adds that "the effects of altruistic spending are probably akin to those of exercise….which can have immediate and long-term effects. Giving once might make a person happy for a day, but if it becomes a way of living, then it could make a lasting difference."
In all my dealings with donors over the years, the happiest person in the room when the check is handed over is the donor. If you want to see sheer joy, watch the face of a donor the first time they meet the recipient of a scholarship they funded.
So, before you go out and purchase the next "latest and greatest," consider this: Why not invest in your long-term health and happiness and the health and happiness of your community?
Celebrate the giving (and healthy) heart!
If you want to see sheer joy, watch the face of a donor the first time they meet the recipient of a scholarship they funded.
Dana Zupanovich Lucka is director of development of the College of Health and Human Services at Fresno State and past president of the California Valley Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.