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On Being Generous


I just finished reading Being Generous by Dr. Ted Malloch. It’s a neat little book and especially relevant as we make our last charitable giving decisions for 2009.

I’m going to devote much of this post to quoting (with permission) from a post by my friend Dennis Whittle of Global Giving, which he wrote for the Huffington Post last month:

What makes [this book] especially powerful is [Malloch's] description of his own journey from self-described narcissism to compassion: “It never came easy. I have always had a “meritocratic” outlook. That is … you get what you earn, what you deserve. … I found it hard—often very hard—to give what I had earned away.”

Being Generous weaves personal narrative with a brief description of the injunction to generosity in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Native American and Aboriginal spiritualism, Confucianism, and secularism. Malloch then weaves in stories about an exceptional mosaic of givers, both big and small, well-known and obscure.

The diversity of personalities, viewpoints, and displays of generosity is arresting, and makes it clear that religion is not the sole motivator of generosity. The vignettes range from Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Skoll, and John Templeton to surprising stories about figures such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn. Malloch also highlights many lesser known and smaller donors, including six donors to projects on GlobalGiving (to which royalties from of the book are being donated).

In a previous post, I argued that passion is essential for a successful nonprofit and needs to be part of our giving decisions. One might conclude that from Malloch’s perspective, generosity is the most important motivation, suggesting that compassion and a sense of obligation are what drives our giving. But Malloch ends his book by saying that generosity also requires giving time and energy: “The time needed to follow things through and the energy needed to convey your gift into the hands of the ones whom you wish to help.” He urges donors to get personally involved in the nonprofits they support. In many cases that may be the right thing to do. But however one does it, generosity—just like passion—is best served with some careful due diligence and high expectations about organizational effectiveness.

Bob.jpgThe preceding is a guest post Bob Ottenhoff,  Chief Executive of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. With an entrepreneurial spirit, strong technology focus, and a quest to make an impact in the world, Bob has the ability to take an organization and lead it into strong performance, sustainability, and industry leadership.

Topics: Giving Wisely Ted Malloch