Fear of Philanthropy - A Response to Seth Godin's "How Much?"

This morning the first blog post I read was Seth Godin's post entitled, Fear of Philanthropy.  In it he poses two questions:

  1. How much is enough when it comes to philanthropy?
  2. At what point do you decide when to walk away from an issue?

Leadership in philanthropy is typically measured against these two questions.  Charities thank (or market) their donors by giving category... answering in some part, what the top most dollar value of a person's philanthropic tolerance is.  They also segment their donors based on projects.  Those who give annually to operations (multi-year, consistent giving) and those who give once to a specific activity, addressing the "when will a donor walk away."

This traditional way of interacting with donors is changing.  Donors don't want to just be seen as the revenue stream for the charity.  John F. Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."  The same can be said by charities when it comes to their donors, "Ask not what your donors can do for you, but what you can do for your donors."

It is also up to you, the donor, to help your charities ask that question of you.  It requires an open dialogue and an understanding of what you want to get out of the relationship. 

What is your "enough"? How did you determine that? What was your experience when you hit your enough point? Were you satisfied? How would you articulate that end-point to your peers, your family or your colleagues?

Last year I held a workshop entitled What Most Needs Doing for a group of investors at a wealth management firm.  Following the presentation the conversations that occurred were emotional.  People shared their stories about their positive and negative experiences around donating.  How are you deciding what most needs doing?  I believe once you have determined what the answer is to this question you can get to the answer of how much is enough.