I am a believer in generosity and so is Kathy LeMay, author of The Generosity Plan: Sharing Your Time, Treasure, and Talent to Shape the World.
My work with generosity started many years ago when I was affiliated with churches and I began to tithe. I tithe to this day although rarely to churches -- more often to authors of books that feed me spiritually.
Ms. LeMay began her generosity practice as a child. Over time, she realized she was an activist. Activism worked better for her as an idea rather than philanthropy. Philanthropy was for the "big givers." But she could be and was an activist, giving small checks and lots of time to causes near and dear to her heart.
Eventually, she grew up to be a fundraiser and that is what caused her truly to look at philanthropy with new, wiser eyes. Philanthropy means "love of humankind." Philios, from the Greek, is a special kind of love, the love one bears brothers and sisters. She writes, "Philanthropy belongs to all of us because the world needs all of us to participate."
"Generosity is the habit of giving." Philanthropy is the habit of giving to others. The OED says that generosity comes from the Latin word genus which means kind, as in ilk not nicety. Thus, giving to our own kind. Any one of us could be in need at any time. Generosity means that we reach out to those we recognize as of our own kind.
So what is our kind? Everyone. In the whole world. No exceptions.
That's where LeMay's book is an inspiration. I can't work for peace in Gaza, save the whales and the polar bears, and stop human trafficking all at the same time. It will spread me too thin, and I will become unproductive and easily burnt out. "Today, you and I are going to transform philanthropy from big wallets and big checks to meaning each of us doing what we can, with what we have, where we are.
Instead, she counsels, make a plan. We have plans for all sorts of other things in our lives. Why not for generosity? It's a grand idea. LeMay's book was developed out of a workshop she teaches on how to make a generosity plan.
She asks us to list the things we're passionate about. I myself prefer Andrew Harvey's brilliant question in Sacred Activism, "What breaks your heart?"
Then she takes us through her system. First, she suggests that we reconnect with our family giving traditions. Discover how and what you learned about money--always a wise idea. Then, we create a vision statement for our giving. We align our values with our money -- what a concept!
Then we figure out how our time, talent, treasure and taking a stand make a difference. Decide where you want to volunteer your time, where to give our talents, where to give our money, and where we want to make a difference. I love her idea that we be for something.
Dealing with naysayers and burn out is part of becoming generous. Set your goals and take the approach of the tortoise, not the hare, she says.
The idea of a generosity plan for every family is a viable one, and a valuable one. The average American gives 3.2% of her income to charitable causes. LeMay's book is a way to become conscious about our giving, and I'm all for that.
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