How did you learn about sex?
I learned it mostly from my older brothers. Much of it was only fuzzy information at best, some of it was completely inaccurate, and most of it sounded highly unlikely at the time.
“No way! That can’t be how you make babies. Eew!”
Unfortunately, those were the only operating instructions I ever got. That uncomfortable conversation with my parents – never happened. Of course there was the 9th grade “Health Class”, which covered only the biology of the parts – and nothing about courtship, acts, orientations, or accidents. I literally learned about sex by having it – you can imagine how well that went, especially at the beginning.
Sadly, that is not much different than how people learn to be donors. Think about it – how did you learn to be a donor?
Some people have parents who set an example – they are financially charitable and their kids know about it. Some even talk their lucky children (age appropriately) through why, how, and how much they give.
For many people those initial experiences were prompted by being asked to give, probably by their religious community or school. With young kids that might have been putting pennies in buckets or a collection plate. That is the equivalent of my conversation with my brothers about sex – disconnected and with only a fuzzy idea of what actually happens.
Recently, it is more common for parents to have kids allocate part of their allowance to a charitable cause. Schools, teams, and activity clubs are also much more likely now to raise charitable funds. That is a far cry from effectively inhabiting the donor role or engaging actively with nonprofits to make social or environmental change.
So how do we learn that? Until recently, we learned by doing, guided by the nonprofits who asked us for money. In effect our operating instructions were conveyed to us by each nonprofit, school, or religious organization where we gave. If we consider that there are now roughly 309,000,000 Americans, and 88% of them make charitable donations (according to The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University) – that is a lot of people learning on the fly. And those mostly learning on the fly folks gave away well over 200 billion dollars in 2011.
This prompts a couple of key questions:
Why are there so few neutral sources (in other words not in the act of asking for financial donations) for instruction on how to be a “good” or “successful” donor? As I have written previously, the Learning by Giving Foundation has been teaching college students about active philanthropy in a classroom setting for a decade – and last year their free online version of their Giving with Purpose course attracted 10,000 participants (from 111 countries). More recently, Geoffrey P. Raynor, the 46-year-old founder of the hedge fund Q Investments started working with a dozen of the most exclusive colleges in America on a philanthropy education program.
That will be good for the perhaps tens of thousands of students that actually participate in these programs, but that is a pretty elite group compared to the entire population. And we are talking about hundreds of millions of donors who might be better educated. Community foundations will also help you to become educated as a donor, once you find them and for the most part are ready to write a sizable check. There are sources on the web to grab bits and pieces of education on donorship. And there are a few more comprehensive sources like the nonprofit Bolder Giving, yet even they are not offering actual curricula.
The second question is why don’t more nonprofits do a better job of educating their constituents on how to be good donors, rather than getting just enough done to gain a donation, then another donation (and hopefully, another)? Nonprofit volunteers and staff members sometimes complain about how donors respond or behave. Well, who has laid out the roadmap for them? Who has create appropriate expectations? Who has delineated a navigable role? If donors are doing a poor job of managing their roles, they are most probably lacking the basic guidance needed to do a better job.
Although I am learning all of the time, I keep growing my intelligence and skill as a donor and as a sexual partner. I just wish someone had taught me a lot earlier, with a lot better information, and a greater understanding of how the whole endeavor works.
As readers of this blog know, that is exactly what I do professionally. Well, not the sexual education part; you will have to find other sources for that. But if you are interested in increasing your intelligence, skills, or strategy in charitable giving, I would be glad to talk with you. Just give me a call – the number is on this page, or click on Contact Us to send me a message.