Why have you chosen a career in development, constituent relations, communications, advancement, or non-profit leadership? Why are you here? What is your purpose? Heavy questions, I know. But do you wrestle with these questions every once in a while? If not, you should.
This past Friday at lunch, I wrestled with these questions. I was with a client when the horrible news flashed on my phone. Newtown, CT. I froze reading the headlines.
Some of you know me off line. You know that have an 8 year old daughter and a 6 year old, first-grade son. Like every other parent hearing this horrible news, tears gathered in my eyes and my stomach turned. At that moment, I simply wanted to head home and hug them. It was one of those times when you ask yourself difficult questions about life and your place in it. Am I doing what I was put on this earth to do? What really matters in life? What is my purpose?
My wife and I regularly talk about my consulting and speaking schedule. It’s no secret I’m away from home a good bit and we are diligent in taking the pulse of the kids (and of each other). Our life works for our family, but it’s something we work at and pay close attention to. On Friday, I was reminded again about my purpose – why I consult.
You see, I believe that focusing on something or someone other than ourselves makes us more healthy – physically, spiritually, and mentally. I believe that when we give of our time, talent, and treasure, we actually receive the gift. I believe that giving creates stronger, more caring individuals and communities. And I believe that it is only when we are generous that we are able to live out the best possible versions of ourselves. Our highest angels.
And science, increasingly, is supporting my beliefs. Every day, it seems, new data suggests the many ways humans are wired to live inter-dependent lives. We are designed to touch each other. To care for each other. To support and nourish each other. To love each other. To be philanthropists – “lovers of man (and woman).” And not over a computer connection either. Real life. Physical touch. Being with each other. Being “in vivo” as social scientists like to say.
My calling – my purpose, as I understand it – is to encourage generosity in all its forms and in as many places as I can. I coach, mentor, and help institutional leaders create the most encouraging environments for donors to care, to engage, and to give. To give a lot. And to give often. Because giving is good. In fact, giving is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. And my purpose is to help people – regardless of life circumstance – give more. Giving makes us better. There, truly, is no downside to being generous in spirit nor in deed.
On Friday, I told my wife that I bet we would learn that the shooter’s profile would be the polar opposite of a giver. That he would be characterized as socially awkward and disconnected from physical human relationships. That he would have displayed angry, self-centered behaviors. That he may have been a part of online communities (because of the human drive to connect), but that he would not be a meaningful member of any physical community. That he would be disengaged from life.
The more we can encourage supportive, engaged relationships, the better off we all are. The more generosity is practiced, the less room for inhumanity.
That’s why I’m a fundraising consultant – not to raise money but to make our world healthier. That’s my purpose. What’s yours?