Forward Giving

Although the phrase, “giving back,” is used everyday in development work I’ve never thought of it as being very helpful.

First, it encourages the idea that something was received in the past and now, out of duty, out of indebtedness,  the donor should pay for it.  I’m not sure that this encourages uncommon generosity in people.  It feels much too transactional to me and I often wonder if the phrase encourages people to think, “how little can I ‘give back’ to settle my debt?”

Second, should we encourage donors to look in the rearview mirror to express generosity?  Sure, most folk have experienced the healing hands of a doctor, the reassurances of a professor, or have benefited in some meaningful way from our programs and institutions.  And we should remind them of how our work has touched their lives.  But, a forward-looking disposition seems more inspiring.  Most donors get more excited when they understand how their giving can impact and shape the future of our organizations – so that we can do more of our good work and even better!

“Giving Back,” just doesn’t seem to be as inspiring as we need it to be.  I’ve also not been much of a fan of the phrase, “Pay it Forward.”  I haven’t heard development pros use, “Pay It Forward,” with donors as much as “Giving Back, ” but, again, it sounds very much like a duty, a transaction, a debt that I owe.  Except now I’m being directed to pay my bill to the future.  I like the future orientation, just not the transactional allusion.

I’d like to hear us talk more about “Forward Giving.”  And I really don’t believe this is semantics.  I think the way we, as development leaders, use language to educate donors is exceedingly important.

“Forward Giving,” has the inspiring time frame – the future – and it stays away from the uninspiring transactional language.  It encourages donors to think differently about their support of our organizations.

“Forward Giving,” reinforces the very definition of a gift – something given freely and without recompense.   It inspires by focusing the donor on the possibilities of the future.   Unburdened from the conceptualization of giving as a perfunctory repayment of debt, donors may, with a sense of liberation and new possibilities, base their giving more on their values, passions, and your organization’s future.

And when donors give passionately and in alignment with their values, they give more – of themselves and in all ways.


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