No matter where I go or who I talk to, I always discover the same thing: We are a nation of givers.
In good economic times and bad, Americans give about 2% of the gross domestic product in contributions to non-profits, churches, and other causes. That’s incredible, and it’s a testament to the hearts and spirits of the people who make up our country.
Hearing about the millions of dollars that large foundations give to support new building projects or high profile charities can be intimidating. The big numbers can reinforce the notion that small individual donations don’t matter.
Well here’s a surprise.
For every $1 American foundations give each year, individual donors give $5.
That’s right. Individual American households combined donate 5x as much to charities and other non-profits as all the foundations in the country combined.
Together, we move mountains.
According to figures published by the National Philanthropic Trust, the total of charitable contributions from American households in 2013 added up to more than $241 billion. That’s a lot of happy givers. I don’t have all the answers when it comes to giving money, but I have a lot more experience than the average person.
Over the past 15 years I have volunteered more than 10,000 hours of my time with organizations I feel passionate about. As Malcolm Gladwell explained in his book Outliers, putting in your 10,000 hours helps make you an expert at whatever you’ve investing the time in. I still have plenty to learn about giving, but I’ve gotten really good at identifying a great program from a not-so-great program. In all those hours there are many experiences that illustrate key lessons that I’ve discovered about smart philanthropy.
My 10,000 has taught me many things, but the most important truth is this: Every gift matters.
The idea that “my gift is too small to make any difference” is a self-defeating notion. It’s time to blow up that idea for good! Whoever we are, whatever we have, the act of giving ties us together. I encourage you to take the first step toward the joy of giving by listening to your heart, hearing what’s important, and connecting with others who share your vision. Whether our contribution is a little or a lot, together—and only together—we can make the world a better place, one gift at a time.
Like what you hear? Pick up a copy of Every Gift Matters: How Your Passion Can Change the World, now available at Amazon.