I often tell the story of the young boy walking along the shore at low tide who notices a starfish half-buried in the sand. Looking ahead he saw dozens, maybe hundreds, more all in the same predicament. He then bent down and picked up a starfish, throwing it as hard and as far as he could back into the life-giving water. Then another, and then another.
The boy’s mother, walking some distance behind him, asked “Why are you working so hard? There are too many starfish. What you’re doing doesn’t matter.”
And of course it was true. For every one he could rescue, many more would perish in the scorching sun.
Yet he picked up another starfish and held it high for her to see. “It matters to this one,” he said determinedly, and tossed it as far as he could into the ocean.
The boy couldn’t save every starfish. But he could save the one in his hand and as many as he could toss back into the water.
Saving the Starfish is Essence of Modern Philanthropy
This is the true essence of modern philanthropy – the idea that each person and every gift can make a difference. No matter who you are, and no matter how much or how little you have, your gift matters and can transform a life. And the best news is that giving transforms two lives: the one who receives and the one who gives. Giving provides joy on many levels and that joy should be celebrated, and honored. A generous heart also brings with it fulfillment, excitement, compassion, and purpose.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that life-changing gifts can be small. In fact, most of the money donated to nonprofits in our country comes from households that give a total of $2,000 a year, on average. Even though I give large gifts through our family foundation, I’ve seen a $7 gift change a child’s life forever. The lesson here is simple – every dollar truly can make a difference.
Remember too that there are millions of people out there that need help, just like the starfish on the shore. Sometimes it is a hand up; sometimes it is a restart on life. Sometimes a school needs tens of thousands of dollars for a new technology; sometimes it’s $100 to buy a set of supplies for a unit. Life leaves us all stranded at one time or another. But we should always take comfort in knowing that there will always be kind-hearted souls walking nearby who will help get us back to the ocean.
Like what you hear? Pick up a copy of Every Gift Matters: How Your Passion Can Change the World, now available at Amazon.