Why Wouldn’t You Give? Part 2

In an age when we’re often solicited by our friends to support their causes through social media and e-mail, not to mention all the random charities that solicit us by snail mail, we have to pick and choose if and how we engage in philanthropy.

That’s why I’m a strong advocate of creating personal guidelines for giving. I wrote about mine last year. Having well-thought-out guidelines helps you feel good when you give and minimizes the guilt when you don’t.

That said, I’m a little bewildered when people don’t give. I try really hard not to be judgmental, but sometimes I’m just surprised when people don’t support those who are close to them, even with the smallest of donations.

I have a semi-cousin (my family is weird–we have a whole other family that is considered part of our family even though they’re not at all related) who works with wild birds in Idaho. He’s passionate about the birds, he works hard for little pay, and he’s good at what he does.

His organization is trying to raise money for a documentary about the condors in that area. It’s the type of thing where exposure is a big deal–very few people know about the plight of those birds, so if the movie can get into some film festivals, it could go a long way for the organization.

Now, I don’t really care about the birds. I mean, I wish them the best and I’m jealous that they can fly, but that’s about it. But I care about my semi-cousin (it doesn’t get less weird the more I say it, does it?) and I’m impressed that he’s following his dreams and changing the world. I’m proud of the guy. So I made a small donation to support the movie.

In truth, I have no idea how many people supported my semi-cousin in his campaign (can I just say cousin? Would that make this sound less hillbilly?). But based on past experiences, I’m guessing he got a low rate of return on his solicitation. And I just don’t understand why. Why would someone who cares about this guy choose to go to Starbucks twice this week instead of giving him $10? Why would some of his wealthier friends and family members not chip in a Ben Franklin or two? Where in their giving guidelines do they say that they dont’ want to support relatives who are actively doing something to change the world in a positive way that they’re truly passionate about?

Granted, I can understand ignoring a family member running a 5k for awareness. I don’t think I’d personally do that, but I can understand it. But it’s different when someone isn’t just running for a cause–they spend 14 hours a day fixing the cause. They are the cause! They’re getting their hands dirty, and you can’t give them $20?

Again, trying really hard not to be judgmental here. I’m surrounded by generosity. My parents are tremendously generous, as are many of my family members and friends. I’m blessed every day by the hundreds of donors who support the church I work for.

But I think I’ll always be bewildered by the no-brainer giving opportunities when people close to the solicitor choose not to give. That’s just a part of human nature I’ll never quite understand.