WHY DO PEOPLE GIVE? It’s all about the connection

Recently I spoke with Violeta whom I met recently on Facebook (of all places) and we had a conversation about why she gives.

Violeta is a self-employed communication consultant who only recently left the world of being employed to start her own company.  She is of Argentinian heritage, does subscribe to religion (though tells me that her husband is the exact opposite and carries the same views), is a mum, and an educated woman.

When we spoke she recalled an incredible story that her mum shared with her about a young boy who came knocking on the door of the family home back in Argentina.  He was begging because he saw no other option to survive in life.

Rather than sending the boy away her mum took him to a nearby wholesaler and stocked him up with practical things such as aspirin and bandages, everyday things that people want to buy.  She told him to sell them to make some money for his family and left him to go about his life.  As the story goes six months later the boy returned to the family home with a message of thanks to tell the family that he was now in school (and had the new shoes to prove it).

For sure the story, and the person Violeta is play some role in influencing her will to give but none are as important to her as her passion for human rights and equity.

 “Some people think they give to get blessings – I believe you are blessed and therefore you give”.

I asked Violeta what she gets from giving and she told me it is about her sense of connection.  She speaks fondly of her experiences with micro-finance platform Kiva and her love of the stories that the investment seekers share;

“I’m a big believer in the power of stories in the power as a connector.  I feel that I understand what drives them, the very basic level, their issues and for that brief moment when I decide I’m going to support them, that’s our little connection, our contribution to the link we all have.  I’m here for you, you’re here for me, we are in this together.

Violeta has now given for many years.  She tells me that as a person of religious belief the idea of donating 10% of her income was no biggie for her and she donated to the likes of Oxfam and Amnesty International with great ease as they support causes close to her heart.

When she discovered Kiva it opened up a whole new world of giving potential.  At first she would wait until the loan had been repaid before investing in another but she experienced a defining moment when she stumbled across another investor who had thousands of outstanding loans – aka given dozens of people opportunities and decided to follow in his footsteps.

She currently has 100 outstanding loans equating to 25% of her income and she still carries an enormous amount of praise for that donor who inspired her to “lift her game.”  She says this particular man is an inspiration and a true gent.  This level of giving is something she aspires to.

In fact, she says that one of her favourite things to do each month is to sit down and browse the people she could donate to.

I asked her how she feels about accountability for the money she has given and her response both surprises and gives me goose bumps;

“You don’t expect anything out of it, you send it out into the world.  Sometimes it will hit the mark and sometimes it won’t and that’s OK.  Most of the time I don’t know what the outcomes are but you have to trust.  We’re getting down to brass tacks when you talk about why you give.  We live in a very wealthy western society and we believe in self-determination and that’s OK but a lot of what we have is down to the birth lottery.  I haven’t really done anything to earn it but here we are privileged.  If you acknowledge the sheer luck of your existence and realise if I’m lucky this way then others aren’t and how about we extend a hand to others.”

Her top advice to others who are thinking about giving:

  • “It all comes down to gratitude. When you have that attitude of gratitude you are in a different space in your head and your heart to how you give giving.  You approach it from a place of plenty rather than ‘one day when I have enough money I will give’ but you know what, you already have enough, you’ll never miss it (the money).”
  • Giving money versus time is a massive, massive difference. That’s actually what I’m aiming for is that giving of my time.  If we are going to talk sacrifice it’s the ultimate sacrifice (of your time).  I have nothing but the utmost of respect to those people who actively donate of their time.

Like many people who give Violeta didn’t want to draw attention to herself.  Not for fear of the mobs of people who might stomp up to her door hand out but simply because she gives for no other purpose than human good.  She doesn’t need to let the world know she does it, it’s something that keeps her warm at night.

“I don’t see myself as a benefactor.  Most people don’t want to advertise what they are doing. It’s a huge thing for me to stand up and say I’m someone who gives.”

Fancy that… While the rest of the world is screaming out about what they had for dinner, the latest facial expression their cat can pull or another inspirational quote there are others calmly, quietly and anonymously making the world a better place.  Thank you Violeta you’ve really inspired me and I’m sure many others.

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