Even the appearance of this book suggests the idea behind Simple Giving: Easy Ways To Give Everyday. This is no enormous tome, no three volume set. There’s nothing complicated about it. The cover does not contain wild splashes of color and the size is petite. This easily digestible book weighs in at just above the size of a booklet, and it provides what it promises: simple ideas for giving.
Simple Giving by Jennifer Iacovelli sets out to make the world a better place and to help readers learn that philanthropy doesn’t necessarily require deep pockets. Most people assume that you either need to have plenty of money or time or both in order to be a true philanthropist. Iacovelli, however, educates us about the surprisingly long list of ways one might engage in philanthropy.
She points out that charity is different from philanthropy, that charity meets an immediate need usually after the occurrence of a disaster or problem, while philanthropy is a long-term commitment, a habit, a way of life. She expands the definition of charitable giving to include money, time, attention, educational efforts, benevolence, positive impact, inspiration and even the simple act of smiling. She asks the reader to consider that philanthropy might include non-monetary offerings, such as sharing your passion with friends, shopping with a social conscience, serving on a non-profit board, writing an educational article for the general public, and becoming involved in community movements.
The more I thought about this broader way of thinking about giving, the more I began to see how philanthropy was at work all around me, that my friends and family in many ways already choose to use what they have to improve the world around them. My mom cooks for church events. My spouse invites experts to speak at corporate functions where they can bring awareness to the plight of children who are removed from their homes by Child Protective Services. A dear friend works for dolphin rescue, often taking the difficult overnight shifts. Another friend is a straight ally who works to promote understanding between the straight and LGBTQI community. I know people who pay the tolls for the car behind them, routinely buy the lunch of any police officer they see while dining in a restaurant, and educate rural communities about how to handle the presence of wildlife like deer and bears that live near their cabins.
The common thread is that they all focused on the areas that mean the most to them. We can’t do it all, but we can divide and conquer. Simple Giving encourages readers to take the time to ask themselves what they care about most, which issues light a fire in their hearts. Some people focus on kids, the climate, clean water, animals, autism, or poverty. Some focus on prison reform, clean fuel, anti-fracking campaigns, income equality, female empowerment, or baby seals.
Iacovelli reminds us that giving is a choice and that by making the choice to engage in something that makes us feel connected, we can then make a stronger impact on the world.
The fact is, giving feels good. Most people are happier giving than receiving. Iacovelli’s guest blogger Dan Tomasulo wrote, “Theory, research and practice suggest it’s wise to support any company that has generosity as a business model.” His understanding is that people are happier being generous and performing acts of kindness. It holds true in our personal lives and in our careers.
Teddy Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Jennifer Iacovelli opens our eyes to the multitude of possibilities.