Thursday, April 30, 2015

How to be a Generous Professional

As someone who has worked in fundraising and philanthropy for more than 20 years, “giving” has always been at the forefront of my profession. Whether inspiring generosity in donors, or helping individuals and groups to determine how, what, and how much to give to great causes, generosity has been a constant theme.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it means to live a generous life. Of course, giving to charity and volunteering time are major parts of the equation. I’ve always believed that it’s not about how much you give (time and/or money) – it’s about giving in a way that is meaningful to you. Five hours or $50 to one person is as meaningful as 50 hours or $5,000 to someone else.

Beyond time and money, what does it mean to live generously? To have a generosity of spirit? To do things big or small that ease the burdens of others? To be generous with your words?

What does it mean to be a generous professional?

Be generous with your ideas: Sometimes, we don’t share our ideas because we don’t want anyone else to take them. Or, we may not share new ideas because we’re just not sure if they are good enough (or if we are good enough). Be generous with your ideas. If it’s a great idea, or even a good one, it will move your organization forward. If not, it may spur another great idea in someone else, to the benefit of everyone.

Be generous with your acknowledgments: Give credit where credit is due. Say “thank you” or “great job.” Notice when someone is working hard, shifting habits, or growing as a professional.

Be generous with your time: You’re busy. I’m busy. Everyone’s busy. OK, are we done with that excuse now? Being generous with your time could mean taking 10 minutes to listen to a colleague’s question or problem, helping a client even if it’s “off the clock,” or pitching in on a project that’s not necessarily your direct responsibility.

Be generous with yourself: Have you met Burnout? Exhaustion? Lack of Inspiration? They are often at the party, but they are not your friends. Cut yourself some slack. Walk away from your desk and take a walk. Get an extra half hour of sleep. Take an extra few minutes for lunch. Stop beating yourself up because you messed up that project or said the wrong thing to a client or hit “send” on that email before you should have.

Generosity leads to better professionals and stronger organizations. If it becomes a regular professional practice, it might even spill over into your personal life. So open up. Consider generosity as an aspect of your professional life, and see what blossoms.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Living Generously

I've recently been reflecting on what it means to live generously. What could it mean to live a generous life?
  • Donating money - enough so that it hurts, a little? enough so that you notice you are donating?
  • Donating time - volunteering?
  • Being generous with your words - how you speak with others?
  • Being generous with your heart - opening your heart to others, especially when it's hard, especially when you feel challenged by others? 
  • Giving someone else... A helping hand? Credit where credit is due? A few extra minutes of your time (even when you feel you have little time to spare)? Your undivided attention?
So much of my own life is bound up in the concept of generosity. My profession (a fundraising consultant for nonprofits). My faith (Judaism, which emphasizes giving to others in many different ways). My yoga (yoga includes principles that could be interpreted to include generosity). My home life (I've recently adopted a child, which means giving, and giving, and giving! Though I certainly don't see parenthood as an act of generosity, it definitely requires a generosity of spirit). My communal life (which, until I became a solo parent, included many hours per week of volunteerism).

I've also been reflecting recently on the notion of abundance. In order to be generous, you have to feel that you have enough. More than enough, in fact. It can be hard to look at your bank balances and feel like it's more than enough. It can also be really hard to look at the amount of time in your "time bank" or the amount of energy in your "energy bank" (hello, solo motherhood!) and feel like it's enough.

Over the past couple of years, I've identified my core desired feelings, and one of them is "abundance." I've come to believe that if I cultivate a sense of abundance (yes, cultivate. It's not dependent on external factors, like what's in my checking account), I can feel more "ease" (another core desired feeling, and I can feel I have more to give. I can life more generously.

What does it mean to you to live generously?