Investing in Giving

No. 42
Posted on 4/17/2017 by Mark Hutchinson
"Giving should be entered into in just the same way as investing. Giving is investing."
- John D. Rockefeller

"Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

GiveInvestment Web Are you a giver?

Often giving is seen as being nice or caring in our society. Maybe even as a weakness in some circles.

I love Rockefeller’s quote above because it takes a little different view of the act of giving. Giving is an investment. Of course Rockefeller is well known for his massive wealth - over $330 billion at his peak (in 2007 dollars). What is a little less well-known is that he spent that last 40 years of his life investing in giving (he lived to age 97) – mainly in education, medicine, and research. For him, giving was a way to build and create. He also gave his time. He taught Sunday school at his church and occasionally did the janitorial work. Why would the richest man in modern history do janitorial work? By giving, he invested. He believed it. He lived it. It worked well for him.

What does giving do for the person doing the giving? The giver gets something, right?

But there is a flip-side to giving. For many, it makes them feel vulnerable. They feel like they might be taken advantage of. They worry that they might give and not get in return. Thus the phrase “quid pro quo” – something for something. It seems safer to make sure you get something in return for whatever you may give. You give $5 to the barista and you get your six-pump, no water, Chai latte. It makes sense, it establishes a specific value and we feel more comfortable that the exchange was fair. It seems like the vast majority of people live in this safe zone of quid pro quo – I’ll give if you give.

What if giving really is like investing?

Sometimes you invest for the short term and other times for the long term. Sometimes you invest a lot and other times you only take a smaller position. And, of course, sometimes you take a bigger risk and sometimes you don’t. No one is out there looking for a bad investment. We look for opportunities that have potential for growth, that have meaning for us, and that make sense to our way of thinking.

My dad loves to remind me about the “magic” of compounding interest when it comes to investing. Perhaps that same effect comes into play when we look at giving and how it impacts the people and world around us. The more you give, the more giving builds up around you. The longer and more consistently you give the bigger the giving becomes and the further it reaches. Surely Rockefeller’s giving is still hugely impactful almost 100 years later.

Look for good giving investments and invest aggressively. I think you’ll be happy you did!

Have a great week!

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