The Secret of Great Living ...Great Giving

“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world, remains and is immortal” – Albert Pike 1809-1891

A friend of mine told me last week that “the secret to great living is great giving”. I love how some people can encapsulate a philosophical mantra into eight words. Myself, it takes eight sentences … But, however long it takes to convey … the message rings true. 

As a trustee of different charitable organizations over the years I have always subscribed to and promoted the idea that we should give of our “time, talent and treasure”. Some of us can give of all three but all of us can give of at least one. 

And now here is what every-one who gives knows but we aren’t supposed to say so - while the recipient benefits from such giving, as donors it makes us feel good, reduces stress, and increases our self-esteem … and there is science to back that up. I’ll leave it to you to read through the science study but it involves charitable giving, sex, and eating chocolate so who am I to dispute that science! [1]

Let’s all benefit by giving more of the what we can offer to our neighbors and friends. 

Here are three ideas to make great giving to enjoy better living:

  1. 1. Strategic Giving - In our household, we give to three areas – education, arts and poverty alleviation. And we set an annual budget for giving. It makes it easier to pick among the many wonderful well-meaning charities and saying no to great causes without guilt. We know we can’t give to, or volunteer for everything, and usually the person asking is completely understanding when you say no for a strategic reason. 
  2. Impactful Giving - We try to give impactful gifts and I always make that argument when asking for a gift. I remember asking an alumnus of an Ivy League college for an educational gift and was told that they were writing a check for $10k to their college but would give me $1,000. I persuaded them to reverse the donors. That $10k meant the world to the local educational institution that received it and would not have impacted at all on their alma mater school’s $30B endowment. We often give meaningful gifts to service staff (especially housekeeping staff) when they least expect it. $10 left on the bedside table of your hotel room or an extra $50 tip for a server makes a huge impact on the recipient. Ask yourself if the gift will make a real impact on the recipient?
  3. Giving of Time - For those who don’t have the financial means to give … most organizations need your time as much as your money. There is a great Jewish concept called the Kibbutz from which the slogan “many hands make for light work” was born. Call any community center, local church, synagogue or mosque and you will find a multitude of opportunities to be one of the many hands helping in great work and meeting new like-minded friends. 

I encourage everyone to start giving of their time, talent and treasure or give at greater levels. The USA is one of the most charitable giving countries in the world but has slipped from 1st to 2nd in the World Giving Index. My native Canada has dropped from 2nd to 6th. So, to my American buddies … let’s get back to # 1 and to my fellow Canadian’s it’s OK to be # 2 but not 6th. 


Darrell Pardy, CPA CA