Let’s face it, we all want to be generous and that is a good thing.
If you are at all like me, however, you may feel like you are constantly surrounded by need. From requests for a few dollars at the check-out register to commercials and advertisements pulling on our heartstrings to literal strangers walking up to us on the street asking for money. We are constantly being bombarded by requests (or demands) for money or resources. And that’s just from the people we don’t know.
Add to that all the kids of friends or relatives selling things, the needs of our own children, our churches or other civic organizations, our partners and all of the other needs, wants and demands placed on us by people or organizations we actually participate in and it can all just get really overwhelming. Particularly for women.
While this may slowly be changing, fathers (and men) rarely have the civic and social demands placed on them that mothers and women do. Even though women today may be just as likely to have a job as a man, historically women were viewed as having more time to contribute and therefore were expected to contribute more of their time and energy to social causes and civic and family commitments. This view has not seemed to change much with the times.
Eventually, it can become really easy to become angry about all the constant need we are surrounded by that we feel expected to meet. It is hard to be or even feel generous when the feeling of having to constantly be giving, giving, giving makes you angry.
There is a way, however, to become a truly generous person without being angry about it.
The secret is to set boundaries.
Here are 4 tips to help you set good boundaries around giving.
1.) Accept that you have finite resources and budget them in advance
Everything you have is a resource, and this includes time, money and emotional energy. Understanding that emotional energy is a finite resource is important because it means that you cannot care deeply about every single “cause” on the planet, let alone invest in them. The best way to learn to give wisely is to stop looking at it as “giving” and see it as investing. Investing in causes or charities that you care about is important because just like any other kind of investment it is important that you see a return on your investment!
Unlike traditional investing, however, the return that you see will most likely not be a financial one. The “return” that you are looking for is either seeing the organization actually have impact in an area you care about or the personal satisfaction you get from helping create change.
Sitting down to determine in advance what you have to give or invest is important so that you do not become overextended either emotionally or financially. Before you decide what you have to invest, it is important to look at what other commitments of time, money and energy you already have. Giving may require you to do some shuffling and cut back in some areas so you have more to give in others. To start with, just pick one cause or organization to give to and invest only what you have budgeted to invest. If you start to see a good return on your investment, then you can revisit your budget to determine if you can find more to invest.
2.) Learn to say NO. (Politely, of course!)
Learning to say no is one of the most valuable and important skills a woman can master. It is very important for women to be aware that we face a “double-whammy” of sorts when it comes to giving and generosity. To begin with, many of us have been conditioned and raised to believe that whatever need anyone else has, it is our responsibility to meet it! This may be particularly true if you have been raised in any type of religious environment.
The second challenge we face is that as women, we are more in touch with and aware of our emotions, which makes us more vulnerable to emotional pleas. If you have not carefully set out and budgeted what you do and do not have to give, you can easily find yourself giving, giving, giving to every cause and need you see. Determining in advance what you have to give and giving it can help protect you from the constant bombardment of emotional pleas and need you are surrounded by.
3.) Do your homework and find a good fit
Remember that “giving” is really a form of investing and the goal is to actually see an ROI. If the charity or cause you choose to invest in is actually using their resources wisely, then you should easily see that ROI in the form of the impact made by your dollars. In addition, however, not everyone has money to give and money is not the only thing you can give.
If you’re an outdoor person that just loves to camp, hike, fish or mountain bike, find an organization that mentors youth or Veterans or someone that you can share your love of the outdoors with; someone that needs what you have to offer. If you love to read, write, sew or scrapbook, there are organizations that can use all of those things. If you are a plumber, carpenter or like to work with your hands, there are plenty of organizations that can use those skills.
You may also want to use volunteer or philanthropy opportunities to build relationships with your family, friends or coworkers or to set a good example for your kids. Whatever your skills, gifts, needs or interests are, there is someone out there that needs them. Find an organization that needs what you have to offer – that also fits your needs – and offer it!
4.) Once your boundaries are set, stand your ground – both with the organization and with yourself!
There is always going to be more need than any one person or organization can meet in any given area. The more our hearts become invested, the more need we see – which is often why people avoid getting their hearts invested in the first place. Some people actually know that it’s far easier to write a check than get personally involved, so that’s what they do. If you do get personally involved, however, it can become harder and harder to say “no” to ever increasing demands. This is where we have to remember point 1. You have finite resources. Use them wisely and do not allow yourself to be compelled into giving more than you can.
The world is not your responsibility to save!
Giving and being generous are both important parts of being human. If you are not wise about how you give, however, you will quickly become burned-out, angry and bitter. That doesn’t help anyone. Set boundaries and limits around your giving and don’t let anyone push you past them. This will help you truly be a generous person without being angry and resentful about it. It’s hard, but it’s so worth it.