7 Habits of highly effective givers

To begin, we outline the seven habits that you can cultivate to become an effective giver

Updated: Sep 29, 2017 12:08:32 PM UTC

Venkat Krishnan N. graduated from IIM-Ahmedabad in 1993 and started his career with the media, working first at The Times of India in various corporate and brand management functions. He then helped set up Sony Entertainment Television in India as part of the core management team. In 1996, he set up and ran the Eklavya School which used innovative pedagogical approaches to help children learn rather than be taught. In 2001, he co-founded Educational Initiatives Pvt. Ltd, a company that works on improving quality of school education in India. Venkat set up GiveIndia in 2000, to create a "giving culture" in India and transitioned out in 2008. In 2009, he, along with several other volunteers, conceptualised and launched DaanUtsav, a festival that aims to bring India together to celebrate giving. Held from October 2-8 every year, DaanUtsav is a platform that allows everyone from India's poor to its wealthiest to give back to society.

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Getting started allows you to not only overcome inertia, but to gather information, by doing and learning (Photo: Shutterstock)

At some point in life, we wonder how we can make a greater impact on the people and the planet, to leave behind a better world for our succeeding generations. For some, it becomes a calling and could end up with a career in the social sector. For the majority, though, it might be too much of a commitment - the need to balance family and personal needs with work, and the need to meet societal expectations that often doesn’t leave scope for something so “drastic”.

And yet, each of us can contribute in a meaningful way. As the nation celebrates #DaanUtsav- the Joy of Giving Week from October 2-8, we bring you a series of blogs that can help you figure out how best you can make a difference, given your individual circumstances. To begin, we outline the seven habits that you can cultivate to become an effective giver, no matter how limited the time or money you can commit to a cause.

These habits are relevant to ordinary people, who can spend between 2-20 hours a week and 2-25% of their income. For those who can do more, I would recommend reading 'Give Smart' by Tom Tierney and Joel Fishman.

Habits 1-3 are relevant at the early stage of the giving journey, while Habits 4-6 apply for more involved givers. Habit 7 is something everyone must do!

Habit 1 - Get Started
Be it a diet plan or an exercise regimen, we invariably tend to put off things that involve a lifestyle change or a call to do things differently. In philanthropy, decision paralysis can often deter action - “I don’t know enough about any cause” or “I don’t know who to give to or where” or “Will this work?”

Getting started will allow you to not only overcome inertia, but also gather information by doing and learning. “Let me try this cause/ NGO/ approach and see how it goes.” A small start with a few hours or a few thousand rupees can limit the downside.

Every time you feel you are stuck, go back to habit 1 - Simply do something, anything. You’ll find that the answers start coming with the experience. In the next part of this series, we’ll tell you HOW to get started, and get “unstuck” every time you find yourself in a rut.

Habit 2 – Stay Focussed (One cause, organisation, approach or geography)
Unless you are a full time philanthropist, billionaire or a non-profit worker, you are going to have fairly limited time at your disposal. With that limited time, you'd want to ensure meaningful change. Focusing on one cause, or one organisation can be a great way to maximise your learning and the impact you can create. In the upcoming series, we’ll share some tips on how to figure out what to focus on. Some people may choose to focus on a specific geography or a specific approach (For example, offering a specific skill like accounting) as well.

Habit 3 – Assessing the resources at your disposal
What works when you have five hours or Rs 25,000 to spare may not be the best use of your resources when you have 500 hours or Rs 15 lakh to spare. You also don’t want to commit to a 12-month effort and find yourself running out of money/ time at the end of the ninth month, leaving everyone in a lurch. Constantly assessing the resources at your disposal allows you to change what you support and how you do it.

Habit 4 – Help, probe and push
As you get more involved in your giving efforts, start engaging in deeper conversations with the NGOs/ people you work with even as you continue helping them. Probe to identify the challenges they face, push for them to make the most of the opportunities coming their way and figure out whether they are open and willing to learn, change and grow. If not, ask yourself if you need to look for a new set of NGOs/ people to work with.

Habit 5 – Marshall Support
Beyond our own time and money, each one of us brings a much bigger resource to play - our network of relationships. Be it the friend in advertising who can help create a flier, the techie niece who can help build a simple Management Information System (MIS) or the cousin in human resources who can help rethink people policies - we have networks that can be leveraged to benefit the organisation or the cause we work for, multiplying the impact we could have created just by ourselves.

Habit 6 – Strategise
Help the organisation/ cause/ project craft a strategy of its own, ensuring that it has a vision, mission, strategy and plan in place, and all the stakeholders are aligned to it. Help create simple tools to measure and evaluate the approach at regular intervals to ascertain the approach is working.

Habit 7 – Review, Reflect & Revise
At least once a year, sit back and review what you have done in the past year, reflect on the learnings and decide for yourself if your giving is working. For example, is it giving you a sense of fulfillment and joy, and is it making an impact in the way you had defined it for yourself.

Daan Utsav, the Joy of Giving week begins on October 2, till October 8. Over the next week, we’ll delve into each of these habits and help you with tips and methods to become an effective giver.

The author set up GiveIndia in 2000, to create a "giving culture" in India and, in 2009, he, along with several other volunteers, conceptualised and launched DaanUtsav, a festival that aims to bring India together to celebrate giving. 

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