Giving & Generousity: From Why to How

Why do we give? How do we give? These are questions that many successful hi-tech entrepreneurs ponder.

On March 5th BC Technology Social Venture Partners (BCTSVP) hosted Dr. Ted Malloch, Research Professor, Yale University who spoke on “A Guide to Generosity and Giving Effectively.”

James Topham, Chair of BCTSVP, by way of introduction noted Malloch is a director of the renowned Templeton Foundation and is the author of upcoming books titled “Being Generous” and “Thrift: The Forgotten Virtue”.

Malloch was in Vancouver for the week as the Visiting Professor at the Centre for Entrepreneurial Leaders, School of Business, Trinity Western University.  Malloch is a Professor at Yale University and Chairman of Roosevelt Consulting Group.

Malloch described how giving is seemingly built in to human nature. The world’s leading religions all encourage giving as part of the practice of their respective faiths. Even in an increasingly secular society there is nevertheless a widespread belief in giving or the notion of “giving back.”

Malloch pointed out that North Americans are among the leading per capita givers in the world, followed by the UK, and then Europe. Regardless of the role of government, Malloch’s position is that each individual should engage in giving.

Our web world facilitates a direct connection between giver and recipient. The well-known site Kiva is a great example of how people can participate in micro-loans. There are many charity portals, such as Global Giving, that provide a myriad of giving options to potential donors.

This led to an interesting discussion among SVP members in terms of the role of government. One aspect of the dialogue revolved around philanthropic contributions to educational institutions in the US and Canada. While both countries have generous givers, there is more of an attitude in Canada that our tax burden needs to reward us with services.

Giving should not be viewed as something that a person does only once they have achieved a certain level of success. Malloch stressed that giving should be viewed as a matter of “being” instead of a matter of “performance”.

With this general impetus to give, Malloch addressed the issue of how to be generous effectively. He outlined a series of practical steps for an individual to practice effective giving:

  1. list the advantages and disadvantages of any giving option(s);
  2. use a clear method to link your giving to its desired result;
  3. accept the first option (don’t dither) for giving that achieves the desired result;
  4. accept the input of a respected authority or expert as to the best use of funds;
  5. calculate the expected value of utility of each giving option; and
  6. make a decision and follow it through to ensure the desired result was actually achieved.

Malloch’s fundamental message was that giving is important not just for the recipient, but for the giver. It will shape the giver’s character. Further, the practice of giving must be done in a responsible way to ensure that the intended recipient benefits.