Are you fearful? Or are you courageous?

I have written elsewhere that fear is one of things that keeps us from being more generous of our time, possessions and money. And I believe this is particularly true when it comes to giving away our money.

Is that possible? Does fear hold us back from giving away our money? I think so.

A number of complementary factors must come together for someone to give away some of their money to a good cause:

  • First and foremost is a worthy cause – someone or something that touches you,
  • Funds surplus to your needs,
  • A generous heart, and
  • The deliberate discipline and follow-through (the bias for timely action) that it takes to turn a good intention into actual giving behaviour.

And if you’re a planned giver rather than an occasional giver, there are additional factors that come into play:

  • A giving plan,
  • A giving budget with protocols to convert assets into cash at the appropriate times,
  • Decisional criteria to guide your giving (i.e., specific charitable causes or giving themes, specific geographic locations, effective organisational leadership, appropriate governance, transparency, etc.),
  • A ‘vetting’ process to systematically review grant requests and applications,
  • And much more.

So where does fear come in?

The fear of giving away money manifests itself in a number of ways – there are the internal questions that we ask about the other

  • Will they spend my money well?
  • Will my money get to those I intend to receive it?
  • Is this the best worthy cause?
  • Should I spread my money around to many causes to maximise reach or should I give larger amounts to fewer causes to maximise impact?

And there are the internal questions that we ask ourselves about ourselves

  • How much should I be giving?
  • How long will I live?
  • What if I run out of money?
  • What are my real reasons for my giving?
  • Should my gift be anonymous or public?
  • What role should tax-deductibility play in my giving?
  • And the list goes on…

And for some, it is paralysing.

But ask yourself this: Do I have similar fear when I am spending my money at the supermarket? On a holiday? On a gift to a loved one?

I think not.

Is it because we have budgeted for these other purchases? Is it because we know we can afford it? Is it because we need it or deserve it? Is it because we have learned to do this so well it is part of our routine?

So what is the antidote to the fear of giving away money?


The courage to give, the courage to start somewhere (even a nibble), the courage to not get it right every time, the courage to keep learning about being a better giver, the courage to go against the norm…

Imagine how much courage it takes to publicly pledge to give away ½ or more of your net worth in your lifetime? To give nearly 90% of your wealth away in your lifetime (Andrew Carnegie)? How about irrevocably giving away 99.9% while you are in your fifties (Chuck Feeney)? This is courage writ large.

But fear is front and centre in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald – ‘Tough times hitting charities.’[1] The news is not good: charitable donations in Australia have slumped compared to this time last year. In 2012, 461,000 gifts were made to the Salvation Army Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal; so far this year only 170,000 donations have been made.

The cost of living is up. Job uncertainty is clear and evident. This is legitimate fear for many. But not for all of us.

There are only 8 days left to Christmas. And only 14 days left in this calendar year.

Do you have net worth in excess to your needs? Do you have a generous heart? And now, the big question, do you have courage?

[1] “Tough times hitting charities,’The Sydney Morning Herald, December 17, 2012, p.1.

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