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Opinion
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Apr. 2, 2014 6 years ago

Chris Jepson: You make America better

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There is an undeniable inner joy and satisfaction that comes from doing good (for the benefit of humankind). Is that not then doing well while doing good?
by: Chris Jepson Staff Writer

Benjamin Franklin is credited with coining the expression, “Doing well while doing good.” Profiting, in other words, from acting honorably. This proves problematical to many who believe that doing the right thing should be done without any thought of personal benefit. Is that even possible? Help a human being, further a cause, realize a dream, and how can such action not personally redound to the benefit of the benefactor? There is an undeniable inner joy and satisfaction that comes from doing good (for the benefit of humankind). Is that not then doing well while doing good?

Oh, it is argued, of course, an inner peace is achievable when giving self or treasure, but we are culturally cautioned that one must not financially prosper from individual acts of goodness. Oh my, can’t have that. Or can (should) we?

I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector for nearly 40 years and have seen all manners of volunteerism and charity. I’ve run organizations and development departments and each day was concerned with furthering the organizational mission by increasing the revenue stream (charitable donations). Charities (nonprofits) are challenged with tackling many of America’s most pressing issues, but doing good requires a revenue stream that keeps the doors open, the electricity on and the mission vigorously pursued. This is the case whether it is the University of Missouri Extension 4-H Program, the American Diabetes Association, Winter Park Memorial Hospital, Junior Achievement or Habitat for Humanity.

Asking for money is an acquired skill. Few are born with that innate quality, but it definitely helps to have a well-grounded sense of self (and mission) because rejection is inherent in the fundraising process. Donors typically identify themselves by expressing an interest in your mission (by either volunteering and/or giving). Over time, through cultivation and recognition, donors/volunteers increase their commitment and both the organization and individual(s) benefit. Historically, “giving” is not presented as something that the donor will, in turn, reap a financial windfall. Such “profit” challenges the notion of “charitable” giving.

In an intriguing op-ed in the March 30 edition of the New York Times, Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, found that, “donors ended up with more income after making their gifts.” He observed that, “This was more than correlation; I found solid evidence that giving stimulated prosperity.” Mr. Brooks concluded, “If charity raises well-being, there is no obvious reason it would not also indirectly stimulate material prosperity as people improve their lives.”

Mr. Brooks explained the reason why. “Charitable giving improves what psychologists call “self-efficacy,” one’s belief that one is capable of handling a situation and bringing about a desired outcome.” Mr. Brooks suggested, “Problem solvers are happier than bystanders and victims of circumstance.” And, it would seem, acts of charity and generosity definitely offer a return above and beyond the immediate feelings of happiness and control.

No one is arguing that one should give or volunteer because by doing so you ultimately have more “jingle” in your pocket. No, what has been identified is that meaningful involvement in something “larger” than yourself enriches your life. Enrich in every sense of the word.

Yet. I’ve worked with mothers who devoted much of their lives to finding cures and better treatments for their sick children as well as with volunteers of faith who built homes for the poor. With no thought at all, other than the cause.

We are all enriched by our nonprofit sector. Make America better. Get involved. Give. It’ll pay off.

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