My Seven Cents

About two years ago, I gave myself permission to impulsively buy art at a nonprofit event. Normally, I tightly control my giving, but this was a moment where I was able to be spontaneous—only because earlier that year I wrote down my giving intentions, including to be more spontaneous with my giving. Yikes. Today, I think I blew it.

Are You in Control of Your Giving?

The Whole Foods cashier couldn’t get past my tight control. “Sir, would you like to round up your purchase to an even $10 by donating seven pennies to helping the Whole Kids Foundation?” “No,” I barked. This should have been the perfect win-win merger: my OCD tendencies (a clean $10 instead of $9.93) and an insanely modest random act of kindness. Yet, my stubborn addiction to being in full control of my charitable giving defeated the spontaneous giver in me.

Embedded Giving

This type of charitable donation is known as “embedded giving.” With embedded giving, we don’t get to plan out the gift, nor do we receive a tax deduction, nor do we get to rub elbows with celebrities or be recognized by peers, etc. At a store register, giving a few pennies to charity means you receive absolutely no public recognition, no thank-you letters and no calls from a development committee. At best, you get a quick thanks and a smile from a clerk who is most likely asking hundreds of people per day for those same pennies. But, those pennies can add up to thousands of dollars. With the Whole Foods Foundation, it’s creating better nutrition habits for thousands of kids.

Don’t get me wrong. I will continue to focus on planned charitable giving that is in clear view of my peers. To balance things out, though, I am going to see how it feels to give when there is no one watching and there’s no opportunity to rub elbows with Neil Patrick Harris.

Happy giving.


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