How are You Using Generous?

Last week, my friend and fellow fundraising blogger, Mary Cahalane, posted about words and phrases that need to be discontinued in communications with supporters.  Shortly after, my good friend, author, and blogger, Michael Rosen, followed with his own post of a similar topic.  I have also written about the annoying use of jargon and acronyms when talking to supporters, so I am in agreement with both of them, but one of the words Michael chose for his blog caught my attention, and I took an exception to his choice.

The word in dispute is generous.  Michael states in his post that generous “is a word that can work, but can also be problematic, depending on your audience.” When donors hear about a generous gift, they tend to think about it in terms of size, and in that context he is correct.  Generous should not be used in a quantitative manner.

I tend to view the word as a qualitative term.  I use it as a term describing how and why the gift was given, instead of how big the gift is.   I have known many who have very little in the way of money or property but were very generous in giving what they had.  I know people who would give you the shirt off their back if they thought it would benefit you.

The example that best describes generous for me can be found in the Book of Luke in the New Testament of the Bible:

1While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. 2Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins.
3“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them.  4For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”

While I realize that organizations want generous donors that will give gifts of great size, we need to appreciate the generous donors who give as much as they can.  Their sense of generosity should be an example for us all to follow.


About greatergoodfundraising

Richard Freedlund has been active in the nonprofit sector in a number of ways, both professionally and as a volunteer. He is the founder of Greater Good Fundraising, a business that helps schools and organizations raise money for their programs while accomplishing something positive for the community. After living in Oregon for 27 years, he has returned to his hometown of Rockford, Illinois and hopes to make his mark on the nonprofit sector there. He is the father of a talented jazz musician and the son of philanthropic parents that continue to support multiple causes. To contact Richard for consulting, fundraising, or speaking opportunities, email or reach him on @ggfundraise
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4 Responses to How are You Using Generous?

  1. CVMco. says:

    The word “Generous” contains both of your respective takes on the definition, as the poor give little…though all they have or can, is larger in quality than the rich who donate larger amounts, although little of what they have as a whole, sacrifice small quantity relatively. While examples can be seen of the rich, giving up everything they had in the name of a greater cause, however few… while many of the poor continue to take advantage of handouts and give nothing. Hence, both examples have “quality/quantity” in perspective of giving. Thus the problem of Greed can be attributed to both rich or poor^ And no greater example of all the above IMHO, than the Life of Moses in the old testament. C+Peace The Oxford English Dictionary: Definition; adjective: 1] Showing a readiness to give more of something, especially money, than is strictly necessary or expected: a generous benefactor to the University showing kindness towards others: a generous assessment of his work. 2] As (of a thing) larger or more plentiful than is usual or necessary: a generous helping of pasta. Derivatives: generously, adverb – generousness, noun Origin: late 16th century: via Old French from Latin generosus ‘noble, magnanimous’, from genus, gener- ‘stock, race’. The original sense was ‘of noble birth’, hence ‘characteristic of noble birth, courageous, magnanimous, not mean’

  2. Laura King says:

    Thanks for sharing this perspective. I agree that the word ‘generously’ is more appealing when its meaning is “liberally, freely” rather than “a lot.” Can I also suggest that we celebrate the attribute of generosity not just when someone gives money or material things? Many supporters who give their time, effort, pro-bono services, encouraging words, prayers, and so forth are also giving generously. Isn’t generosity really about a happy, open heart and good intentions? By truly appreciating everything we receive to help our organization, we make our benefactors happy, and create the causes for more resources to come.

  3. Yes, the widow’s mite. Always what I think of as well. It’s really important for us to be aware of – especially when we get caught up in the analytical side of what we do. Sure, we all celebrate a big (to us) gift. But sometimes that $10 means a great deal more to the donor than the $10,000 does to another donor. Thanks, Richard, for that important reminder!

  4. Pingback: Getting More from Your Smaller Donors | greatergoodfundraising

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