Making a Sound Investment: Thoughts on Giving

Today, I sent University of Wyoming a check to upgrade my lifetime alumni association membership to the "gold" level. Since earning my M.A. from UW in 1996, I have given to the university and now find that I have a hard time resisting their appeals for support.

Given my current means, calling myself a philanthropist is a bit of a stretch. However, I do believe in supporting meaningful causes, and I give thought to my giving. Is UW a meaningful cause? To me, the answer is a resounding yes.

I support the university for reasons that should not be surprising. It is my way to say "Thank You" for a great education in a supportive and intimate environment. It is a way to show my appreciation for the teaching assistantship, tuition and fee waiver, and monthly stipend that made my education possible. My donations are my way of giving to the future of UW so it may continue its legacy and others may have the same positive experiences that I did.

Being a Master's student in the Department of Communication & Mass Media was a formative experience in my life and is one that is unmatched to this day. I came to the program at a young age with nothing more than my Bachelor's degree, a eager mind, and the desire to work hard to succeed. As students, our opinions and contributions mattered, and faculty welcomed us as aspiring members of the club that is academia. Graduate school at UW offered me the guidance and mentoring that was lacking in my undergraduate education. I walked away with a stronger ability to write, to analyze, to build and support a case, to have conviction in my beliefs, to know that what I do and say and think matters. These skills are useful in all aspects of life and continue to serve me well to this day. For all of these reasons and many others, I am truly grateful. It is my pleasure to support UW.

The University Family @ Prexy's Pasture
There is a saying I came across years ago. I don't remember it exactly nor do I know its source, but it goes something along the lines of...
"You should never feel bad about asking someone to make a donation to a meaningful cause, just as you'd never feel bad about asking them to make a sound investment."
As someone who recently transitioned out of a 15 year career as a fundraiser in the non-profit sector and is still involved with two local organizations as a volunteer and board member, it is little wonder the sentiment resonates with me. While my background has made me a sucker for a good cause, it has also given me a critical eye when evaluating organizations to support through my personal philanthropy.

While I have supported numerous causes over the years, not many of them "stick." Something usually changes - in an organization's mission, their professionalism, their correspondence (or more accurately lack of) - and I stop giving. Over the years, my support of University of Wyoming is something that has stuck. To my trained eye, they are a constant in the world of philanthropy, always there with a polished yet friendly look, good news to share, and just the right amount of correspondence.

Giving can be a very moving and personal experience. What inspires a person to support a cause varies greatly from individual to individual. The important thing is to do it. Just give. It should feel right and that is really the most important thing to think about when you choose to support a cause.

What organizations and causes inspire you to give? Why? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.