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Generosity in Uncertain Financial Times


Giving transforms. Each of us can recall a time when acting from a place of generosity brought us joy, deeper connection, and the rewards of giving back.

However, when the purse strings tighten and we feel pressed for time, even thinking about giving our time or our treasure can cause stress and anxiety:

“There are so many requests for funding. How do I decide?”

“I used to give from my portfolio. Now my portfolio has shrunk. What do I do?”

If the market strain or life changes have you concerned about your own personal giving, think about it in a new way. The following tips, strategies, and giving practices will help you operate from a place of generosity and possibility. You will navigate the giving waters with less stress and more joy and find renewed hope in this season of giving.

Tip #1: Focus on what you can give
Q: “I have made pledges to three different non-profits. I had planned to make these payments through draw downs from my asset portfolio, but given the recent week, I am not confident I will have the resources to be able to keep these pledges. What should I do?”

A: This is an important question. Changes in life circumstances- medical issues, decrease in income, struggling national or global economy, cost of life increases- can impact capacity to maintain giving levels, or keep pledge dates. The best course of action for giving if your financial picture is shifting includes the following:

1. Determine what you can do. If you’ve looked through your financial picture and have determined you aren’t able to keep your pledges in the original time frame, modify your plan. For example, can you extend the time frame of your pledge? Can you decrease this year’s gift amount and make up the balance in the coming two years? List out options that work for you. Then…

2. Communicate. Once you know what you can do financially, call the non-profits. Let them know you’ve had a shift in your financial picture. Share that you are still committed to the organization and its work and that you have a few alternative funding options to explore with them. You will reduce both your own and the organization’s anxiety.

3. Don’t take on any new gift requests. For the next year, don’t commit to a significant new gift or pledge. Even if you expect a financial windfall in the next year, make sure you take care of the pledges you have and feel back on solid ground. Then, when your revised plan is in place, you can begin to look at potential new gifts.

Tip #2: Allow generosity to lead you during times of scarcity
Q: “We have been a two-income household for more than 10 years. Last year, my spouse lost his job. This dramatically impacted our life budget. In fact, we had to cut expenses in every area of our life. My spouse doesn’t think we should make charitable gifts until he is gainfully employed. I disagree. I want to support our community at some level. Plus, it is important for my business that I am giving back. What should we do?”

A: When income is halved or decreased, this can cause significant stress on a relationship. Both want to get smart with money: reduce expenses, change short-term acquisition expectations, and eliminate extras. Is philanthropy an extra?

For many, when income decreases contributions to non-profits are eliminated.

While understandable and sometimes necessary, now is not the time to isolate yourself from your community. Community exists to serve us all. Try this practice to help you stay philanthropically connected:

1. Determine % of your total budget that giving will occupy. If you imagine your life budget is 100%, what percentage of your funds are allocated to housing? food? education? savings? What about giving? I recommend creating a line item for “Generosity”. Even if that amount is 1% of your total budget, you are giving back.

When your husband is employed again, you will not have stopped flexing your generosity muscle. When your finances improve, giving won’t feel like a burden or stress because you will have been giving all along.

2. Allow giving and generosity to help you mange the stress. Giving back can help facilitate healthy and more positive conversations about money. What do I mean? Recently, a client called me to say, “I had been wanting to start a pledge program to an organization I care about. I was concerned my husband would say we should wait. However, because it mattered to me and it would make a difference for people living in poverty, my husband and I talked through the mission, its work, and how we might be able to support the work. After reading through stories of people who lived on $1 a day, we realized that we were clearly in a position to help and if we didn’t because we are on a budget, who would? This was the first conversation about money that didn’t include fighting! A true blessing.“

No matter the giving strategies you employ, allow generosity to play an active, vibrant role in your life. During difficult financial times when the checkbook and accounts are smaller in size than they’ve been, giving back can help you feel larger than life.


LindsayHowells's picture

Thank you!


I completely agree that gifting should not go by the wayside when finances become difficult. I believe that everything we give whether it is in the form of money, time, energy, or heart, comes back around in amazing ways. I have just gone through a transition where my housing has become much more expensive and I have definitely felt anxiety around that. However, I see my monthly donations as being just as essential as continuing to pay my electric bill or phone bill. I don't believe it has to be a lot of money. Just giving what you can is all thats needed. Imagine what would happen if everyone donated just 10 or 20 dollars a month!

Thank you for sharing your advice! Maybe you could re-post this journal entry to Sharing Solutions so it is more visible. I think you have some valuable insights for many PulseWire users.

(Also I just read your other journal posting. What a great question! I am thinking on that one and will be posting my reply soon!)


Dave Alexander's picture

The Other Post

Hello Lindsay and Kathy,

I do the same thing Lindsay, I read the profiles and other posts before answering a specific post. Kathy, your post last August was awesome, but it happened at a time when PulseWire was undergoing great change and user participation was a quarter of its present activity.

Are you interested in re-posting it?

In Friendship, Dave...

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
-- Mohandas K. Gandhi

Dave Alexander's picture

Being In Service

Hello Kathy,

In 1990 I decided to give-up my six-figure engineering job in the Washington DC area, for uncertain employment in Santa Fe, New Mexico. When at last I was working again, our family had taken a 75 percent income reduction. I was fairly certain the reduction would be severe, but not quite that severe.

I stopped all financial giving, and immersed myself in personal giving. I worked with middle school girls at risk, with vocational students in high school, with the public schools Promotion of Health Office, their Media Center, and a not for profit called Partners in Education. In the nearly 20 spanning years, I have never earned as much money as before, but I also became whole. So to the financially challenged I send this message -- now, more than ever, is the time help one another with whatever you have to offer.

In Friendship, Dave...

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
-- Mohandas K. Gandhi

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