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July 2014 - Generosity Gameplan™

Generosity on the London Underground

Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com

Last summer, my 90-year-old English mom wanted the boys of our third generation (now men) to see her homeland and connect with family. Tough duty, but I agreed to accompany Generation Three and we had a delightful adventure.

My son Micah, his cousin Scott, and I were struck by the social contract on the London Underground. Similar to the New York subway or Moscow’s Metro, the mass of humanity on board makes no eye contact, and there is no talking or touching unless it is rush hour or you have superhero-like courage.

The Underground reminded me of how we often do generosity—intentionally but on autopilot, isolated and autonomous, doing our own thing despite the abundance of connection available to us.

In the movie The Incredibles, the dad’s costume-maker keeps telling him that a cape will only get him in trouble. A normal costume will do, because true heroism comes from the heart—not from a cape. The cape would get caught in things like subway doors anyway.

My hunch is that the generosity social contract, much like the Underground social contract, stems from people not wanting to be bothersome. They are stuck in a Generosity Gap, thinking they need a superhero costume before taking it to the next level. Folks don’t want to impose and think they have to have a cape to be worthy of connected generosity.

Maybe there is a lesson for us as we build our Generosity Gameplans. Check-writing and volunteering as if we are on autopilot can be done in isolation. Connected generosity, on the other hand, is done with others, not just for them. We are hard-wired for connection to God and one another. No cape required!


If you’re wondering how the Generosity Gaps are showing up in your own life, take the Generosity Checkup and find out.

generosity at the dinner tableDuring an engaging dinner with six very accomplished friends, the conversation turned to how generosity plays out in their lives.

One highly successful charity leader asked me, “John, in what ways do you think my relationships with contributors would change if I cared more about how they did generosity than about how generous they are with me?”

In other words, what if the why and how of generosity mattered more to us than the how much?

Here’s what I think. Chances are, after these contributors recovered from shock and realized that this approach wasn’t a new fundraising tactic, they would ask, “What are your greatest challenges? And how can I be helpful to you with who I know, what I know, and how much I have?”

Being connected for good releases and magnifies a natural longing for people to be generous. We can’t be truly connected until we turn our eyes to the purpose and methods of giving, for ourselves and for the people we ask to support our causes.

I wonder, in the context of charitable giving and volunteering, do you ever want to push the refresh button? What would it look like to start over from the heart’s desire, rather than from the wallet?


If you are curious about this question, please get in touch with me about participating in a workshop, webinar, or a self-directed process using interactive tools and phone calls to create your own Generosity Gameplan!