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August 2014 - Generosity Gameplan™

generosity is like farmingMy wife Jamee and I grow lots of things at our home and on our hobby farm, which we call Wyndridge.

When it comes to producing food on our land, Jamee and I are learning as we go and living out the parables. You know the parable of the sower, in which birds come and eat the seeds that the sower just planted? In our case, we planted over a hundred pumpkin seeds for our patch, and wild turkeys came and ate them. Now we only have four plants growing in our patch. I’m a man of faith, but it will take a miracle to get a hundred-fold harvest from four wimpy vines.

We have a small vineyard too—a hundred vines that produce beautiful grapes for wine and amazing grape jelly. Vines at the edge of the vineyard produce less than those in the middle. The reason is more birds and more exposure, I suppose, and these vines just require more care. So I tell people that I’m a farmer, and then I quickly tell them it’s just a hobby so I’m not confused with those folks really feeding our world.

It seems to me that connected generosity is akin to farmingnot everything works. We trust, we try, but the most important thing we do is keep sowing and expecting. And every year our garden gets a little bigger, our harvest increases, and our soil becomes richer.

Honey Crisp apples, anyone?

If you’re curious about how to cultivate your giving strategically, my book Connected for Good delves into the principles of transformational generosity, the kind that bears real fruit.

Generosity superheroes in the modern ageThere’s a reason that generosity needs to be done differently at this point in history. Economic change is driving social sector change.

The United States was founded during the Agricultural Age, with an economy that was small, local, and independent because of the restraints in place when using wooden tools and animals to cultivate food.

Then, for decades, the Industrial Age shaped our economic structures. Factory production required centralization of labor and resources as well as continued expansion, so this age promoted the growth of cities, increased regulation, and the concentration of capital.

But now we are moving further into the Information Age—the age of the microchip—and economic structures are becoming more open, horizontal, and decentralized again. Farmers became company men, and now company men are becoming free agents. Anyone can reach into a pocket, order goods and services from anywhere on the planet, and have them delivered in a few days. The workforce is much more mobile, and smaller enterprises can have a significant reach.

Just as business and government needs to adapt to the changing economic landscape, so too does the social sector. Sometimes larger organizations can deliver on big ideas because of their capacity and reach, but other times large means less agility and less connection with donors and people being served.

Bigger is not necessarily better, but better is better.

Organizations that are local, small, quick, and decentralized will hit their stride in this environment. And donors can act more like entrepreneurs, taking responsibility for setting the vision and evaluating the effectiveness of nonprofit efforts.

The Generosity Gameplan process supports donors and grant-makers in becoming more like free agents than company men. Together we can search out organizations with better staff, better programs, better facilities, and better evaluation—organizations that create effective change. Let’s set up a conversation today.