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Matt Beem
President and COO
Kinetic Fundraising, Inc.

You can pass on the giving gene

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Independence, MO – I was thinking last week about the power we have to influence others’ choices.

Kate’s parents were both impactful educators and involved themselves in causes that improve the lives of those less fortunate. It’s no wonder she covered education as a newspaper reporter and now is a court-appointed special advocate of Jackson County Family Court.

My mom co-founded and directed a school for children with special needs, and my dad had a successful fundraising career. Think I stumbled into my vocation?

You get my point: What we do impacts those around us.

And our professions aren’t the only thing others influence. They also shape our behavior and actions.

You can bet athletes who argue with referees and draw red cards or technical fouls have seen a coach or player behave similarly. And kids who consistently say “thank you,” “you’re welcome” and “excuse me” have heard such expressions from parents and role models.

Have you ever considered the power you have to influence others’ philanthropy? Giving time, talent and treasure is a learned behavior – one that requires experienced, committed teachers.

When I was young, my parents’ regular giving to our church was my philanthropic training ground. Week after week, they gave visibly and respectfully, supporting an organization that was important to us.

Kate had a similar experience growing up, and today we give what we can to organizations that are important to our family. Our kids give away a portion of their monthly allowances, and we hope their early philanthropic experiences take root and grow in them.

We’re fortunate. Others were there to teach us to give.

But what about those without a parent or role model to teach them the joy of giving? What can we do to nurture their philanthropy?

For starters, we can ask them to give. Giving isn’t natural for most people, but we have the power to share the joy of giving by inviting them to try it.

We also can demonstrate the power of philanthropy. The impact of giving will become clear to those who witness a day at Boy Scout camp or a homeless family receiving a hot meal.

And we can tell donors we appreciate their support. If those who give know their philanthropy made a difference, they’re likely to give again and again.

I recently described the time Maggie spent delivering Mercy Meals to homeless families in northwest Independence. She continued to discuss the experience in the weeks that followed.

“Does somebody take them food every day?” she asked.

Kate and I explained that there are many days homeless families don’t receive food. That’s the reality of not having a home, we explained, pointing out all the things in our house besides food – beds, couches and chairs, a television and computer – that many do without.

Of her own initiative, Maggie has already served Mercy Meals a second time. I’m confident she’ll continue to find opportunities to give her time, talent and resources to those they’ll benefit.

Yet if her church youth group hadn’t introduced the opportunity, asked her to give in a specific way and expressed appreciation for her service, she never would have had the experience – and wouldn’t be returning to give again.

So a philanthropist is born.

We all have the opportunity to sew giving’s seeds. Let’s get busy planting.

> Matt Beem Bio