I recently read a Bloomberg Markets article titled, “Giving With Purpose.” It was an interview with Howard Buffet, Warren Buffet’s oldest son, about how he is giving away the money his mother and father gave him. Warren and his late wife, Susan, gave each of their three children billions of dollars of Berkshire Hathaway stock with one instruction – “use it to make the world a better place”.
The article made an impression on me because Howard answered from a place of humility, openly sharing that his foundation has made mistakes along the way. When asked about his biggest mistake, he said, “the one that’s cost us the most money and took us the longest to learn, too, was to stop thinking about projects and start thinking about outcomes.” I couldn’t help but smile when I read those words because it is so counterintuitive to how most of us think and operate. Think about how most people give. Most of us give for one of three reasons: we are asked, we care about the nonprofit, or there is a project in which we are interested. All of these are valid and admirable reasons, but think how our giving and our attitude around giving might change if we started to give with the purpose of a specific outcome in which we are passionate.
The issue with giving for outcome is that it takes more work. As a population, we are much more willing to work to earn money than we are to give it away. However, just consider how much more monumentally fulfilling our jobs are when we are working toward accomplishing an outcome. The same process works with giving. Consider the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest foundation in the world with more than $44B in assets. This huge foundation could invest in numerous missions and causes, but instead they have focused on three main goals. In the U.S., they want to focus on improving education. Outside of the U.S., the focus is on health and poverty. That’s it. They have big goals that are focused on outcomes – eradicate polio by 2018, produce the technology and vaccines to eradicate malaria and tuberculosis, among other diseases, improve education through technology, and a focus on creating more personalized, flexible, clear and affordable options. When you hear Bill, Melinda or the CEO of their Foundation, Sue Desmond-Hellman, speak about the projects they are doing, it is always with a focus on a specific outcome.
While the rest of us don’t have as many resources to give as Bill and Melinda Gates, we can still use the same philosophy that the most successful philanthropists do, but it involves a change in behavior. It starts with our “Why?” We have to spend the time to learn more about what fuels us.
What gives you purpose? Longview has created a seven-step process focused on figuring out the “why” and beginning to give with purpose. If you are interested in giving with purpose, I urge you to consider walking through the process with us. You may just be surprised by the outcome.
Please contact your advisor if you are interested in learning more about how you may align the giving of your time, talents and treasures with your personal purpose.
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