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Occasionally, I get asked how Virtuous is “different” from other nonprofit CRMs. I thought it might be helpful to write a couple blog posts that outline our particular views on generosity software. Part of the Virtuous value lies in the fact that our software team builds beautiful, easy-to-use software. That said, these blog posts won’t focus on the value of the Virtuous software itself. Instead, I’ll spend my time focusing on why we do what we do.
Thanks in advance to Daryl, Henry, Brad and all the others who have formed my views on giving. Much of our approach to generosity is simply standing on the shoulders of giants.
I believe that life is one big story. How you live your life will depend largely on what kind story that you believe that you are a part of. Do you believe you are a victim in your life story? Or a hero? Who is the villain in your life’s story? These questions all form who we are as people and what we believe about the world.
Like the rest of our lives, our view of philanthropy is largely formed by the stories we tell ourselves. At Virtuous, we think that our modern culture is telling us an incomplete story about charitable giving. And as a result of this incomplete story, most American’s live with a severely stunted vision of what it means to be generous. I wanted to take a couple minutes to examine the “old story” of generosity that our culture is telling and then look at the new story that Virtuous is telling about true, authentic generosity. We hope that this new story resonates with you – and that Virtuous can help transform how you view generosity.
Over the last 50 years, charitable giving has slowly become a disconnected and cold experience. And the Story that most donors believe about giving is truncated and uninspired. In this Old Story, charitable giving is self-centered (“I give because it makes me feel good about myself”) and our giving is fueled by our me-driven consumer culture. Popular brands even tie giving to product purchases in order to give consumers the vague sense that they are making a difference in the world (e.g. “$2 from every purchase of $200 jeans will help plant a tree”). Givers “tip” to feel better about themselves or to absolve a vague sense of guilt – but they often stay at arms length from the actual cause. In this Old Story, donors are functionally distant, benevolent benefactors – and the people they give to are simply victims who can’t help themselves. In the old story, donors often depend on nonprofits to be a proxy for their own good works so they don’t have to get their hands dirty with the actual cause. As a result, donors never fully feel the weight of the causes they support. When this type of barrier exists, donors are never fully swept away in the mission of the organization. Donors never fully commit – and they certainly never give until it hurts. This type of insulated and self-serving generosity produces donors who rarely set aside their own interest and live for something bigger than themselves.
At Virtuous we are telling a different Story. We believe that true generosity flows out of a genuine concern for others. Authentic generosity always starts with our relationships with family and friends. We start by giving to those we care about most. If we are generous with those we love, then our generosity often expands into a feeling of connectedness and concern for our local community – and then broadens to include the global community. Giving is always about relationship and a concern for others. It’s never about how we feel about ourselves.
Don’t believe me? Take a minute to examine your motives at the times when you’ve been most generous. I can almost guarantee your biggest sacrifices of time, talent, money, and social capital have been for someone that you know and love. Even if you take a look at charities where you have consistently given or volunteered over a long period of time, you’ll find that you are almost always relationally connected to someone who works for, supports, or benefits directly from that charity. As humans, we give based on connectedness.
Another important aspect of our New Story of Generosity is our undying belief that everyone is a giver. We are all part of the same community. The people who receive our donations are not victims. They all have dignity and God-given assets. They all have just as much to give as I do. True giving includes time, talent, money, social capital, and concern. In fact, most of the giving we do isn’t financial at all – and it certainly isn’t tax deductible. The sooner we can expand our view of generosity, the faster we will realize that everyone has something to give. And when we realize that everyone is a giver then our view of “donor development” and “fundraising” takes on a whole new meaning. Instead of caring about the size of a constituent’s checkbook we are free to value the entire giver and connect with them relationally around their passions.
Ok, so this new story of generosity sounds good and all… but what does this have to do with a software company? Well, at Virtuous we are working hard to build software that helps charities create better holistic relationships with givers. We want to leverage technology to drive givers to become true participants in your cause. To become a community of co-conspirators to change the world… not just tippers. Virtuous nonprofit CRM software is designed to move the Story away from individual transactions and into a community of givers who are part of something bigger than themselves. Our software is designed from the ground up to help charities more effectively connect the passions of each giver to the frontline of the cause. Givers no longer feel like distant benefactors. They begin relating personally to the cause and to one another – and start giving more time, talent, money and social capital out of true generosity.