Giving Rules

I’ve spent much of the last 15 years talking to people about giving, meeting amazing givers, and reading books and research about giving. I’m currently writing my 3rd book, Where Am I Giving? A global adventure exploring how to use your gifts and talents to make a difference, and since it is the “giving season,” I thought I’d chime in with a few things I’ve learned about giving.

(Note: Many of these are offered without context and some of them may even seem contrary to one another. I welcome arguments and suggestions.)

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Giving Rules

#1 You can give more.

#2 Gifts can be as small as a financial donation and as big as a smile.

#3 Gratitude first, then giving. When you look at your life, time, money, and talents as gifts, you will give more of them all.

#4 A gift is only a gift if you use it and pass it on. You don’t have to pass on the exact thing that you were gifted, but the spirit of it.

#5 Giving should connect us to people and causes in our local and global communities.

#6 If you give to an organization and don’t want to receive updates on their work, you should not give to them.

#7 Giving is an opportunity to make an impact and connection; it shouldn’t feel like a burden.

#8 Our gifts should give others dignity, not take it. Giving isn’t about you.

#9 Excluding foundations, if an organization’s name focuses on the givers and not those receiving the gifts, you should question the mission of the organization.

#10 Consuming is the opposite of giving.

#11 Not all gifts can be measured or evaluated.

#12 The more focused our efforts, the better our results. People way smarter and with way more money than us have tried to end poverty and have failed, but individual diseases have been eradicated and saved millions of lives.

#13 Give unconditionally and without expectation to individuals.

#14 Expect impact from organizations you support. (We spend less than 2 hours per year evaluating organizations to which we give. Ask about their goals and how they measure outcomes.)

#15 The impact of an organization is more important than their overhead.

#16 If you volunteer 100 hours/year, you’ll be happier.

#17 Give at least 1% of your income to fight global poverty and disease. And give at least that much to helping those in your own community.

#18 Give because not everyone can. We can’t all give equally and we can’t give equally throughout our lives.

#19 Support the giving of friends and family. Sometimes we give without question to causes that aren’t our causes because they are important to people who are important to us.


This list is subject to change. Where Am I Giving? (coming the summer of 2018) will include stories from 6 continents that give context to each of the “rules.”

If you want to be the first to hear my giving stories, invite me to speak this spring by emailing me at

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