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8 Secrets of Savvy Donors

8 Secrets of Savvy Donors

You’re generous and kind. You care about other people and want to help them have great lives. You want to make a positive impact on the world and give from your heart to worthy causes. You’re a great person!

Yet there’s a niggling feeling of doubt at the back of your head when you donate. How do you know that you’re giving to the right causes? How do you know that you’re giving the right amount and at the right time? How do you know that your generous gifts of time and money actually have the kind of impact you want on the world? Truly savvy donors don’t have that doubt. They are confident that they give to the right causes, the right amount, and that they are getting what they paid for with their generosity and kindness. They are super-donors!

What are their secrets? They still listen to their heart – that’s why they want to give in the first place – but they combine the heart and the head to give effectively. You can be a savvy super-donor too, and be truly confident that you’re making the best decisions with your giving by learning their secrets.

1. Be Intentional

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    Knowledge is power! Super-donors are intentional about figuring out their aims and strategies for giving. They take the time to sit down and decide what goals they want to achieve through their generosity. They think about the kind of impact they want to have in the world. They decide what causes are most important to them – poverty, disease, animal welfare – and rank them by order of importance. Now, this ranking can  be quite difficult to achieve, and there’s no right answer. Listen to your heart and see what feels right to you. For some help, you can turn to Giving What We Can, which helps provide guidance on one’s giving. Follow this strategy, and you’ll know that you are giving to the causes that are right for you!

    2. Listen To Yourself

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      Another secret tactic that super-donors use to give to the right causes is to make sure to listen to themselves above everyone else. They know that they themselves should determine their giving decisions. While they don’t let anyone dictate to them what to do, they listen to and consider the opinions of others, and shift their mental maps of reality based on new information they did not know before. Indeed, super-donors are masters at changing their minds with appropriate evidence. However, the key is that they do so for their own reasons, not to please others.

      3. Budget Well

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        There are so many great causes out there that you can’t reasonably contribute to all of them. Super-donors prevent that problem by preparing a giving budget! They decide in advance how much resources they want to spend, of both time and money. They distribute their resources to the causes they outlined above by order of importance to themselves. If you do so yourself, you’ll be confident that you are giving the right amount!

        4. Plan Ahead

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          Super-donors plan their giving in advance. They know that most people tend to give during the winter holidays, but charities need money throughout the year. So they time their giving to counter the “holiday effect.” They also know that charities most benefit from monthly donors who automate monthly donations from their bank accounts or credit cards. Monthly donors enable charities to plan ahead themselves and make the most effective use of each dollar. Another benefit of monthly donations is that the super-donors get to feel positive emotions every month when they get a warm thank-you note from the non-profit. Since both giving and experiencing gratitude are science-based strategies for improving happiness, super-donors are happier! By using this strategy, you can ensure that you are giving at the right time, for your own happiness and satisfaction, and for the charities to which you give.

          5. Be Flexible

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            Super-donors are flexible about their giving. They know that their resources change over time in unexpected ways. For example, they might get an unexpected bonus, and decide they have more to give each month. However, they might be laid off and then have less money to give, but more time. They revise their giving budget and plan to make sure it aligns with their resources and priorities. You can commit to giving something every month but allow yourself to change this plan as your circumstances change. Doing so will enable you to make sure you keep giving the right amount and at the right time, no matter what happens.

            6. Be Smart

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              You’re a smart shopper. You don’t buy the first thing you see on television or in the store window. You take the time to gain confidence that you’ll get what you want, for example by reading reviews from well-known websites. Similarly, super-donors don’t give to the first charity that puts a commercial on television, or has volunteers going door-to-door or standing in the street and asking for money. In fact, super-donors know that the charity that spends its money on commercials and volunteer time on gathering donations is not using those resources to make an impact in the world. Super-donors read reviews of charities by reputable charity evaluators. For example, GiveWell provides extensive research and makes recommendations for the kind of charities that make the most powerful and positive impact on the world in various cause areas. The Life You Can Save provides not only recommendations, but also an Impact Calculator that can help you see right away what kind of impact your giving can make! Using such tactics will help you make sure that you make the impact you want on the world with your generosity and kindness.

              7. Be Effective

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                You can also gain confidence about your shopping decisions by talking to other smart shoppers. Those shoppers are generally glad to give you advice – they feel good helping you make wise shopping decisions and get to share their knowledge! Similarly, you can talk to super-donors to ensure that your generous donations are going to the best place. More broadly, they can share lots of strategies for being a super-donor. To talk to super-donors, in-person or online, simply out the phrase “Effective Altruism” into a search engine. Effective Altruists practice the strategies described above, and have many in-person and virtual forums where they discuss effective giving. They form community groups centered around being a super-donor and would be happy to share about their strategies for being super-donors with you!

                8. Be Proud

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                  Super-donors are not only committed to giving intentionally, but also proud of doing so! They spread this message of the benefits of being a super-donor to others they know. They know that doing so helps other people have better lives by getting rid of that niggling doubt at the back of their heads, and also channels their giving in the most effective fashion. Following this strategy, for example by wearing t-shirts such as the one above, starting conversations with friends and family, as well as sharing this article with others, can help you multiply the kind of positive impact you have on the world!

                  Featured photo credit: Businesswoman via flickr.com

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                  Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

                  President and Co-Founder at Intentional Insights; Disaster Avoidance Consultant

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                  Last Updated on June 12, 2019

                  Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

                  Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

                  Humor and laughter provide so many rewards. Studies have shown 20 seconds of laughter yield the same benefits as 3 minutes of hard rowing. A Robert Half International study reported 84% of executives believe a worker with a good sense of humor does a better job. Incorporating humor more effectively in the workplace allows you to defuse difficult situations, reduce stress, create attention for new ideas, build rapport, and be a more approachable and memorable leader.

                  With those benefits, it behooves you to hone your workplace comedic skills. So in the tradition of David Letterman, here are the top 10 ways to more effectively lead with humor!

                  #10. Look for Joy in Life

                  An important step is continually looking for joy throughout your life. This happens in a variety of ways:

                  • Focus less on yourself and more on helping others. Need help? Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the classic by Dale Carnegie.
                  • Laugh more – kids reportedly laugh 400 times per day vs. 15 times for adults. Aim for laughing 40 times daily to be at least 10% of your former self!
                  • Regularly read humorous comic strips and look for quips and funny comments in your reading.
                  • Even in challenging situations, hunt for something funny or humorous you can take away.

                  #9. Learn What Makes You Laugh

                  If you’re trying to laugh 40 times daily, it’s important to know what makes you laugh and have ready access to laugh-provokers. Figure out 107 things which make you laugh. Unrealistic? Hardly! Why 107? Because 107 is funnier than 100! Here’s a recipe for listing what makes you laugh by simply identifying:

                  • 13 Movies
                  • 11 TV Shows
                  • 5 Words or Phrases
                  • 19 Personal Stories
                  • 5 Cartoons
                  • 7 Audio or Video Pieces
                  • 11 Comedians
                  • 7 TV Personalities
                  • 7 Funny Photos
                  • 7 People You Know
                  • 15 of Anything Else
                  • TOTAL = 107 Funny Things

                  Collect & save these humor starters in a “Smile File” when you quickly need a laugh or comedic inspiration.

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                  #8. Use Your Own Comedic Material

                  Personal experiences are the most genuine humor sources for effective leadership. Look for humor in situations from your own life:

                  • Funny things you have said or others have said to you
                  • Pratfalls, be they mental, interpersonal, & physical
                  • Embarrassing moments or unexpected happenings
                  • Times of change or learning
                  • Difficult life events (yes, even these can be humor sources)

                  When turning personal situations into comedic material, remember lessons learned from a childhood humor staple: Knock-Knock Jokes. These simple jokes work because the knock-knock structure highlights familiar situations, uses only essential words and phrases, and clearly signals a laughing opportunity. They also demonstrate how humor springs from surprise. The laughs come from not knowing who or what exactly is behind the door based on the initial response to “Who’s there?”

                  #7. Adapt Somebody Else’s Material

                  Beyond your own experiences, there’s a tradition of “borrowing & adapting” (I didn’t say stealing) funny stuff from others. That’s why old-time comedian Milton Berle was called the “Thief of Bad Gags.”

                  Part of borrowing successfully is using easily accessible humor sources in ways many don’t consider. Beyond simply Googling “funny” in front of quotes, one-liners, definitions, pictures, or videos, here are two other common sources you can adapt:

                  • Cartoons – You can use cartoons in various ways by showing one in a presentation, telling the cartoon’s story (potentially making yourself a character) without any images, or using its punch line as a starting point for new humor.
                  • Comedians – Mainstream comedians’ jokes or catch phrases are another source to modify and adapt to your personality or work situation. Watch lots of comedians and learn how professionals do it so well.

                  #6. Understand Your Audience

                  Using humor in a leadership position requires understanding boundaries on its proper use. It all starts with really understanding your audience by:

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                  • Paying attention to top management’s attitudes toward humor.
                  • Knowing the audience’s composition – this directly affects which humor types are appropriate.
                  • Loving your audience as much or more than you poke fun at them.
                  • Inviting others into humor since you can’t assume they share your same humor sensibilities.

                  In case you’re contemplating using ad lib humor, completely knowing your audience is even more vital. Ad-libs have the potential for going horribly wrong because audience sensibilities have been misjudged. It’s very beneficial to actually plan and rehearse ad libs. It may sound odd, but identify common work situations you encounter and think through what usually goes wrong or provides a source for potential humor. Work out some “safe” funny comebacks to use as “planned” ad libs.

                  #5. Know the Rules and Boundaries

                  There are blatant humor no-no’s in the workplace which are quite acceptable for an onstage comedian. At work, avoid harmful practical jokes or pranks, heavily sarcastic comments, and humor rooted in religious, sexual, ethnic, or racial themes. Think you know your work setting well enough to tread on this dangerous ground? Here’s some advice: DON’T. The way questionable humor will be perceived by a workplace audience is too much of an unknown to take big risks when your career is at stake.

                  Use this checkpoint to actually see if your intended workplace humor is SAFE. To pass the SAFE test, all of these statements need to be true regarding your joke, comment, or image:

                  • I can Say/Show this to my mother.
                  • It wouldn’t Anger me if I were the butt of the joke.
                  • This wouldn’t trigger an FCC violation
                  • Everyone in the audience will be able to get it.

                  With even a hint of one false answer, dramatically modify your idea or better yet, abandon it and start over.

                  #4. Get over Yourself

                  Effective leaders don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re comfortable laughing at themselves and letting others be funny as well. Leaders should become adept at appropriately using self-deprecating humor, i.e., self-directed humor downplaying your own talents, stature, or accomplishments

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                  You don’t want to use self-deprecating humor on simply any topic, however. It’s most effectively & appropriately used in:

                  • Situations where you’re comfortable & self-confident
                  • Areas where your credibility & competence are clearly established
                  • Ways that fit your known personality & sensibilities

                  Remember – when trying to borrow someone else’s self-deprecating humor, you need to share that person’s perspective & situation. If not, it’s simply deprecating! I once heard a decidedly non-technical Marketing VP call out “data geeks” in the audience. While that’s what they called themselves, she wasn’t a part of their group, and her comment, intended to build affiliation, fell completely flat.

                  #3. Need Humor Ideas? Just Look Around

                  The workplace is filled with situations lending themselves to comedy. Humor springs from exaggeration, wordplay, misunderstandings, ambiguity, contradictions, paradoxes, pain, and inconsistencies. If you work in any type of business or organizational setting, there are plenty of these situations to go around!

                  As a leader, it’s your role to use the proper opptunities to encourage and employ humor successfully by ensuring that:

                  • Your humor makes others feel good about themselves.
                  • Hurtful fun isn’t made of those less tenured than you in the organization.
                  • You don’t use humor when agitated since it can lead to apparent meanness.

                  #2. Surround Yourself with Joy

                  If you’re looking for more joy and levity in leadership, surround yourself with joyful people. These are people who are funny, easily spur laughter, and routinely cheer people up through their presence.

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                  Cultivate relationships with these types of people. Spend time with them, learn from their successful uses of humor, and emulate elements of their approaches that work for you.

                  Beyond basking in the joy these people create, select 3 or 4 of them to be an informal comedy team. As your comedy team, solicit their opinions to help you generate and refine humor ideas. They can also provide perspectives on potentially questionable humor material that makes it through the SAFE test, but still feels like it might not be right for a workplace audience.

                  #1. Dive into the Fun

                  Ultimately, the most important part of successfully using humor as a leader is actually sharing it in the workplace. Here are a few final tips to keep in mind:

                  • Practice your humor in appropriate, low-risk settings to find out what works before trying it out with a bigger audience.
                  • Signal a laughing opportunity through your words, actions, and tone. It’s also a good practice to give people “permission” to laugh in the workplace.
                  • Finally, be earnest in using humor; don’t focus on laughs so much as lightening and adding fun into work settings.

                  Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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