Don’t Keep Your Donations to Yourself

Growing up, I absorbed the Sunday school lesson that “when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” ((Matthew 6:3.)) In other words, charitable giving doesn’t count in your favor if you seek recognition for it. Don’t brag and don’t be smug.

Fair point. Nobody likes a braggart, and I don’t intend to suggest that you ought to become one.

I don’t go to church anymore, but I absorbed that message well and I have generally kept quiet about giving. But lately I have been reconsidering. After all, why do we share so little about our generosity when we share so much about everything else? We post pictures of our clothes and our cars and our vacations, all of which carry messages about our financial well-being and social status and influence others to spend money on those things. So why not spread messages about generosity and use our influence to motivate others to be generous?

If you donate to an organization, a politician, or a cause, but never tell anyone, nothing happens. But if you donate and tell everyone, maybe a couple of people will see it and think Hey, I should help out, too! And if they follow your example and tell everyone, maybe a couple of other people will see it and donate or volunteer, too, and pretty soon you’ve gotten something going. Maybe some people will even see your message and think You now what, I can probably afford to give a bit more than that! Now your small act of generosity has leveled up!

So when you donate, tell everyone. Not to brag or pat yourself on the back, but to prompt others to donate and turn your small act of personal generosity into a bigger act of collective generosity.

After all, if you are going to show off, you might as well do some good at the same time.