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Philanthropy - It's a Two Way Street

By Lizanne Knight, Philanthropist

It is well documented that giving to others makes us happier, but few of us would articulate that as the prime reason we have chosen to be involved in Philanthropy. Our motivation to support a particular cause or organisation is typically about the GIVE rather than the GET. We want to give of ourselves to something that we perceive as worthy and the decision to do so often feels more intuitive than deliberate. We sense an alignment between ourselves and the organisation and we want to make a contribution. How we make our contribution, for example, as an activist, a donor, a volunteer or mentor is an expression of who we are, and as we embark on this new relationship, it is with the focus very much on the organisation, its needs and its objectives. For the most part, it is without much contemplation of our own evolving identity as a giver.

Most organisations in the “not for profit” or “for purpose” space are acutely aware of the importance of relationships in developing our patronage and will devote considerable effort to get to know us better to ensure our continuing engagement. They are keen to know WHY we support them and typically this relates to an alignment in values, beliefs and life experiences. However, even that initial alignment might not be enough to ensure it’s a mutually rewarding relationship/association over the long haul. What had felt so right, worthwhile and fulfilling, can loose its lustre and feel more like an obligation. Something has changed and if it’s not related to the organisation, it’s probably a shift in us!

When this happens, it’s a reminder that we, too, have needs and preferences as a supporters/ givers. The relationship with the organisation should incorporate give and take and this becomes more achievable, the clearer we are about ourselves as givers, and how that role relates to other aspects of ourselves and our lives. Taking stock of who we are as givers, is an opportunity to review our current values, skills, resources, needs and capacity. It can be even more beneficial if done with an awareness of what our giving is rooted in, where our priorities lie, what longer term aspirations we have as a givers and who can support us to achieve these.

Being involved in Philanthropy adds enduring meaning and purpose if it is congruent with who we are and who we are becoming. A timely reflection process can help identify what needs to be let go of and what needs to be focussed on to bring a glow back to our giving.



Lizanne Knights lives in Arrowtown and has been involved in supporting organisations in the Arts, Human Rights and the Environmental sectors, in various countries, for the past 35 years. She holds a Honours degree in Psychology and a Diploma in Expressive Arts and Group Work. She facilitates small group workshops where participants can gain clarity around their giving identity and how this can be expressed in the philanthropic space in a meaningful and fulfilling way. She can be contacted at

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