Giving Is Personal

on December 28, 2011
Resources Employee Engagement

One of my favorite quotes from Anne Frank is: “No one ever became poor from giving.” I find it so simple, true, and inspirational. And yet, I’ve also found that people rarely give just to give and even those with tremendous resources don’t pull out the checkbook to give to anything and everything. Quite the contrary. Giving is very personal.

Why do people give?

Early on in my career, I was part of a large organization which felt a responsibility to pressure their leaders to donate to a specific charity. This was met with a decent amount of behind-the-scenes complaining and resistance. Even though many of the leaders could afford it, it didn’t sit well to be told where and what to give, or to give just so our organization “looks good.” In my experience, people don’t want to give to look good, and they don’t want to give out of guilt. People want to give to help create joy, to make a difference, and to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

At Root, one of our six values includes giving. And yet, we aren’t a large corporate sponsor of any effort. We look to give our talents, our time, and our money to making a difference as individuals and in small groups/teams committed to specific efforts. Root supports our people in this regard and it is so cool to see the creativity and results our people can generate when empowered to lead a giving effort they are personally invested in. In the past, our small team of 125 people raised over $30,000 for various needs in their communities and in the world. Some of these were very specific and local and some were connected to broader and well-known causes globally.

Give for joy

One specific example of this concept was highlighted in a recent conversation with a colleague. He said to me he “gives for joy and gives water.” I must admit that I love to “give for joy,” but water wasn’t at the top of my list. And yet as I listened to the first-hand experiences of my colleague and what he was passionate about doing, I found that I couldn’t wait to give for the benefit of clean water around the world. How did that change in me happen? Well… he made this personal for me. He gave me the many reasons that he was so passionate about this concept, including:

  • Diseases from unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
  • Children are especially vulnerable, as their bodies aren’t strong enough to fight diarrhea, dysentery, and other illnesses.

My colleague had relatives raising money to drill water wells. He knew the people who would be drilling them and the specific impact they were making in Africa and in an orphanage in Haiti. I decided right then that I wanted to be connected to this and I wanted to give. His daughter Caryn Wooster took the photo shown here inside the Montrouis orphanage in Haiti after they drilled their first water well. Look at the joy!

I want to be a part of that

I want to help create that for more children in the world. Water just went onto my personal list, and because of the efforts of our colleague it went onto Root’s list too. We decided to make a donation to in honor of our clients and prospective clients as a holiday gift this year. For more information on creating positive change through clean water, check out the websites: and

The giving value at Root is an important part of our culture. It enables individuals and teams in our organization to focus effort and passion in charitable areas that mean the most to them personally. But the giving piece is just one part of our overall people-focused culture at Root. We personally have seen the benefit for our organization of a people-oriented business culture, and studies support how building and sustaining strong people-based cultures can translate into stronger organizational performance and more engaged employees.

What’s on your list for giving this holiday season? Whatever it is, I’m guessing it is personal and meaningful to you. Consider sharing the story of what you care about with others and you never know what might happen from the connection. After all, giving is very personal and water just went on my personal list.

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