Why did I sign up for this class (if you can even call it that)? Was it because a friend recommended it to me? Was it because I thought it would look good on my resume? Was it because I thought giving away $100,000 would be cool? What were my motives?
After discussing altruism in class, I am beginning to doubt if any of my intentions can be totally pure. I look at decisions I make in my own life: the people I choose to surround myself with, the organizations I join, the jobs I apply for, and at the end of the day there is this little voice in my head that always want to do what is best for me. You can call it self-preservation, the flesh or whatever you want, but deep down in all of us there is this desire to better ourselves, and to look out for our own glory and success.
You might be wondering what this has anything to do with strategic philanthropy, but I think it is important. The word philanthropy literally translates to the love of humanity. That goes completely against what is natural. Naturally, we want to love ourselves and look out for our own interests, but philanthropy is about loving others and looking out for the interests of others. This is why I think philanthropy can get messy, because it is so unnatural. However, we know from history that living a life for yourself is the most miserable existence you can live.
I believe that motives matter. I believe that the reasons why you do something are just as important as the actual things you do. How can you measure that? How can you quantify motive? You can’t.
I’m beginning to learn that there are so many things in the non-profit world that you just can’t measure. All I can do is hold myself accountable and question why I make the choices that I make. Do I make them out of egoism, purely for my gain? Do I make decisions expecting to get something in return? Do I give so people can know how “great” I am? Do I give solely out of financial or social benefit? Do I give because it just makes me feel good? I hope this experience teaches me how to remove myself as far away as possible from the act of giving and makes it solely about the people and causes being supported. I hope it shows me how to fight that inner voice that wants so desperately to fight for what is best for me.
-Claire Harper ’18