Which Comes First: The Thanks Or The Giving?

Nov 6, 2014

Sandi Billings, NWPR’s Major Giving Officer, spends considerable time with generous people and regularly notices our emotional responses to philanthropy - both as giver and as receiver. Here she shares some thoughts about the giving season - and the Thanksgiving season.

I’ve been thinking about this both professionally and personally. Do we give because we’re grateful, or are we grateful because we were given kindness from others? And does that gratitude spur us to give back?

After much thought, I’ve decided that gratitude and giving are a wonderful, never-ending cycle. No matter where we jump into the cycle - as a grateful recipient or a giver - thanks spurs giving spurs thanks spurs more giving and on and on.

Both parts of the cycle are rewarding. Gratitude is so rewarding - and good for us - that multiple Gratitude Challenges have sprung up on Facebook, and scientists at U.C. Davis, among others, are studying the impact of gratitude on mind and body (and finding it to be quite positive).

Giving is equally rewarding, as anyone who has given a present to a casual friend or a close loved one knows so well. Research (at U.C. Berkeley among others) verifies what we feel when we give, showing mental and physical health benefits to people who give.

I jumped into the philanthropic thanks-giving-thanks cycle by first giving, as a kind of experiment. It felt good, and I was thanked, so I continued to give. But I have become more grateful over the years, and I’ve noted the philanthropic generosity of people I don’t even know who have made so many good things happen that I appreciate - like public radio. They have made gifts large and small so that Northwest Public Radio keeps working year after year.

I think the world, including my little part of it, a better place because of it - we’re more informed, more engaged, more insightful, more understanding, and more connected. Joining them in giving is a way of showing my gratitude. So I give because I’m grateful - and I’m grateful because I give.