steve and michele kirsch's reasons for giving

Steve and Michele Kirsch’s Reasons for Giving

Philanthropists each have their own personal reasons for giving. Some people give because it makes them feel good personally. Others give out of a sense of obligation, or payback, or because "it's the right thing to do." Still others give because they enjoy the process of investigating causes and choosing recipients. There is no right answer. Each of us needs to develop our own personal style of giving.

Steve and Michele give to benefit "us," that is, everyone – including themselves. And they are more focused on the results than the journey. If they could go to a web page that contained a list of diseases and pick ten diseases to cure every year and those diseases could be cured instantly, they'd find that perfectly acceptable. Others might find it unfulfilling. The following series of statements reflect the many reasons that the Kirsches are philanthropists. Which ones also work for you?

  • Because if we give now, it may result in a discovery that may save our lives or significantly impact the quality of our lives. It could also help those we care about. It may positively affect future generations of our family. And the earlier we give, the greater the chance of a benefit accruing from that gift.
  • Because, contrary to popular belief, giving is NOT like going to the dentist: "it hurts, but it is good for you." In reality, giving is both good for you and satisfying! We know it is very satisfying: we know of lots of people who become philanthropists later in life, but we don’t know of any philanthropists who quit giving.
  • Because we have more money than we need and have secured our personal financial future, so we can put the extra resources to good use to help others.
  • Since the best things in life are not all that expensive, what else are you going to do with the money?
  • Because it would be selfish to indulge ourselves by spending the money on ourselves; we wouldn’t feel good about it.
  • Because if you evaluate the alternatives (using the money to generate more money or just saving it), the net benefit is just more money and there is no benefit to more money beyond a certain threshold. So there is no return on investment in terms of net incremental value received (unless the objective is to invest the money so you can give substantially more money in the future, but we are already doing that with the funds in the endowment). By donating to charitable causes, there can be a personal net benefit, as well as a net benefit for others.
  • Because we admire other people who have been generous with their wealth.
  • Because we admire people who do it. So, if we’re not doing it too, what do they know that we don’t know?
  • Because we see ourselves as people who are proactive, rather than reactive. That applies to giving as well.
  • To set an example in the community. To set an example for our kids, whom we hope will do an even better job of this than we have.
  • Because there are no tax advantages to giving after you are dead.
  • Because there is no personal satisfaction or personal benefit to giving after you are dead (or about to die).
  • Because if we give now, we can enjoy the benefits of that giving during our lifetime. We have personal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment in knowing we made a difference.
  • It’s fun.
  • Because while we all hate spending our own money, we all love spending someone else’s money. The nice thing about a charitable fund is that, after the initial "pain" of that first donation, you get to spend someone else’s money (namely the fund you just endowed) for the rest of eternity. (Assuming you only spend 5 to 10% and get a reasonable rate of return, your endowment will last forever.)
  • To make a difference in the world. To make a positive difference in our life and the lives of people we care about.
  • It’s interesting; we learn a lot about new subjects and issues and meet a lot of interesting people active in these areas.
  • To help people we don't know.
  • It’s a nice break from work.
  • It’s morally satisfying.
  • Because it is better to give than to receive.
  • Because there are people who can make more productive use of the money than we can.
  • Because a win-win outcome where we win and the world wins is always better than a "we win/you get nothing" outcome.
  • Because it is more efficient since the cause needs to spend less time/energy fundraising.
  • Because people really appreciate the support we give them and they tell us that. (That’s not a reason, but a validation).
  • Because we get a finer level of control over where the money goes, ideally steering funds towards the most worthwhile projects.
  • Because when we read "A Christmas Carol," we both thought that Ebenezer Scrooge made the right move at the end.
  • Giving to benefit "people you care about" is really the best reason for giving that we all can relate to, no matter who we are.

In summary, the main overriding reason Steve and Michele Kirsch donate is to make a positive impact in their lives, and the lives of people they care about. Their giving is pragmatic. They do not really donate from a sense of "obligation" or "because it is the right thing to do." They believe there is much less of a goal or purpose if that’s what motivates someone.

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