What role does passion play in philanthropy? In many cases, we may think that passion boils down to the emotion behind giving. But passion can’t be quantified that way. It’s a powerful feeling for an issue, cause, or organization that commands your interest and fuels your desire to make change. It can’t be discovered in one single way. Passion is unique to each donor, and the path to finding it isn’t linear. As with many endeavors in life, tapping into your passion increases your commitment to the work, which in turn increases your effectiveness and the impact your efforts can have. The same is true in philanthropy – when a donor discovers their passion and centers it in their giving, their philanthropy becomes not only more impactful but also more personally fulfilling.

At the center of passion in philanthropy is the commitment to your most important beliefs and values. Some might equate this notion of passion with “flow”, the psychological concept recognized and named by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. One of the pioneers of the scientific study of happiness, he defines flow as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter” – they are completely absorbed in an activity that involves their creative abilities. Key elements include clear goals, a balance between challenges and skills, and merging of action and awareness.

As a philanthropist, it can be difficult to reflect on your deeply held values and concerns – and to articulate what you most want to accomplish with your giving – so you can get the greatest satisfaction and have the most impact. We explore this idea in greater detail within TPI’s primer, Place for Passion in Philanthropy, and offer three key questions as a guide to finding what you are most passionate about when it comes to your philanthropy.

Why is passion in philanthropy important?

Many wealthy donors find themselves participating in philanthropy but never truly committing. At TPI, we know from our work with many clients over the years that finding their passion helps them get greater satisfaction and can create a connection to their giving that is more than a feeling of reciprocity or responsibility. For donors, deeply felt causes can:

  • Fuel your initiative
  • Help you find creative solutions in the event of roadblocks and disappointments
  • Derive greater satisfaction
  • Feed your personal growth and creativity
  • Inspire others to support your cause
  • Allow you to have a greater impact on an issue or area

What are the obstacles to finding passion in philanthropy?

It’s easy to get caught up in challenges and pitfalls that can prevent you from achieving greater impact through your philanthropy. Common obstacles that donors deal with when trying to nurture the philanthropic impulse include:

  • Skepticism about what can be accomplished
  • Distrust of nonprofit organizations
  • Being in a reactive mode due to an overload of funder requests
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of some issues
  • Lack of time

Read the full article about finding your passion in philanthropy by Leslie Pine at The Philanthropic Initiative.