The Etiquette of Giving: We Get When We Give

Apr, 04, 2010

To give or not to give, that is the question. And the answer is… to give without question. When the word etiquette is mentioned, the first thought you might have is of white gloves, and pinkies held out during afternoon tea. Simply put, etiquette is a set of rules and traditions that evolve with our culture. Was there texting etiquette ten years ago? Of course not. Would you play a game of golf or tennis without first knowing the rules? No way.

According to the dictionary, charitable means to be generous in the giving of money or other to help the needy. Key word: other. You don’t need to be named Buffet or Gates to give. Giving can come in many different forms. According to the American Foundation for the Blind, “…etiquette is really just another way of describing the thoughtful, considerate behavior that we expect to receive from others and give to them.” Think the Golden Rule when giving: Give unto others as you hope they would give unto you.

If you are not sure where to begin, start online. One terrific site is The website says that more than 80 percent of the money raised by charities in the United States comes from individuals. Astonishing but not surprising, given the decline of government funding for nonprofit organizations.

Why Give? cites “If only 20 percent of Americans left a charitable bequest, the current number [of donations] would more than double.” Imagine what the impact would be if the 80 percent made a charitable gift through their estate plans. Gifts large and small are important, as charitable giving is not just for the wealthy. Charitable organizations need financial assistance from people like you and me. By making a planned gift, you are in fact leaving a personal legacy. Your monies will have an impact on the organizations you choose to make a difference in your community. Further, giving is a beneficial experience for everyone involved. Anyone who has had personal experience with nonprofits is well aware that there will always be a great need for charitable donations. If you’ve decided to make a difference, just how do you start?

  • Do Your Homework. Part of the difficulty in selecting a charity is that there are thousands that need help. Your choice should be based on your personal beliefs. Visit the National Committee on Planned Giving for assistance.
  • Request a Copy of the Organization’s Annual Report. Financial statements are a good indicator of how and where your money will be spent. Nonprofits that spend a majority of donations on actual programs and services versus administrative costs get my vote.
  • Leave a Legacy. If someone in your family has suffered a terminal illness, this may be a likely place to plant your time or money. What better way of thanking the people who had a positive impact on your life?
  • How to Give. A bequest is a distribution from your estate to a charitable organization. Your estate includes the total sum of your assets, including real property, cash, retirement accounts, insurance policies, jewelry, and so on. Your designated organization can help with the paper work.

Volunteerism. Giving can also be in the form of volunteerism. Giving your time is personally rewarding and will significantly improve the quality of your life. American novelist Edith Wharton said, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” I believe she meant that giving at any level makes a difference in someone’s life.

John Wesley, an eighteenth-century theologian, said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” Can you live by these words?

The next time you think about giving, just do it. Giving is the new getting, the gift that keeps on giving. Lead by example. Make a difference. Give.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler’s Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (, certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on and

Follow Lisa Mirza Grotts on Twitter.[/author_info] [/author]

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