By Becky Pazkowski

A few years ago I was meeting with a potential donor, talking to him about his interest in supporting a particular project we were considering at the community hospital where I worked at the time.  The project was a monitoring system that had proven to save lives at other hospitals where it had been installed. 

This young man (in his 40s) had worked very hard to build a thriving financial business in Chicago, and sold it to Goldman Sachs in the good old days of the 1990s.  He found himself very wealthy and moved his family back to his home town to be with his extended family. 

While we think that having a lot of money will make us happy, this was certainly not the case for this man.  He shared some of his family stories with me that day.  His siblings were struggling financially and even though he was in a position to help them, his brothers wouldn’t accept money from him.  They resented him for his success.  A rift was formed between him and his loved ones, and he found himself feeling helpless and frustrated. 

That day, he wrote us a check for $10,000 to fund the project we were talking to him about. We were elated.  He had been searching for some happiness to come of his good fortune, and it did.  What to him was a small amount of money, to us meant saving lives.  We left each other that day, both feeling a little lighter of heart.

When it comes to money, it is not how much we have, but what we do with it that brings happiness and fulfillment.  In the world of philanthropy, there is so much that can be and needs to be done, and so much joy that can come of it.

According to Rath and Harter in Well Being: The Five Essential Elements, researchers at Harvard found that spending money on others boosts one’s happiness more than spending on one’s self.  Their research also showed that even when given money to do with as they wished, those who spent it on others, or gave it to charity, were happier than those who did not. 

Philanthropy is about making “transformations” rather than “transactions.”  In other words, it is not what or that you gave, but what kind of good did your gift bring about?  Consider how here at Plymouth Harbor a scholarship helps make a college graduate, or how a dance floor brings people together, or how a therapeutic stationary bicycle reduces disease symptoms and increases someone’s quality of life, or how a piece of art or a musical performance lifts our spirits. 

Whether your giving is during your lifetime or through your estate, think about what kind of impact you would like to make, or what kind of legacy you would like to leave, and then consider making a gift toward those dreams.  It will make you and so many others happy.