Defensive Giving

 In Conference, Foundations, Fred's Blog, Fred's Blog, Giving, Money, Philanthropy, Social Entrepreneurs

Earlier this summer I was hurrying to a meeting with our chief of police and was pulled over and given a ticket for going too fast through a reduced speed zone. Yes, I did think about mentioning why I was speeding but thought better of it. So I found myself this week in a defensive driving class making sure the citation didn’t affect my insurance or driving record. Even though there is the option of taking the class online, I am glad I chose the live version. Things have changed since the last time I did defensive driving. It is now done by an instructor who works for “Comedy Guys Defensive Driving,” and the six hours went by pretty quickly. Of course, there is the added attraction of the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet.

As well, I now know where Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy get their material. They audit defensive driving classes and write down everything they hear. I loved the helpful stories from the other participants about how to make several lights in a row (drive exactly 82 mph in a 40-mph zone); how to fool the breathalyzer lock on the ignition (bring a friend to blow into it); and also learned that the electronic speed indicators on the side of the road cannot measure speed beyond two digits (99 mph) so the police cannot gauge your true speed over that. Personal testimonies are so much better than dry textbooks

However, while I was sitting there impressed by the wealth of hard-earned knowledge and peer experience in the room, I started thinking about our doing a similar class at The Gathering this year for donors who have broken rules in giving. So here’s what I listed as the top five causes of giving accidents and infractions:

  1. Turning without signaling. Ministries make plans based on our commitments (implied or real) and when we change our minds suddenly they are left stranded or surprised. Don’t make sudden changes without indicating that to the people you support.
  2. Failure to maintain a safe speed. One of the advantages of a donor advised fund is the ability not to hurry our giving toward the end of the year. Even with a foundation a certain amount has to be disbursed by a certain date, and that creates a rush toward the end of the year to find good organizations.
  3. Giving while intoxicated or with impaired judgment. I’ve been with people when they get so excited and enthusiastic about a ministry presentation or so enamored with a ministry leader after one meeting that they make serious commitments (and mistakes) they regret later.
  4. Tailgating other donors. It’s easy to closely follow other donors instead of doing your own due diligence. I have found this at work when other donors are excited about a ministry and encouraging you to give but (and this is important) the donors tend not to tell you when they stop giving because they don’t – for whatever reasons – want to broadcast that to others.
  5. Failure to adjust for conditions. Some donors turn on their speed control and find themselves in trouble when conditions change. They allow the inertia of giving to avoid the work of staying current with ministries and the environment.

Like the weather, issues and strategies are constantly changing. So if you have two or more infractions plan to show up at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning in the basement of The Park Hyatt in Carlsbad with cash or a check for $39.95. We’ll be looking for you with cold coffee and donuts.

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Showing 7 comments
  • Stephan Tchividjian

    Loved it. I think we could actually start curating more translatable infraction examples. I’m going to start:
    The Quincy Magoo Syndrome – something prevalent in South Florida…as a seasoned driver (nice way of saying older) you find yourself in the drivers seat because, frankly, it’s your car. However, because you can’t see over the steering wheel anymore, you drive by memory (the good old days) with very little situational awareness…causing all kinds of accidents and reactions (some of them I can’t repeat) from fellow drivers, pedestrians and in some cases the sweet love birds enjoying a latte at a nearby French bistro. The driver (donor) causing damage with no intention of ever wanting to cause damage.

  • Stephan Tchividjian

    Here is what I’m talking about –

  • Nan Moore


  • Lynn Clouse

    Fred, thanks so much for letting us “ride along” in your experience! “Jesus take the wheel!” Amen.

  • Keith Cobell

    For all us motorcycle riders out there, please include, “merging without looking over your shoulder.” On numerous occasions I’ve been forced into the center median at 80 mph. I’m not sure the analogy to philanthropy but it feels filled with potential.

  • Randy Carman

    This is a great analogy and well-developed thoughts. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Joe Baker

    Your number one is a biggie. I’ve been there. Ouch. Thanks for sharing.

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