The traditional view of the nonprofit donor is an American industrialist sitting on a vast fortune that he can afford and is inclined to donate to a worthy cause. Rarely do we think of the American middle class as part of the American donor class. To the contrary, however, research reveals that the greater majority of nonprofit donors are from the American middle class.
In her book, Love Let Go, Radical Generosity for the Real World, Ami Campbell, a recent MBA graduate from the Harvard Business School, tells the story of her journey from scarcity to generosity. She explains how a humble working girl solidly ensconced in the middle class discovered how giving from sufficiency can be more redemptive than giving from abundance.
A Journey of Self-Discovery
Growing up in a single parent household in Chicago, Ami spent most of her early life focusing on scarcity. After graduating from Harvard, she traveled to Tanzania to work with single mothers and noticed that the women she met there were no different from her. They were loving, caring, hard working mothers who had simply been born in different circumstances. As Ami puts it in the book, “I realized for the first time that we are all the same.”
It then dawned on Ami that, despite her own humble beginnings, she had been given so much more than these decent mothers in Tanzania, and what’s more, she could be the luck that they needed. She then began a personal inventory with two simple questions:
- What had I been given?
- What could I give?
These two questions ignited a transformation of consciousness in Ami that radically changed the way she saw herself and the world around her.
Over the next few months the following insights “just came to her” as she puts it.
“We are all the same…No one is more deserving than another…Life just happens to everyone… Only our luck differs…Money doesn’t represent emotional security…I don’t need to worry about what might happen…I am learning who I am by giving rather than accumulating. When I feel this constant need to acquire more, I am just feeding my voracious ego. It always wants more. A freedom has come over me…I finally realize I have enough. I’m breaking an addiction…Giving away excess reduces desire and creates more excess…I can live on a lot less and be content…Giving begets giving. Hanging around people who give has made me a giver…Generosity is freedom.”
Ami says that becoming aware of the parity of all people changed her life forever. “I understood what gratitude was, for example. I was grateful to my mother for seeing that I got an education and for never abandoning me to the streets. I was grateful to the teachers who took an interest in me. I was grateful to the country for providing me with the opportunity to lift myself from the limitations of poverty. All this energy and interest was a gift to me. I didn’t deserve it or earn it, but it made all the difference in my life. I wanted to do the same for others. I wanted to be someone else’s luck. I became a giver.”
When a donor emerges from sufficiency rather than abundance, that donor has experienced a profound spiritual transformation.