In “The Saintly Way to Succeed,” Susan Dominus describes the strategic nature of the most successful givers. According to Adam Grant, they most successful givers are ones that align themselves with other givers, leveraging the power of their generosity – because of course, at the end of the day even the most giving of the givers are acting in their own self interest. This is a tough pill to swallow considering how much we rely on the generosity of others to run non-profits, operate schools, take care of those at the bottom of the income bracket, house the homeless and countless other critical societal functions. As soon as I was able to get past the initial heartbreak of realizing that altruism may all just be a total farce, I wondered how we might be able to “trick” the givers among us into being even more giving as government spending for social programs looms closer as a reality.
We know that when we are “nudged” by those around us, we tend to perform to the level of our peers. What if we could easily categorize people by their tendency as a “giver,” a “matcher” or a “taker?” If we knew where on Grant’s spectrum, we could leverage the giving-ness of the givers by creating environments where they were surrounded by other givers. What if organizations had access to a person’s giving classification along with their name and other information? What would social business look like if you a condition of being hired was that you had to be a giver? Invitations to charity events might be dependent upon a person being a giver or a matcher. Takers would simply not be invited. Events could be organized so that attendees worked together to maximize their own benefit as well as benefit the organization. Instead of silent auctions, fundraisers could feature activities that required participants to engage with one another and pool their resources with other givers and matchers in order to maximize the benefit for the charity.
While excluding the entire population of “takers” from the work of contributing to society would clearly not be an ideal or popular approach, I do wonder what would happen if we made space for givers to no only do what they do best, but also created opportunities where that benefit could be leveraged further by others.