Philanthropy & Motivation

There are so many beautiful examples of philanthropy in the world. We are fortunate enough to live in a time when you can execute a simple internet search and find countless examples of people helping each other. When I did just that recently, I came across the story of Dame Stephanie Shirley in a BBC article "What Motivates Philanthropists?" by Shanaz Musafer.

Dame Stephanie's life story is epic. As a five year old she fled Nazi Germany just weeks before the outbreak of World War II. In 1962 she founded a software company. To break into this new, male dominated field, she had to use the name "Steve" for a time. The success of her company left her with a sizable fortune, much of of which she has given away.

What motivates her philanthropy?

  • Personal experience. Her late son had profound autism and much of her philanthropy was dedicated to enhancing the lives of others like him.
  • A sense of gratitude. I love this quote from Dame Stephanie, "I've been given so much myself, what else can I do but give?".
  • The joy of giving. She derives more joy from using her money to help others than from spending it. She feels that she gets "back much more than I give - [in terms of] pleasure, quality of life, friendships, fulfillment." And finally she states, "To me giving is a lot of fun. It's not a question of compassion, it is a question of joy."

Hopefully we can all let her example serve as a reminder to include philanthropy in our lives. Most of us will not have the resources she did, but we can definitely still make an impact.

What motivates you to give?