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January 20, 2022
When it Comes to Giving, Little Things Mean a Lot
By Nancy Settle-Murphy

Nancy Settle-Murphy
Nancy Settle-Murphy
Many who work in the world of nonprofits are all about giving, whether it’s making a difference to the communities they serve, or seeking donors to help their organizations thrive.

Despite the best intentions, sometimes we just can’t find the time, energy, or resources to be as generous as we’d like. Here are a few ideas for exhibiting generosity. Some are relatively easy and quick, and some require more time and attention. It’s the intentionality of giving that makes all the difference.

Give people your undivided attention.
Whether you’re speaking with several people or meeting 1:1, put aside everything else you have going on (including all devices within reach), and really focus on the conversation. If you’re face to face, maintain eye contact and observe both audible and physical cues. If you’re meeting virtually, close your eyes or take notes to listen deeply. Don’t rush your response. Make your colleagues feel they are far more important to you than your email, IM, text, or Facebook post. While giving someone your full attention doesn’t seem like much, for many of us it has become one of the toughest things to do.

Share the wealth.
If you stumble upon a website, blog, article, or book that you found incredibly helpful, chances are others will, too. Stop and take a few minutes to let others know why you found it interesting, along with a brief description, whether through email, IM, posting in a shared portal, blog, Reddit, etc. Another idea: Set aside a few minutes during team meetings so everyone can share some of their favorite resources, effectively creating a shared resource bank.

Contribute your wisdom.
Instead of simply trolling various knowledge bases to take what you need, make sure to at least occasionally leave something of your own in return. This might take the form of a template you’ve created, a sample client report or a killer set of interview questions. When we take Girl Scouts camping, we tell them they must leave the campground at least as good as they found it. It’s a similar concept: Take what you need, and give something in exchange. The more you contribute, the more likely others will be to follow your lead.

Make an introduction.
Find ways to leverage your connections to help others. Offer to provide a referral to your colleague who’s struggling. Suggest people your co-worker can contact to learn how they solved a similar vexing situation. Make introductions to people who you know will really benefit by getting to know each other. (Example: “Jane, you and Jia have both worked for big consulting firms, and may have some great ideas to share....”) Offer to send an email of introduction or make a quick call on their behalf. If you’re not sure the other person will warmly welcome your colleague’s request, check first and find out the preferred contact method.

Just say thanks.
Expressions of gratitude shouldn’t ever go without saying. People appreciate being thanked in almost any format, even if it’s via a quick email or text. Better, of course, is a call, an actual note, or some small token of appreciation. Doling out thanks is one of the easiest things ways you can be generous, whether it’s recognizing someone for going that extra mile, delivering a critical report on time, or contributing so many great ideas on that last team call.

Respond to requests with alacrity.
If a colleague asks for help, put aside all but the most critical tasks for a moment and respond immediately, especially if need seems urgent. You may not be able to give him what he needs right away, but you can let him know you received his request and will attend to it ASAP. Set realistic expectations and clear boundaries as to how you might be able to help, and when. And if can’t help, point him to other possible sources. Saying no is okay as long as you don’t leave him hanging, and try to offer up other avenues for help.

Teach your colleagues well.
Instead of volunteering to create that blog or spiff up that pivot table for your colleague, go one better. Take the time to show her how to do it herself. (This doesn’t mean you’re refusing to do the requested task ”“ you’re simply doing it with her.) Then next time she has to do it, she may not need to ask for help. Even better: Find a little time to jot down a few notes she can refer to next time. Maybe some of your other colleagues can benefit from your “quick reference guide,” too. By giving your time to teach someone how to become self-sufficient, you both reap immediate rewards.

Offer thoughtful feedback.
Asking your colleague for her permission can make your feedback feel more like a gift than a critique. Such feedback might take the form of a casual coaching session, a more structured assessment of particular skills, or some recent observations you’d like to share, along with suggested tips, if warranted. Many of us are in a good position to help others, but we tend to shy away from tough conversations. Reach out to offer feedback that can help your colleagues shine. Chances are, they may have no idea how they’re doing until someone tells them. And this is one case where the giver should feel free to ask for the same “gift” in return, especially if feedback from your own manager is infrequent.

>Nancy Settle-Murphy, president of Guided Insights, helps nonprofits design and run more productive meetings, whether face-to-face, virtual, or both. Call her at 978-263-2545 or email
February 2018
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