It’s about time.

If you can have just one of the following from members of your board or others who care deeply about your organization, which would it be?

  1. Time
  2. Talent
  3. Treasure

And what if your goal is to encourage even greater generosity in these same folks, on which will you focus?

  1. Time
  2. Talent
  3. Treasure

If you chose treasure in both instances, welcome to the club. You’re like most organizational leaders – me included. In fact, I co-authored a book on the money/generosity connection (see Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry).

We’re quick with obligatory lip service to the importance of time and talent. However, if truth be told, what we  really want is to be shown the money.

A little more time

But not so fast, says Cassie Mogliner, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. She identifies gifts of time as the gateway to other charitable behavior. In other words, if you’re interested in growing generous hearts, give your friends and donors something helpful to do.

You can read about Mogliner’s theory in the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review, but here’s the gist of her thesis.

  • Giving your time to others can make you feel more ‘time affluent.’ In fact, spending as little as 10 minutes helping others can make you feel less time-constrained.
  • People who give time feel more capable, confident, and useful. They feel they’ve accomplished something and, therefore, that they can accomplish more in the future.
  • We all feel so time-constrained that we become incredibly stingy with it.
  • People primed to think about time socialize more with friends and family and are consequently happier.

To our credit, in Growing Givers’ Hearts, Thom Jeavons and I devoted an entire chapter to the importance of providing donors with opportunities to do, as well as to give. In my next book, I’d better make it two on time.


  1. Wow — you are dead-on about the gift of time being the beginning of a great donor relationship. Sadly many NPOs think that volunteers or people who want to serve (or others who want to give their time) are less invested. Thanks for the brilliant (as always) post and for curating good thinking.

    • Good to hear from you, Steve. Your Oneicity blogs are always an encouragement to me. Given the financial stress that most nonprofits feel, it’s no surprise, but sad nonetheless, when gifts of time are overlooked and/or undervalued. Yet we know that for many people, it’s a whole lot easier to write a check than donate a weekend, or even a couple of hours.

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