Courtesy of Victoria Brain Injury Society
One of marketing maven Seth Godin’s recent post on what generosity truly is struck a deep chord with me. As we are celebrating Christmas tomorrow, I thought it would be good to highlight some of his ideas, peppered with my own perspectives.
In Godin’s own words:
“Generosity is not merely giving a discount, or giving what you make away or creating a race to the bottom. It’s far more complex than that. ”
While the digital age of constant connectivity provides boundless opportunities for giving, Godin reminds us that not all gifts are worth giving – or receiving. In his post, he shared how trust, sacrifice, kindness, design, intent, vulnerability and bitterness comes into play in any act of generosity.
Let me cite each of these attributes, peppered with my own thoughts, and add on two others of my own – value and timing.
In a world overflowing with freebies and too-good-to-be-true-deals, trust is in short supply. Scammers and spammers are so abundant these days that corporations are spending billions reinforcing their digital firewalls. Faith in large institutions have also fallen precipitously, no thanks to the Subprime Mortgage Crisis – a phenomenon that we are still suffering knock-on effects from.
To win over the trust of your recipients, you need to have integrity and be consistent. Don’t pretend to offer a good deal, only to tack on innumerable terms and conditions later. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
A true gift may bring inconvenience or pain to the giver. Well, at least initially.
As Godin has eloquently shared “favours can’t be generous, because favours imply a sort of gift economy of repayment being due.” The lesson here is to skew yourself towards the needs, wants and desires of your recipient, even if it doesn’t work towards your immediate benefit.
What does being kind mean? Beyond going out of our way to meet the needs of others, it also means giving with a happy and willing heart. In other words, you shouldn’t be squirming and grimacing as you give.
As the saying goes, “God loves a cheerful giver”. I am guessing that the same probably applies to your customers or fans.
An offshoot of kindness, a generous design is one that not only accommodates the needs of one’s recipients but “makes it magical”. The greatest gifts are those where lavish care and attention is invested in designing and producing products and services that goes beyond meeting performance standards.
This relates to the heart and soul of any generous act. What are we giving for? Why do we choose to shine the spotlight on others? Beyond ensuring that we do not have any ulterior motive for “trading up” as Godin has shared, we need to also examine why we do what we do.
Which brings us to our next attribute…
Being truly generous requires us to be open and transparent about where we are, where we hope to be, and why we are doing what we do. While endlessly offering freebies may win us many friends and fans, it doesn’t pay the bills. Thus, while we should give what we could, we needn’t be ashamed of also sharing how and where we need to generate some revenue.
I love this counterpoint by Seth and can see how this rings true in so many social and professional situations. The gall of bitterness can be seen in how employees in companies that are service superstars share “anonymous” posts on how much life sucks while they are serving their customers with an unblemished smile. Over time, such behaviours will not be sustainable.
The best gifts are those which add value to the lives of those who receive it. In other words, they are not only genuine and sincere – with no hidden strings attached – but are specially shaped to meet their needs. Bringing value to others means paying attention to the details that matter.
Finally, good gifts are carefully choreographed, curated and timed to meet the greatest needs, wants and desires. They are not just random or convenient “surpluses” that cannot be sold on the regular market. Where possible, genuine gifts are delivered at the critical moments where it matters.
As a Christian, I believe that the ultimate act of generosity came from God more than 2,000 years ago. He is the real reason for the season.
Are there other thoughts on what true generosity really means? Meanwhile, have a very merry and blessed Christmas!
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