Oprah’s name appeared in the headlines this weekend, lauded for yet another tremendous act of generosity. This time, her gift was a donation of over $1M to the United Negro College Fund (U.N.C.F.), an organization that raises money to help students attend historically black colleges and universities, reports WCNC-TV in Charlotte, N.C. Winfrey made the surprise announcement Saturday while speaking at a luncheon.
Winfrey has made a lifetime habit of giving, and has said she learned early on in her career how good it feels to do something unexpected for someone. After all, science consistently shows that being a giver has the power to improve our lives as a whole — including helping to shape our work lives for the better. “I’ve been blessed with the ability to give really great gifts — everything from cashmere sheets to college educations. I’ve given homes. Cars. Trips around the world… But the best gift anyone can give, I believe, is the gift of sharing themselves,” wrote Winfrey in her magazine.
And that’s really the key. Becoming a giver is a key metric for success, happiness, and overall well-being — and it doesn’t require Oprah-level wealth (or even a penny). We each have the capacity to impact the lives of others simply by giving our time, sharing our knowledge, or offering our support. And when we do give from our pockets, to the causes we care about, we can do so within our financial means.
When it comes to giving in the workplace, many worry that giving will only contribute to a greater risk of burnout. But as Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and author of Give and Take, has pointed out, giving doesn’t have to mean self-sacrificing, losing sleep, or helping others while ignoring our personal boundaries. For instance, someone who decides to practice giving by helping new hires get acclimated might set aside an hour or two per week for these conversations — say, on Friday afternoon — to ensure that it doesn’t become a 24/7 job.
If giving at work hasn’t become a habit yet, you can take a Microstep toward that goal. This week, think of someone who you know is struggling at work, and ask if there’s something you can do to help.
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