How to Be a Generous Professional

Be generous with your time, your colleagues, and yourself

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When you go to your office, you don't need to leave your heart at home.

As someone who has worked in fundraising and philanthropy for more than 25 years, “giving” has always been at the forefront of my profession. Whether inspiring generosity in donors, or helping individuals and groups to determine how, what, and how much to give to great causes, generosity has been a constant theme.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it means to live a generous life. Of course, giving to charity and volunteering time are major parts of the equation. I’ve always believed that it’s not about how much you give (time and/or money) – it’s about giving in a way that is meaningful to you. Five hours or $50 to one person is as meaningful as 50 hours or $5,000 to someone else.

What does it mean to be a generous professional – to show a generosity of spirit in your work life that will feed and nurture generosity in other areas of your life?

Be generous with your ideas: Sometimes, we don’t share our ideas because we don’t want anyone else to take them. Or, we may not share new ideas because we’re just not sure if they are good enough (or if we are good enough). Be generous with your ideas. If it’s a great idea, or even a good one, it will move your organization forward. If not, it may spur another great idea in someone else, to the benefit of everyone.

Be generous with your acknowledgments: Give credit where credit is due. Say “thank you” or “great job.” Notice when someone is working hard, shifting habits, or growing as a professional.

Be generous with your time: You’re busy. I’m busy. Everyone’s busy. OK, are we done with that excuse now? Being generous with your time could mean taking 10 minutes to listen to a colleague’s question or problem, helping a client even if it’s “off the clock,” or pitching in on a project that’s not necessarily your direct responsibility.

Be generous with yourself: Have you met Burnout? Exhaustion? Lack of Inspiration? They are often at the party, but they are not your friends. Cut yourself some slack. Get up from your desk and take a walk. Get an extra half hour of sleep. Take an extra few minutes for lunch. Stop beating yourself up because you messed up that project or said the wrong thing to a client or hit “send” on that email before you should have.

Generosity leads to better professionals and stronger organizations. If it becomes a regular professional practice, it might even spill over into your personal life. So open up. Consider generosity as an aspect of your professional life, and see what blossoms.

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