I got a remarkable gift today.

In an email exchange with a good friend I’ve known for nearly 30 years, Dave Minifie.  He described his personal purpose statement “to make the people around [him] better,” a credo he put into practice through coaching, being a Scouting leader, being part of a community of practice writing about marketing, acting as a mentor in corporate settings, and also “Peer Mentoring” in more informal settings.

I was forced to admit that I couldn’t clearly articulate my own Personal Statement of Purpose.  I’d certainly thought about what causes and organizations were important to me (for example, with the Three Questions exercise) but translating that into a Personal Statement of Purpose was something I’d been fuzzy about.  As I was debating whether to write the book Giving Back, another friend helped me focus, and probably got as close as I had to a Statement of Purpose.

So, today, after my wishy-washy first attempt, my peer-mentoring friend stepped in.  He offered his branding expertise from Procter and Gamble and beyond, and suggested:

Steve nurtures people with good ideas, so they can improve the world.”

That definitely struck home for me:

  • It’s about the end goal:  improving the world.
  • It’s about what other people can do, not me directly: “so they can improve…”
  • It’s about ideas: “people with good ideas”
  • It’s a somewhat indirect relationship:  “nurturing” (not assisting, or helping)

I believe that this gives me a leveraged way to have a larger impact:  providing encouragement, a sounding board, analysis and connections for motivated people who already have the desire to do something big.

He summed it up in one word:

“Catalyst”

This felt like a great description of what I aim to do, and I was grateful for this long association that provided the context for my friend to reach this description.


Giving Back is clearly an important part of my Statement of Purpose, and so it seemed appropriate to learn more about my giving style.

provides a simple tool (an 8-question survey) to assess your WiserGiving style with respect to six different approaches:

  1. Building Movements
  2. Direct Services
  3. Making Changes Stick
  4. Increasing Effectiveness
  5. Public Policy
  6. Research and Big Ideas

My results came back showing I favor a diversity of approaches (1 primary, 3 secondary out of 6 types total…)

My primary type was the last one:  Research and Big Ideas.

While I know that these “self-discovery” quizzes are popular on the internet, I also know that many of them are vacuous, with the result being not much better than a horoscope, vague enough that you see some aspect of yourself in them, and some portion of the prediction is bound to come true.

Here, I give kudos to the WiserGiving team, I think they did a good job of creating distinct giving archetypes and providing assessments that were not just descriptive, but also prescriptive:  what should people predisposed to this Giving Style do in order to be true to their type (and more likely to feel fulfilled by the giving they do?)

So, I was impressed with my GivingStyle results.  My friend of 30 years was able to come up with a spot-on statement of purpose and an accurate summary, but for a 8-question, 5 minute survey to come up with:

  • Primary:  Research and Big Ideas
  • Secondary:  Increasing Effectiveness
  • Secondary:  Direct Giving
  • Secondary:  Making change stick
which strikes me as not bad at all…

“Your dominant WiserGiving Style is Research and Big Ideas, which focuses on increasing knowledge and applying resulting insights to innovative strategies and solutions. You have three secondary WiserGiving Styles: Direct Services, which focuses on the individual as the agent of social change; Making Change Stick, which protects hard-won gains achieved in the legal and public opinion arenas; andIncreasing Effectiveness of organizations, which strives to strengthen an organization so that it can better perform its mission, exert greater impact, and be increasingly sustainable over the long term. This combination of strategies reflects a diverse, multifaceted approach that addresses the short-term needs of individuals while creating long-term sustainable change by investing in organizational capacity, awareness, education, advocacy, and public policy.”

For each of these styles, WiserGiving offers a longer description and implications–make sure you click the “more” link to see these suggestions, which provide the most value of the quiz.

The Giving Style tool is the first feature of the WiserGiving.org web site.  I got a chance to meet with the team as they were starting to build out their vision, and know that they have more great things in store.  Congratulations to Liz, Karen, Peggy, Eugene, Amanda, Eric, and the rest of you I haven’t met (yet)!  I look forward to seeing the site and community develop.

So, I encourage you to give some thought to your own personal statement of purpose, think about the causes and organizations you are passionate about, and learn your Giving Style to align all of them into a fulfilling practice of giving back.

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