3 Things That “Giving” Will Never Measure Up To

by Holland Banks

The purpose of “giving,” social responsibility and any form of charity has often been misconstrued as solely that — giving. But social responsibility in all its forms may never reach its true potential when approached without a greater motive.

With a stronger focus on equipping the recipient and organization, or pushing a larger cause, each of us can have a tremendously greater impact on the lives of those we choose to help. Here are three things we can all be doing that show why simply “giving” doesn’t measure up.


I worked for a human rights legal agency that believed in a firm methodology. I was to give my clients, asylum seekers, “just enough” to get by and was to focus on making them self-sufficient. I hated it. It broke my heart every time I said no to a client or sent them out with a little less than what they’d nearly begged me for. But I realized that as I grew stronger, so did they.

Many of them were brilliant. And as I stopped cradling them and began to push them, they grew more resilient and eventually became self-sufficient contributors to their communities despite all the odds.


“Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” This quote lends itself to everything I believe about supporting a nonprofit. Offering your professional services and expertise to an organization contributes to its core capabilities — its sustainability. Donate 15 items and help one family — donate 10 hours creating a new email marketing campaign and help 35 families throughout the year.


Lending your influential voice to those that go unheard can be a key source of change. But in order to make a lasting difference you must lend your voice to the cause — not to the individual.

As human beings we tend to connect. So many of us tend to get tangled in the lives of the individuals we help. Eventually we become too overwhelmed putting out the dozens of small fires that center around them to focus on the bigger social issue.

This may sound harsh, but I’ll never forget the day my director sat me down and told me that my dedication to specific individuals was robbing them of a true solution through strategic planning for change and advocacy for their cause — the benefits of which would eventually flow through our entire client base.

Ultimately, it’s a tough take on “giving” — I know. Perhaps it’s even a little unfair. But sometimes it just isn’t enough. If we want to reach the true end goal of any socially focused mission — stronger and healthier communities that can support themselves — the benefits of which affect us all, we’ll need to be willing to do more.

2011 Texas Conference for Women speaker Holland Banks began her career working for the Human Rights Initiative, a nonprofit legal organization helping human rights abuse victims. Banks then moved to D Magazine in their in-house agency’s marketing department. She started the blog “Succeed After College“ in 2010 after experiencing first-hand the challenges that young professionals and their overall demographic face while searching for both general and professional happiness.