Philanthropy adviser and author, Jenny Santi during her interview with Leaderonomics.
The value of giving for working professionals
By PRETHIBA ESVARY
There was a young boy named Joshua Williams who became a veteran of philanthropy by the age of 11. When he was four, on his way to church with his mum one day, Williams decided to give the $20 (RM80) that his grandmother had given him for his birthday to a homeless man on the street.
A year after this took place, Williams became quite possibly the world’s youngest foundation president of Joshua’s Heart Foundation. What started out as leading a group of volunteers to hand out food to the needy, grew to an entity that serves to end world hunger and poverty.
In an interview, Williams said, “I believe that giving your time and money is happiness because through time you will see who you are helping and the impact you had. . .”
This story goes to show that “we are never too young to make a difference, and we don’t need to be a billionaire to give in a structured way.”
This is a quote by author of The Giving Way To Happiness: Stories and Science Behind the Life-Changing Power of Giving, Jenny Santi, a philanthropy adviser. Born and bred in Manila, Santi observed a combination of poverty and prosperity and this sparked an interest to do something that would allow her to make a difference.
Currently based in New York, Santi now advises some of the world’s most generous philanthropists and celebrity activists to help them channel their wealth, power and influence towards social good. It is a role which requires her to act as a strategy consultant, family adviser, personal career counsellor, connector and event planner.
Give to receive
At Leaderonomics, one of our cultural values lies in giving. We believe that it is through serving people passionately and generously that we will be able to impact the communities around us, and ultimately transform the nation.
The chief executive officer (CEO) of Leaderonomics, once wrote in an article about someone who once told him this: “. . . giving could only happen after we ‘get’—companies need to focus on ‘getting’ revenue and profits before focusing on corporate social responsibility and ‘giving’ to the community. . . ”
My CEO however disagrees. In the same article, he said, “. . . if you study the lives of great leaders, you will find that each and every one of them have cultivated a habit of giving in their organisations. Roger Enrico gave by teaching at PepsiCo. Other organisations, like Google, foster environments where each employee helps others and this enables effective collaboration, which results in innovation.”
In fact, in Santi’s book, Indian-American author Deepak Chopra wrote, “The more you give, the more you will receive, because you will keep the abundance of the universe circulating in your life. . .”
This statement is supported by the concept of the entire book which is that we give, not only because we want to help others, but to also receive something in return, which is fulfilment and happiness.
Giving as a working professional
When the term “giving” is brought up, society immediately thinks of charities or non-governmental organisations.
There is a chapter in Santi’s book, From Career to Calling. One of the things spoken about in this chapter is the trend these days among young people, or mid-career professionals, or even retired individuals, who are looking for ways to find more fulfilment.
Santi says, “I get so many people coming to me and saying, I’d like to transition from for-profit to non-profit because I find no meaning in my career. But, you ask me about the workplace setting, I don’t think we need to leave our careers. Because even within that setting, there are so many things we can do to find fulfilment. . .”
She mentioned that giving includes the act of mentoring a fellow colleague or subordinate, or helping the person sitting next to you, or sitting on a board of charity that you care about, or volunteering—giving your time to one person who needs your help, or to a huge organisation that you care about.
The key thing to note is to always give in a way that reflects your passion. Once you achieve this, you and/or your organisation (be it a social enterprise or a non-profit organisation) will be able to achieve sustainability.
Santi says, “Find your passion and make that the foundation of your giving. It’s not how you much you give, but how much love you put into your giving.”
Takeaway from the book
In the process of researching and writing her book, Santi met with and interviewed a host of leaders and experts in their respective fields who went on to become philanthropists such as Academy Award winner Goldie Hawn, founder of one of Africa’s most successful companies Mo Ibrahim, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus.
When asked about what are her key takeaways from having spoken to these individuals, Santi said, “. . . don’t get peer pressured into giving. Don’t do something just because others are doing it. . .”
Here are some questions you ought to ask yourself before you give:
1. Is this aligned with my passion?
2. Does this reflect something I myself went through?
3. Does this reflect the best way I can use my resources and interests?
Santi’s book provides you with a different perspective of giving. Instead of looking at how much the receiver gets, she shows you just how much you, as a giver, are able to receive through the act of giving.
Her passion for philanthropy is evident throughout the interview, and you will find yourself feeling inspired as you flip through the pages of her book and as you delve into the eye-opening tales of individuals who found their higher purpose in life.
Jenny Santi was in Malaysia on the 25th of April to give a talk on “Significance beyond success: channelling wealth, power and influence towards social good” at the Private Wealth Management APAC Summit 2016, held at Hilton Kuala Lumpur.
Q: Giving – If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
A: I had the honour of meeting Professor Muhammad Yunus, who founded the Grameen Bank—a microcredit organisation for the poor in Bangladesh—and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
This is a man who does microfinancing and deals with the poorest of the poor. It can be quite exhausting.
And yet when you meet him, he is just a ridiculously happy man. I asked him, “How do you do that? Is it because of your career in a social enterprise? Do you achieve that because you are working with non-profits?”
His response was: “It hasn’t got anything to do with that. Making money is happiness, but helping other people is super-happiness.”
So, my answer would be, in any career, where you’re able to genuinely help others.
Q: Relationships – If you could offer a new-born child only one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: I’ll say “live in the moment,” because the moment is all that we have. Don’t spend so much time thinking about the past, or worrying about the future. Just cherish the moment.
If you have any burning questions for Jenny, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Thought of the Week articles, click here.
Prethiba is passionate about impacting people through the written word. She believes that our lives are solely written by us, and thus the power to change for the better lies with us.