Case Study Excursus: Part 1

Before undertaking our quantitative analyses of the characteristics that distinguish one type from another, we first revisit our 12 case studies to illustrate how the different combinations of processes for giving look in the lives of real people and how these processes operate together to form overall approaches to giving. Among our case studies, we have two Planned givers (Susan Baker and Ryan Dewey), two Habitual givers (Jackie Sawyer and George Nettleson), two Selective givers (Michael Johnson and Linda Chesterfield), three Impulsive givers (Cindy Phelps, Tanika Sandaval, and Regina Buckner), one Atypical giver (Deon Williams), and two nongivers (Rosa Perez and Anthony Ross).

Planned Givers

Ryan Dewey describes his overall approach to money this way:

I generally make [a] decision because I don’t want to go in[to] debt, so I try to manage my money carefully so that I don’t have to go in[to] debt... . I am not really a budgeter, but I do review my finances on a monthly basis. I try to make sure what I’m spending is matching up with what I’m making. I withdraw cash and pay for everything with cash so that I mentally keep track of what I am spending. So those are my practical ways of doing that.

About his financial giving Ryan said, “I think I know my financial situation pretty well. I know my priorities, so I know that I give regularly to the church, and I also give to World Vision, and that is my giving at this point.” He enjoys learning about the good that his donations are accomplishing: “I just think that’s really exciting because you get a tangible feedback on what your money is doing and you can see that it is actually really helping somebody else’s life.” When we asked Ryan if he had any particular method for handling his giving, he replied:

I set aside 10 percent of my income for the church and then the other giving with World Vision. I give to the church on a month-to- month basis and World Vision is through two larger payments twice a year, so it is doing a bit of planning in terms of the World Vision stuff because that is a sorta larger outflow of money at specific times a year, but yeah, there’s that planning aspect of it [emphasis added].

We followed up to ask how he makes the payments, and he said, “I usually write a check.”

In response we asked Ryan if he had any ideas about how this method may affect his pattern or amount of giving, and he said:

I think I give the way I do because I would like it to be a little bit more visible. I would like to be reminded of what I’m giving. I know one of the options for giving to the church is an automatic withdrawal from your bank account sort of plan, but I like the idea of having to write the check because I feel like it makes you think a little bit more about it. I think it gives you the opportunity to realize that you are grateful for what you have and that you have the opportunity to give money away, so I think there is a little bit more conscious thought in what you are doing rather than if it is an automatic withdrawal kind of situation [emphasis added].

Thus while for some it may be desirable not to have to think about giving money, Ryan specifically wants to put conscious thought into his financial planning. He voiced what could be a motto for Planned givers: “I think there is always the tendency that if you don’t plan for giving, you are not going to give.”

When asked how much she tends to focus on giving, Susan Baker describes a routine system and conscious decision-making process:

We’ve been married forever now. Originally [early in our marriage] it was like $10 here and $20 there, and we just felt like it was just out of control. We were giving little bits and pieces. And so then [my husband], being the brilliant financial master he is, said, “Okay, we need to focus.” So we sat down and brainstormed categories. [We said], “Okay. We have animal causes, we have people causes, we have whatever.” So we broke things up into causes and then looked at the various organizations we had been giving to and said, “Let’s just pick one. We don’t need to give to six different environmental causes, let’s pick one, and give them a large chunk of money that’s meaningful.” So I think about it a lot, but I’ve tried to stay focused on, we need to be narrow.

Discussing their overall giving goal, Susan said, “I think our goal at one point was we were shooting for $3,000, maybe $2,000. I don’t remember. [My husband] figured it out, cause he’s the financial wizard in the family. So he figured out what our total giving should be, and then we figured out how to divide it up.” Susan describes a cautious approach that typifies our Planned givers:

When I stop and think “Is this a worthwhile organization, and do I really want to give the money, and do I really want to support them?” Then yes, there are certain organizations for which I really do want to give the money. And if I had an infinite supply of it,

I would give them much more.

Susan shows how concern for the worthiness of charitable targets requires conscious, reflective thought about where to give to and how much.

 
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