by James Hodge and Scott Arthur, Founders of Appreciative Philanthropy

As the self-proclaimed “Boys of Joy,” James Hodge and Scott Arthur have made it their professional mission to increase the joy in philanthropy by teaching development professionals to infuse their work with the joy—and awe—of helping benefactors realize their philanthropic visions.

“There are two kinds of people and organizations in the world: eaters and bakers. Eaters want a bigger slice of an existing pie; bakers want to make a bigger pie.”

 —Guy Kawasaki, Enchantment

Simply put, we in philanthropy have to stop being takers and start being bakers. While doing so, we invite philanthropists to pound, roll out the crust, and co-create the next important pie for our organizations. We are not the corner bakery shop where we yell out, “Take a number and we will sell you something.” We are back behind the curtain mixing, creating and innovating, stretching and reaching beyond the ordinary with our benefactors.

For it is in creating that we experience the awe of an important idea. Studies abound that confirm a walk through the redwoods or the experience of seeing the Milky Way for the first time fills us with awe. Paradoxically, that view makes us feel smaller and, at the same time, part of something that is bigger than we are and that will echo beyond our lifetimes. The beautiful thing is that an important, compelling, and investment-worthy idea has the same awe-inspiring effect. According to Philip Zimbardo of Stanford and Zeno Franco of the Medical College of Wisconsin, the presence of a “heroic imagination” can turn ordinary folks into heroes. Such an imagination enables us to “consider how we might engage in bravery when the time comes to answer a challenge.” It reminds us of Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth. Make no small promises, take on no small quests, and bake no small pies, as they have no power to inspire gifts of significance.

Merely gazing at a picture of the Grand Canyon or the redwoods, for example, fills us with awe, inspiring us to act more altruistically according to a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (Credit to Meghan Holohan)

In that study, Paul Piff, the researcher and assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, reports, “The importance of experiencing awe facilitates positive behavior toward others.”

“It is faith that moves mountains, not facts. Facts do not give birth to faith. Faith needs a story to sustain it—a meaningful story that inspires belief in you and renews hope that your ideas do indeed offer what you promise. Genuine influence goes deeper than getting people to do what you want them to do. It means people pick up where you left off because they believe.”

—Annette Simmon

Picking up where you left off. Handing off the baton. Passing each other along in life. This is the arena where we feel both small, and yet a part of something bigger, essentially right, and clearly important. We don’t want to feel obligated to write a check, but rather to right a wrong, to leave the community and the world a better place by having been here, to seek the answers to what’s next, and to lift and serve.

If we practice philanthropy in this way, it becomes contagious, and we can never return to the world of selling and telling. To stretch out the metaphor: One will never get a 16-inch pie back into an 8-inch pie pan.

Once we experience awe and the caring and sharing it inspires, we are called to the quest and want to be part of an epic journey.  We experience joy. And once we experience joy, we want to feel it again. There will be no going back to funding needs of an organization; there will be only the draw of meaning, purpose, and impact on our lives and the lives of others. Awe, according to research, makes us kinder and more generous. So get your aspiration in gear and let’s create spiritual points along the horizon upon which we can all fix our eyes. We call this being a horizon maker for your organization.

In creating horizons, we must abandon scheming to get a gift, and take up dreaming to create what’s next.

Scott and Jim


Put awe back into your fundraising efforts! Be inspired by Scott and Jim by attending Changing Hearts, Changing Minds, a workshop in which they share and explore ways to inspire significant philanthropy, invigorate staff, and transform your organization through principal and major giving.

Learn more about Changing Hearts, Changing Minds