Giving by Bill Clinton is a wonderful collection of a wide range of examples and stories of giving in all forms: time, skills, money and things. The book features every kind of giver – people of all age groups, of varied economic and social backgrounds in different continents, innovators and replicators, people of different religious faiths, the rational and emotional giver, the one-time and perpetual giver. It is highly likely that every reader will be inspired or provoked by at least one story.
The book is more than just a compilation of ideas. Clinton explains some situations in more detail than others but manages to give key facts regarding the costs involved and the impact of various acts of giving. In the non-profit world where most case studies and reports focus on describing process and explain the challenge of measurement against indicators, Clinton reports numbers and feedback provided to donors. So much so, that I worry that the book might create high donor expectations regarding programme output/outcome figures.
True to its title, the book is aimed at just about everyone. It gives a menu of giving options and it is hard to think that the examples apply only to the rich and privileged, to someone else and not ‘me’. It is hard to put down the book without feeling a sense of the power one has to make a difference. There are several instances when you feel either guilty or ashamed of not having given enough. Clinton has used a simple style of writing in first person. Having heard his speeches so often, one can nearly hear his voice.
The book itself can be a great gift to every potential giver. I can easily imagine CEOs of corporates, successful entrepreneurs and professionals at least glancing through the pages of such a gift because of the author. It stands a good chance of provoking into action at least a small number. For those who are actively seeking to give and exploring options for making large gifts, or considering options for starting an enterprise to serve the underprivileged or searching for career options with a non-profit that matches their interests and skills, this book fills an existing gap. It has been my standard recommendation to all such people who have recently approached me for information. For intermediaries like GiveIndia that connect donors and non-profits, this is a useful book to motivate donors. For non-profits, it is an interesting source of information about who is doing what, a starting point to search for models to replicate, independently or through collaboration. There are a number of good ideas for tapping donors, informing and engaging them, that lie scattered across the book. The book does not end in its 240 pages because of the valuable list of websites provided in the resources section.
One could criticize the author for the predominance of examples from organizations and individuals personally known to him and his very layman style of writing. I believe these very things make the book attractive. The inside account of giving situations, with impact details and ready-to-use information, make you ready to give. The book fulfils its purpose as stated by the author: ‘I wrote this book to encourage you to give whatever you can, because everyone can give something. And there’s so much to be done, down the street and around the world. It’s never too late or too early to start.’
Pushpa Aman Singh is COO, GiveIndia. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Giving: How each of us can change the world – Bill Clinton
Alfred A Knopf $24.95