By Betsy Brush Hahn
Women’s Fund of Smith County

So often we think of philanthropy and giving as a way to meet people’s physical needs. We empathize with their hunger, lack of shelter or education and are eager to make a difference. All very real and important things. But a financial gift can also provide something even more important that the receiver will never forget – it often provides encouragement.

I was working with three scholarship recipients to record video thank you messages one day. Each in turn recorded a short message to those who had given a scholarship which reduced their tuition burden. Talking afterwards, the students shared their amazement and gratitude that people who didn’t know them at all would freely give money to support their education.  “They thought of me and believed in me when I wasn’t even sure I could get into this program. They were so sure I would make it, they gave money even before I enrolled. That’s just something I have to get my head around – that people actually do that. I’m going to give a scholarship one day. I know I’ll make a great salary when I graduate, that’s one reason I wanted to do this program. And it will be fun to give someone behind me a scholarship and see them be amazed like I am!”

The students didn’t talk about how relieved they were to have the money. They talked about how encouraged they were that people they didn’t know believed in them. The scholarships inspired them all to live to a higher standard, to aim for something even beyond graduating and pursuing a career, paying their own way. Receiving a gift started a new cycle of giving.

Another example came from a visiting nurse who works for a local nonprofit program. She visited a new, teenage mom who was living with her mother and grandmother. During the visit, the girl’s mother criticized her sharply and repeatedly. The nurse gently turned the comments around, pointing out all the good things the youngest mother had learned and was implementing to care for her baby. The visit had started with little or no eye contact, but gradually as her nurse and mentor spoke, the girl looked up and straighten up. She began to smile and make eye contact with her new baby. The nurse thought this may have been the first affirmation – the first expression of confidence in her abilities – the young mother had ever received.

What would it be like? To have never, ever heard one good or encouraging thing about yourself? Gifts that support this nurse-family partnership program provided not only essential health care but also the encouragement and confidence needed to inspire real, positive change. Maybe for the first time in three generations.

Your financial gifts provide so much more than tangible support. If you are a giver, you have no doubt also been a receiver. You benefited from someone’s generosity, belief in you and encouragement. What is best gift you’ve ever received? What was it? Who gave it to you and why? My guess is that it encouraged you and spurred you on to bigger and better things.

Giving and philanthropy often provide for the very real need people have to be encouraged and to believe in themselves.

Betsy Brush Hahn is Associate Director of Major Gifts at The University of Texas Health Science Center Tyler. She serves on the Grants Committee of the Women’s Fund of Smith County and believes that encouraging others is one of the most important things we can do. For more information on mission and membership to this Giving Circle of Women, please visit