If you want to touch the past,
touch a rock.
If you want to touch the present,
touch a flower.
If you want to touch the future,
touch a life.
This is how Carrie Morgridge, American philanthropist and author, starts her conversation about ‘giving’. In India to launch her book Every Gift Matters, Carrie is the vice-president of the Morgridge Family Foundation, which she founded with her husband John Morgridge in 2008.
The foundation is funded by an annual grant from the TOSA foundation, which was established by Carrie’s parents-in-law, former CEO of Cisco systems, John P. Morgridge and his wife Tashia Morgridge.
Carrie is a small-town girl who moved out of a troubled home when she could no longer bear to live with her stepdad.
Moving out was not easy, and she worked hard to support herself through school. When she was 18, she moved to the Bay Area, where she continued to work hard in the real estate business. Although she was slowly moving up the ladder, she realised that one job was not enough and so, on the weekend of her 20th birthday, started working as a cocktail waitress.
It was one of the nights when she was working at the bar that she met up with what she calls a "cute boy driving a convertible Ferrari." Some chasing later, the two connected and have been married for 25 years.
Carrie was in India to see the impact of her first international gift which she made to Yuva Unstoppable, an NGO that works for the education of underprivileged children.
“It is good to know that somebody else out there is doing something similar. We are working in different geographies but creating an impact and making a difference,” said Kumari Shibulal, the Founder of SD Foundation, which provides able young minds opportunities for growth through scholarships. SD Foundation was the host for Carrie’s book launch in Bengaluru.
YourStory caught up with Carrie during her visit to Bengaluru to talk about her first international gift that she says won’t be the last, her first impression of India, and why every gift matters. Excerpts:
What is philanthropy?
Philanthropy is about finding your passion but going to the root cause. When you really go to the root to solve a problem you become a true philanthropist. That is when you feel great.
My passion lies in seeing how things work, finding the root cause, solving it, and seeing the ripple effect it causes.
Every gift matters
I want people to find their passion. My key takeaway for them is to find their passion and start giving. In the context of the US, for example, if you are into animals, there are five different animal shelters doing five different things. So if you have a bad experience at one you move on to another one till you find the best match for yourself.
In India too I hope that there are more choices available in a chosen sector for those desirous of giving.
Giving is just not about helping the person on the other side. It is about us, about how we want to give, and how I want to receive from the giving. This is something I wanted to address in my book.
Also, people often ask, "How do you give? How do you do it every day?"
Giving to causes and/or religious institutions your thoughts
In the context of giving to religious institutions, it is a norm in both India and America. Only the numbers differ. In America, 50 percent of all giving goes to churches.
In India, 95 percent of giving goes to the temples and I do not think a lot of people on the streets feel that the temples are giving back to the community. My advice is to give to both your temple and to a cause that you are passionate about. It is important to find how the temples are using the money to do more for the community. People need to ask the temple about the use of funds and see how they can collaborate better to create an impact.
First international gift to Yuva Unstoppable
This is my first international gift. What first got me involved was when I heard that young girls were not going to school because they had to hold their pee the entire day. And now, from the gift we have made to create washrooms and refurbish the older ones, I can see how this small gift is making an impact.
It impacts the girls. A bathroom means the girls are no longer out of school. They have an opportunity at education. If women are uplifted then they have the power to uplift the entire community.
With a real bathroom and real drainage, with the waste going in the correct place, the environment benefits, too. After seeing the impact of this giving and visiting the schools and seeing the girls, I know that this will not be my last international gift.
In the US, I am a part of a group called Impact 101, which is about many women getting together. 100 women give $1,000 and make a $100,000 grant. But the grant has to be transformative, so impact circles get set up in cities. The women in the cities in which impact circles get set up know their city better than us. I am part of each impact circle so I feel a part of their movement and know that they know best and will do best. It has been my first-hand experience that when you empower women they lift up their whole community.
It’s not necessarily always about women's rights but about how can we empower women to empower themselves. And that is what I get most excited about.
Issues that matter: creativity in education
Technology is not just transforming education but also our lives. It is transforming how we check out from the grocery store or how we board an airplane. Technology is even transforming jobs. However, the one thing that our education system needs is conversations about testing creativity. What matters most is developing a great mind that can think, a mind that is creative! Look at Steve Jobs — he had a creative mind and see how he changed the world for us.
We don’t need a test taker; we need kids whose minds are rich with creativity! We need to use technology to change how we do formative assessments. My hope for the future is that we can use tech to make education different. We need to think about the future and see what we can teach children that is new and different.
First trip to India
I had what people told me was 'Delhi belly' that kept me in bed for a day and I had to miss out on my meetings. Thanks to my host, I was fine in 24 hours. That has been the sole low point of this trip but the highs have been many. I have met some incredible people. The smiles, the hope, and the joy I have seen, especially in the Yuva-supported schools I visited, have been an unbelievable blessing and will stay with me forever.
When you ask why one should give at all, all I will say is why should one not give? On the question of ‘how’ to give, my response is simple:
“Give from the heart.”
In Every Gift Matters, she writes, "One important lesson I have seen repeated time and again is that a small amount of money invested properly is life changing. We can all make a difference. We can all experience the immense joy of giving. I hope you will learn, as I have, that sharing with others makes us more grateful for everything we have," a lesson she clearly seems to live by.