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What motivates giving? This question has been asked of a number of philanthropy websites as part of this month’s Giving Carnival, and Look To The Stars has been invited to join in the discussion.

Hope is what motivates giving. People need to have hope for a better future. Once they feel hope for the future they are more free to explore ways in which they can help. I constantly come across charities and causes while working on Look To The Stars, and the ones that really grab my attention are not those that say, “We are desperate for help!”, but those that say, “We have done so much already, and here is how you can help us solve this problem.”

Picture a child looking at a messy room. He sees an unending and exhausting future. What the child needs is help to see that the task isn’t impossible, and that progress is inevitable. Once he sees that, he has hope, and he can start taking steps to clean things up.

Before supporting an organization, I want to see that it is making a difference. I want the group’s actions to give me hope that they will achieve their goals, and then I want to see how my donation is going to offer hope to others.

An example that really excited me is Oxfam's Unwrapped campaign. I looked at the site and could clearly see how my donation could make a difference in the lives of others. I could picture how so many lives could be helped with such a simple act, and I felt hope.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama is employing hope to excite voters across the U.S. His great success with fundraising and his sweeping wins of the last ten states seem to show that people do respond to a message of hope.

Celebrities who understand that hope is the key are able to carry their fans along on their philanthropic journeys, sharing the excitement that comes with being able to make a positive difference to the world. A classic example is Bono, who tirelessly manages to remind people that there is suffering in the world, while still offering a silver lining.

Celebrity economist Jeffrey Sachs and his Millennium Promise Alliance created hope and won countless supporters by showing that an enormous problem like poverty can be solved with clear, simple goals. More than 400,000 people across Africa are giving their time to this project. They have enough hope that poverty can be eradicated that they are there now, making a difference to hundreds of thousands of people.

Hope is a good feeling, and good people – like those who donate time or money to worthy causes – thrive on feeling it.

What do you think? Post your comments below.

For more on this topic from other participants of the Giving Carnival, visit starting Monday, February 25th.

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