Social Media: Giving Without Expecting Anything in Return

I had a painful sore throat that lingered for weeks. I was exhausted. My children had one illness after another—croup, bronchitis, the stomach flu, high fevers, sinus infection. They only had to be in the same room with each other and the germs would jump with glee off one child and run over the next. All of this within six weeks.

I was on the phone cancelling yet another activity when my friend said, “I’m bringing you a meal and I won’t take no for an answer.”

I stammered, “Oh, I think we’ll be okay—“

“I’ll be over this afternoon. ”

Later she delivered a huge pan of Mexican lasagna, homemade applesauce, and freshly baked blueberry muffins and cookies. And to top it off, she’d stopped by Dairy Queen and picked up small blizzards for each of us.

As I spread out the meal on the table, my daughters looked at everything in amazement and said, “That was really nice of her to give us a meal like this. We’ll need to give her a meal sometime in return.”

“Yes, we can do that,” I started. But then I realized I had a teachable moment not just for my daughters but for myself too. “Actually, Mrs. M. gave us this wonderful meal without expecting anything in return. She wanted to do it because her gift is showing mercy to those in need.”

“Just like your gift is writing?”

“Yes. And when we’re using our talents to serve others, we enjoy doing it without thought of reward or payback from others.”

My friend used her gift sacrificially in a way that said, “I want to give to you, not from what I can gain, but because I truly care about you.”

Her example made me pause and evaluate if I’m using my gift of writing to serve others without thought of reward. In a day and age when sales numbers matter and statistics make or break future book deals, is it even possible for writers to give without secretly hoping it will profit us?

Of course when we write with passion and pour our souls into our books, we give a piece of ourselves. Whether it’s inspiration, hope, or just plain entertainment, we’re giving something through the tales we spin.

But can our giving go beyond that? Are there other ways we can give to our readers—without expecting increased book sales or accolades or anything else in return?

In a recent Marketing Webinar I attended, writers were encouraged to think about how we can incorporate giving into our marketing and publicity. In the internet age we may be able to initially attract readers to our blogs or websites. But what do we have that will keep them there and then foster them coming back? Here are a few ideas:

*Make a fundamental shift in our attitudes. We can start to look at our marketing more in terms of connecting with our readers and giving them something of value without thought of how it benefits us. In other words, we can’t make our social media sites all about us and our books, but should work at shifting the focus to our readers and what they want or need.

*Look for opportunities to give without expecting anything in return. Most of us can smell out the scent of selfish giving—especially those sites that offer us something in an effort to promote themselves. I’m usually hesitant to participate in book drawings or other giveaways that are clearly self-serving, but I'm much more likely to join in when I sense a "no-strings-attached" attitude.

*Find unique and practical ways to give to others. Actual book giveaways are the most popular. But there are other possibilities: resource lists, links to helpful sites, encouraging advice, inspiration. Some websites offer reader pages that include games, quizzes, extra information, etc. The point is to begin to be on the lookout for how we can serve and minister to the needs of our readers.

My friend’s example of selfless-giving is one I’d like to imitate in my writing. It’s one we’d all do well to imitate in any situation. I’d like to get to a place where I can honestly say, “I want to give not from what I can gain, but because I truly care.”

How about you? How hard or easy is it to give without expecting anything in return? Have you ever considered the concept of giving in your marketing efforts? What other ways do you give or have you seen others give on social media sites?


  1. First, what a wonderful friend! A great example right there. :-)
    I like how you've tied this into writing and marketing. I think you're onto something. It's def. a biblical principle too.

  2. Terrific post! I have a friend like yours, always anticipating others' needs and giving of herself, alway so cheerfully. She inspires me to do better.

    I like how you applied this to writing, you've definitely giving me something to think about today...thanks!

  3. Another amazing post. You have a wonderful friend there. Treasure it.
    I find the world of childrens writers are mostly very generous with giving of their time and energy to help others. Just post a question on Verla Kay or SCBWI boards and be amazed at the time complete strangers will put into helpful and thoughtful responses.

  4. I love to encourage. It fuels me to do so and sometimes it feels weird to get something in return for it.

    What an awesome point you make here today. I think more skilled writers can give of their wisdom. Editor-minded folk can give of their time. I love how some authors provide great writing resource links.

    And finally, I appreciate your definition of marketing focusing on connection. I believe that is the purest way to market anything--to build upon relationships.

    Very cool post.
    ~ Wendy

  5. What inspiring post. I take from this something so note worthy- you don't have to spend lots of money to give.Just look for the need and give from the heart.

    Awesomm post again, Jody. This is why you have an agent. Talented.

  6. So true. I think it's in our encouragement of others, being there to read over a query letter, support another. It's a different kind of giving. It's giving of our time and our emotions to get involved with and support others.

  7. Awesome post!! I try to encourage when I write my posts--because we all need that in this process and I know how I feel when I read something that gives me that little nudge to keep going.

  8. I think blogging is a way to give without expecting anything in return. Just sharing a bit of yourself, ideas, wit, wisdom.

  9. Thanks for the post to remind us to be kind to one another without expecting something in return.

    As mother's I think we learn this lesson pretty early on.

    We just need to go beyond our family in our giving.

    I'll now look for ways to give back - I've been given so much in my life!

    Thanks, Jody!
    Blessings on your day, B

  10. Thanks Jody for sharing this. Your friend is indeed generous. Its a good lesson to all of us to show our generosity by our selfless acts, without expectations of any kinds.

  11. What a wonderful teaching moment. I'm glad your friend helped you out.

    I've been so impressed with the writing-blogging community the last few weeks since the floor in Tennessee. Have you seen the auctions set up, with writers offering books and agents offering critiques to raise money for flood victims?

  12. This is so wise, Jody. I have thought about it a lot, especially because my memoir was published non-traditionally. I knew then, that it was a gift of love from me to those who might need to hear its message of healing, and most definitely not about making money. Detaching from that kind of outcome wasn't easy, but it was definitely the right thing for me.

  13. Silly, you already do. That's why I come back to your blog day after day.

    Your friend sounds amazing, by the way. Aren't we blessed to have people like her in our lives?

    Have a great weekend!

  14. Jody, this is one of the best lessons I've learned from you. Thank you for sharing your story, and applying it to writing. I need to ponder this hard.

  15. Jody, such wonderful advice.

    Thank you for inspiring me to greater things.

  16. Your friend is amazing, first off.

    Quite personally, I make it a habit to give a little something every day without expectation of anything. Buy someone lunch; send a gift card or a chocolate bar because I feel like it - just because I like seeing someone smile.

    Writing is definitely a form of giving - not as specific as treating someone to a meal, but it's giving in a broader sense, especially now. It's something we writers give to the world, simply because we love it.

  17. Jody, if Al Gore ever asks, you INVENTED this concept! I have trouble finding ways to be so effectively helpful in others' lives when my main skill is operating a piece of equipment almost no one owns, but I love to help people with air travel questions. Does that count?

    I recall from Philosophy 101 the debate about whether any act can be considered truly selfless, if helping others gives us pleasure, and that's what a lot of this comes down to.

    To me, Life's all about finding as many WIN/WIN scenarios, like the

    It's in our predatory nature to be selfish, and as we live, that's later strengthened with cynicism by getting left behind too many times.

    But we're also social animals capable of fantastic altruism when we see cases where a relatively small sacrifice on our part can be multiplied many times in benefit to someone we value who has far less. That's what's resulted in this little thing we call "civilization" - why we're not running around naked with spears and parasites. (Except maybe on special occasions, of course.)

    Case in point, you and your blog.

    Thank you for all you do for all of us. Now don't be a stranger when you go flying next, ok?

  18. Theresa asked: Have you seen the auctions set up, with writers offering books and agents offering critiques to raise money for flood victims?

    My Answer: Hi Theresa! Yes, I have seen that!! Isn't that so cool? And actually, my agent, Rachelle Gardner is auctioning a 30 minute phone call. She's smart, savvy, and I'm sure the bid will be worth every penny. Besides it's for an excellent cause.

  19. Great post, Jody! I think giving unconditionally, i.e. neither expecting nor hoping for something in return, is actually energizing. You put your energy in w/out using energy wondering, worrying, hoping, calculating what you might get in return. We all have different ways in which we can give and those ways change as we change.
    Thanks for a thought provoking post!

  20. At first I thought you were writing about our family (illness just hangs on and on and on)! Know you're not alone with illnesses this year!! What a wonderful life lesson to teach the kids! We tells our not to expect in return but this was a real life situation. Great job bringing the point home!

  21. Beautiful post. I've often wondered how I can use my writing to give back, and I think I did this past Valentine's Day. Rather than give my husband yet another gift he really didn't need, I wrote a blog post about him and all of the wonderful things he does for me every day.

    It brought tears to his eyes, and he told me that open letter to him was more than enough. My heart swelled with joy and pride.

  22. Giving is one of the things I have always enjoyed and done well. I love to give unconditionally - it fills me with joy. I never thought about it from a writing perspective, though. As always, another brilliant post. :-)

  23. I'd like to think I can give without expecting anything in return. I like all of your points, and hope that I can be a force for positive things in my real life and my online endeavors. I think that's what I've been trying to accomplish with my pay it forward activities.

  24. This is a lovely post and definitely something to remember! I love giving back whenever I can. I wish I could do a "no-strings attached" blog contest! My husband and I are beginning our house hunting right now, and I'm sure many people know how tight things get financially there. Hopefully in the future I'll be able to give more to my awesome followers and blog buddies!

  25. I was going to mention Rachelle, and all the other people donating things for the Nashville flood victims...I think it is all just so amazing. It's really heartening to see the writing community take action.

    How blessed you are to have a friend who would do that for you :) Have a great weekend!

  26. Jody, you are an excellent example of an author who gives of herself and her time. Your blog is a gift, one I anticipate three times a week. Thanks!

  27. I hope your family has finally reached the end of the health issues cycle, Jody. I know it's hard to be a constant caregiver when you're not feeling well yourself. Your friend was very thoughtful and a real blessing to you and your family.

    Writing as a part time or full time career means we hope to be able to make some kind of living from it so I don't think we should feel guilty about our expectations of a return for our effort, especially if we're using a God-given talent. That's the business aspect of our lives. But there has to be separation between what we do for a living and who we are as individuals. There needs to be more to us than constant promotion of our work. Giving back in gratitude is one response; giving in compassion is another.

    I like your suggestion of looking for unique and practical ways to give. Writing devotionals without reimbursement, or offering how-to, inspirational and encouraging articles on our websites all seem like good ways to give back. We'd have to examine our own hearts about our expectations, mind you, especially if such things helped to increase traffic to our websites.

    The motivation for book giveaways doesn't strike me as selfless, because no matter how delighted I might be to receive a free book (and I always am!) I know that the author is hoping the gift will widen awareness of his/her name and titles. There's a place for that in marketing but it shouldn't be the only kind of 'giving' a writer does.

    So there -- that's my two cents worth! :)

  28. That's why God brought us all together to help one another. Great teachable moment with your girls. :O)

  29. The older I get the easier it becomes to give without expectation. I have learned the hard way what expectations can do to you. I wrote a devotional booklet years ago and Im still giving them away to people. It feels great to help someone - I know my reward will come in another time or never. I dont mind.

  30. This is how Christ always wants us to live in everything we do. If I haven't internalized it and applied it to everything, even my writing, I need to get to work -- on my own heart.

    Good post. Great illustration!

  31. Such a great post, Jody.

    You're absolutely right. Giving is much more gratifying when done without expecting anything in return. On the internet or otherwise.

  32. What a wonderful story to start with!

    It's really about relationship, isn't it? I don't feel like I'm the one in charge of my writing career, so giving without expectation of return doesn't bother me. If I follow, I'll end up where I need to be.

  33. Hmm, I don't think I've thought of it in regards to marketing. I guess because the goal of marketing is to get name recognition and to sell books, so even if it isn't a direct return on investment, that's still our goal.

    However, I DO think it is really important to "give without expecting something in return." What a wonderful thing to teach your kiddos! And I think as writers, we can totally do that. I've heard authors tell about doing things "probono" where they give out a book to someone who can't otherwise afford it, or offer a free critique to help a newbie writer.

    To whom much is given, much is expected:-)

    Oh, and that said (I say that a lot...) I think book giveaways on blogs are fun and a good marketing tool.

  34. This is one thing I've been trusting the Lord for wisdom on, for opportunities such as these. There have been so many helpful people along my writing path and I desire to be a blessing to others.
    Good post, and glad you are all finally feeling better:)

  35. This is a great concept! I agree, and I find that being generous on social media, in terms of promoting other people's blogs, tweets, and projects, usually ends up paying off in the long run (although I never expect it to).

  36. Jody, this post makes me yearn for something that seems utopian in today's writing world. I would love to just write from the heart, and not feel an ounce of pressure to promote my work; to know that without any kind of marketing effort on my part, I could just give and not expect a return. But that pressure is there and I'm not sure how to make it disappear. There are many areas in which I give with little expectation of a return. My mothering is an example of that. Of course, I do hope my kids will turn out to be human beings who can contribute to society in healthy ways, but I don't have any specific thoughts as to how they need to carry that out at this point, anyway. And yet I pour so much of my life into them...unconditionally. In addition, my giving as a church cantor and radio host are both volunteer. I do them because I love inspiring others and promoting others who have a wonderful message to share. I love these activities because there are so few expectations on what I might receive, other than to bring more people to Christ. Even in that, my underlying desire is that they know the love of Christ more deeply, and that's it! :) (Look what you drew out of me -- whoah!)

  37. I think it is important to teach your children as you do. They will become caring adults.
    You chose a great way of explaining your friend's actions to them.
    It was also a good way to compare how we share our words.
    I would like a few nice words said about my finished work.I do not expect it though, I just think it would be a nice thing to happen. I am not greedy, it is not about the money. Just a 'well done you finished' will satisfy me.

  38. Hi Jodi,
    I just posted an award for you at my blog. Please feel free to stop by and pick it up. Hope you are having a great weekend.

  39. Hi Jody, I love reading your posts. I think the artists and writers putting their creative skills towards charity work (such as for Nashville, and Haiti recently) is a great example of how to give back to the wider community. I would like to think that if the giving is done with zero expectation on the return, then its even better, just my opinion. ;)

  40. Jody, this is a beautiful post, I felt nudged over here for the golden nuggets ;) as usual I have much respect for you and your blog ;).. so thank you for that!
    I do love to give, although I admit sometimes I have those moments of expecting maybe not from someone but from a lifestyle of always giving.. I think that comes from past over-nurturing roles. There is a happy balance that I am finding and it is so rewarding! To be replenished in one's own and to always have enough to overflow that is the beauty I am trying to find in God. Also learning so much of mercy lately and realizing how much God wants to pour out freely to us our deepest desires.. it just blows my mind.. so this post really applies to my journey lately. Thank you for sharing! I appreciate you! ~Jenn

  41. Great timing for your post. I've decided to go ahead with starting up a 2nd blog. This one will be about writing etc.

    Both my devo blog and my writing blog are designed to help others. (Well, that's the aim anyways)

  42. It's sorta funny that I read this right after reading your post from 6 months ago about "why blog comments matter". ;)

  43. Oh, I LOVE this post! This is the point where the rubber hits the road and you have to ask yourself, why am I doing this? Writing is a business but it's also an expression of art that God gave us to be used for His glory. When all three of those elements combine, it's a magnificent thing, isn't it? I've not delved into the give-aways in my blog because I feel like I don't have anything to give. But you've given me a new perspective and one that I'll be chewing on for awhile. Thank you!

  44. What a beautiful friend & lesson for your kids! :)

    I do give without expecting anything in return. It feels wonderful to give and see someone's face light up. It's also nice to give without that person (or others) being aware who the giver was. When it brings joy to the receiver, it brings joy the to giver.

    You give all the time via your blog. Sharing your knowledge from "the inside" as a soon-to-be-published author is insight most wouldn't come close to otherwise. Thanks for what you share! :)

  45. It's a reassuring reminder to hear that there are people like your friend in the world.

    Giving selflessly as a writer? Hmm...
    I find that to be a contradictory stance for a professional author to take, unless of course they've made it as a successful author.

    But then I'd differentiate the person as a professional author and the person as a person.

    Take a baker for instance, one that is struggling to pay rent, buy supplies, support her/his family... how much bread can he simply give away? Should he give away bread? Or should his charitable impulse be mostly channeled through his private life.

    An aspiring author is in a similar position...
    I suppose, as in most things, the trick is to find the balance.

  46. This post hit a chord with me. When I set my new year's intentions in January, one was to inspire, move and connect with others through my writing. Time to reflect on how well I'm accomplishing this. Thanks for the reminder.

  47. What a beautiful post. You've probably given unselfishly to your friend without even realizing it! That's what good friends do.

    I hope everyone is feeling better.

  48. I love to help others in any way I can. I sometimes feel guilty because it makes me feel so good in return.

    One lesson I had to learn was to be better about letting others do things for me. I would be really bad about jumping in to help, but never asking when I needed it in return. A close friend of mine explained to me how it made her feel to always be helped and never feel she could repay me because I would always turn down help, saying that 'I was fine and not to worry', etc. I'd never thought about this and I felt quite bad about it. It forced me to be better about asking for and accepting help if I need it, because others deserve to get that feeling of fufillment too.

    Great post!


© All the articles in this blog are copyrighted and may not be used without prior written consent from the author. You may quote without permission if you give proper credit and links. Thank you!