Are you a giver, taker, or matcher? | Beth's Blog

Are you a giver, taker, or matcher?


Points of Light annual Conference on Volunteering and Service kicks off today.  Best Selling Author Adam Grant, “Give and Take” will be doing a big session called “It’s About Science! Unpacking the Relationship Between Volunteering, the Brain and the Body” on June 20th.  I was invited to a briefing session with other media and bloggers to learn more.

I first head of this book after reading this article in the New York Times back in March, 2013.  I immediately ordered a copy and I’ve been reading and re-reading it.   So many of the ideas resonate that it is one of those books where I’m highlighting and making notes.  So much of it applies to those of us who work in the social change sector and have a deep sense of giving back.

The main thesis in the book is that in a networked world success depends  on how we interact with others.  only Grant suggests there are three different styles:  Givers (those who give to others without an expect for a return);  “Matchers” (those who give to get  something in return); and “Takers” (those who pretend to be givers, but are only motivated but what they gain.   The book shares many insights about how effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation, and leadership skills can to success for “Givers.”    In short, nice people can finish first in a networked world.


The book web site has a self-assessment so you can figure out your style.  I scored 93% as a giver with 7% as a matcher.    Here’s what it told me:

This means that in your interactions with others, your core motivation is to contribute as much as you can. You probably spend many of your waking hours helping others, connecting people who can benefit from knowing each other, and offering mentoring and advice.

When you develop new connections, you might look at your expanded network as a way to benefit more people. When you collaborate with others, you’re probably inclined to put the good of the group above your own interests, and you may go out of your way to share credit. When you evaluate people, you look for potential, often seeing the best in others. At the bargaining table, odds are that you’re concerned not only about your own outcome, but also about leaving your negotiating counterparts better off.

Interesting food for thought.

I particularly enjoyed the stories and insights from the chapter about how these different styles build their networks.   Grant raises a question, “Can people build up networks that have breadth and depth using different reciprocity styles?  Do givers, takers, or matchers consistently create richer networks.    Having assessed my style as giving, here’s some notes:

  • Giver’s build networks dramatically different than takers or matchers.  The key difference is that givers give more than they hope to receive.   When takers and matchers give, they focus on who can help them in the future.
  • Reciprocity is a powerful social norm., but comes with some downsides.  People on the receiving end often feel they like they are being manipulated.   When favors come with strings attached, it leave a bad taste, feeling more like a transaction than a relationship.
  • Matchers are vulnerable to a second downside of  reciprocity – building close knit smaller networks than either takers or givers.      When matchers build their networks, they only direct their attention towards people who they think can help them – and ignore those that can’t.   This limits networks and bridging to new ideas or connections with potential payoffs.
  • Giver networks have a balance of strong and weak ties.  The latter are acquaintances, the people we know casually and strong ties are those that we have close relationships with. The key to success is both.

Like me, Adam Grant is a LinkedIn Influencer and he expanded on some of the ideas in his books about how givers build networks.  You’ll find the post here.

What’s your style?   Are you a Giver, Taker, or Matcher?

3 Responses

  1. kare says:

    Beth, what a great and pithy primer for Adam’s book which has been so helpful to me. it was a delight to see him talk about it at Book Passage recently and then to dine with him and some of the generous people cited in his book. Here are some of my thoughts on his book

  2. Beth says:

    Kare: Thanks so much for sharing your post .. this book has helped me so much.

  3. […] brilliant Beth Kanter has recently blogged about ‘Give and Take’, especially in relation to networks, reciprocity circles and volunteering, and about meeting Adam […]