LENOX -- Author/consultant Barbara Bonner has spent much of her professional life spearheading the fundraising efforts of a host of large museums, educational institutions and non-profit organizations.

Over that span, she said, she discovered at least one basic truth: Giving money is one thing; being generous is something else entirely.

Her book, "Inspiring Generosity," (Wisdom Publications, Boston), is a series of stories, poems and observations about the latter concept.

Bonner's book launch party and her speech about generosity was one of the highlights of the opening weekend of the fourth annual Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, which runs through the end of this month.

There are a total of 58 events featuring about 150 women, according to event founder and organizer Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez.

"We started out with about 40 events that first year, and we're up to 58," she said. "We try not to make it highbrow, and we try to make sure there is a local connection at most of our events."

A vast majority of the events are multi-generational, said de Hernandez. A majority of them are free. For a complete listing of this year's events and venues, go to www.berkshirewomenwriters.org.

On Sunday, Bonner spoke before a standing-room only crowd of about 75 at The Mount. Many members of the local nonprofit community were in attendance.

Bonner pointed out that, growing up in her native Ohio, she came from a family of privilege. But, she said, she did not see many particularly notable acts of generosity from that community.

Bonner said she became fascinated by the world of fundraising and gift-giving. For many years, she worked as someone who raised money for nonprofit groups.

Over this time, she said, she witnessed "many profound acts of generosity. I saw how it changed people's lives.

"I believe in the power of inspiration, and that generosity is inspiring," she said.

"We all have something to give, and it's not necessarily money. A smile, a word of encouragement, a kind gesture."

Bonner illustrated her point by telling in her book the stories of 14 "generosity heroes".

She shared three with the audience, including the story of a man who spent a month donating any money he had to literally anyone who asked him; a woman, despite losing her job, who gave away $1,000 of her savings a week for a year and a nurse on Block Island who often donates her services to the less-fortunate members of the island.

In all these cases, she said, the donor was as much, if not more, affected by their acts.

Since she finished the book, said Bonner, she continues to receive tales of extraordinary generosity, which, she said, continues to inspire her.

Following Bonner's address, she hosted a book-signing party featuring champagne.

To reach Derek Gentile:
dgentile@berkshireeagle.com,
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On Twitter: @DerekGentile