Yes, this is an interesting headline coming from me, someone who has been raising money for various charities for the past seven years. But consider the following story and the lesson tied to it and reflect upon what that means when it comes to donating money to charity.
Donating Time and Money to People Versus Donating to Charity
Last December set record cold temperatures across the United States. North Dakota stayed on the wrong side of zero for most of the month. That time of year, it was on no one’s vacation radar. But that didn’t stop two young men and women from Florida from leaving the warmth of their home state to come to North Dakota. The four had been on a relentless search for work, but Florida’s economy had so far kept them unemployed.
They heard that North Dakota had a booming economy and lowest unemployment rate in the country. North Dakota was cold, but its job market was on fire. So last December, a week before Christmas, they boarded a bus for Bismarck. They were penniless and hopeful. They had no idea what they were getting into. Temperatures of -20 degrees Fahrenheit is just a number until you experience it. Backed by biting winds, a North Dakota winter can kill the unprepared in minutes.
Without a place to day, focus moved from finding a job to survival. A few days after their arrival, they found themselves panhandling in blankets outside of Walmart. They still harbored the hope of finding work, but for the moment a hot meal and surviving the night were what occupied their minds.
Meanwhile. . .
That same night my family was enjoying an evening together for the holidays. A poker game led to playing music, which then led to watching Netflicks. My brother Tyler had been at work and he came home around 10pm. Instead of joining in the festivities, he started making stew. My siblings and I interrogated Tyler—what’s with the stew dude? He had come home with two grocery sacks of ingredients and was making what appeared to be a bomb-ass stew indeed. Tyler acted evasively coy.
“What are you making?” we demanded of him.
Only reluctantly did he tell us what he was up to. Tyler had been doing a Wal-mart run and came across the down-and-out Floridians. Rather than just putting some cash in their dish, he took action. He purchased them a cheap hotel room. Then, he made them stew and brought it to them.
Tyler’s time and financial investments were small, but the payoff was huge. A few hours and a few hundred dollars got four down-and-out people back on their feet. This was far more bang for his buck than donating money to a charity that helps the temporary homeless.
Bismarck, North Dakota has millions of annual dollars invested in programs that help the homeless. Bismarck has hundreds of churches that ask for millions of dollars to help the needy. Don’t get me wrong, these are good services that do needed good work. But the flip-side is that the reason we need them in the first place is because the population relies on them to do that needed good work for them. But what would the world be like if it were filled with so many charitable hearts that there was no longer a need for charities? This is a question to be answered personally through action.
Donating Money to Charity is Good, But Donating Yourself is Better
Charities are a barrier between you and your charity. I’ve spent most of my post-college life working in or raising money for charity. So it means something when I say that more than the world needs your money, it needs your involvement.
Dentists are often very generous donors. But why do they need to donate money? They are dentists! There is so much need for pro bono dental work! If instead of donating money dentists set up their practices to donate 1% of their time, there would no longer be a no need for charities dedicated to providing dental services.
We live in a world where grocery store owners donate to charities that provide food for the hungry. Doctors donate to charities that provide medical care to the sick. Bankers donate to microloan programs instead of setting up their own.
More than the world needs your charitable donation, the world needs you. The world needs more charitable hearts that are willing to do more than sign a check. Donating your money can do good, but it is a removed and distant good. Giving of yourself connects you with the people you are helping and gives you a personal stake in the success of those you are helping.