One of the best things in our businesses is the joy of supporting worthwhile causes and projects. As a spiritual practice, our giving flows from our relationship with God, so with each opportunity, we try to step back from the pitch and ask "Is this something we are to support at this time?" I have spent a great deal of time business leaders and they too struggle under the volume of requests for financial support and trying to discern where and to what to support. Some find themselves bleeding cash and others categorically refuse every request, but somewhere between these two extremes is healthy generosity. To help us navigate the seemingly endless and often worthy and convincing requests we have:
- formulated a list of kinds of charities we like to support. For us children, homeless, Cancer Society and African HIV / AIDS crisis. This doesn't mean we don't support other causes when we feel a leading from God to do so but generally, these causes are the types we are passionate about and you maybe passionate about other things, politics, disaster relief, food banks and so forth. Knowing what kinds of causes are closest to our hearts helps us narrow the field. Often the causes we are most passionate about are leading from God.
- Within those categories, we also have an idea of what ways we like to support. For example, our retail kite company donates significant numbers of kites to children camps and support programs. We choose to support the Cancer Society through the Relay for Life. For the homeless, there are a couple of shelter outreaches we support financially along with a medical charity that educates and works in Africa to treat and reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. There may be a different shelter next year or a different Cancer Society campaign in the new year! The point is there is flexibility as inspired by love but the healthy boundaries help us discern which charities we'll support.
- How much money is always a tough one. We budget a certain amount of our income for these purposes. I think most of us feel really good when we give the big cheques and conversely some of us may feel guilty when they aren't as big. This guilt can be alleviated as we stop and try to sense what God may be saying to us. Remember it is about loving obedience NOT sacrifice and sometimes it can be very "Kingdom" to give a little. Part of the discernment process is to consult your budget - you may choose to exceed your budget but you do so informed. The important thing is to give - a little or a lot is a detail secondary to the decision to give.
- Widow's Mite is a story from the bible. It tells the story of a collection taking place and the rich folks in town are making a show our tossing in their many coins and a poor widow makes her offering which by contrast is very small. We read that Jesus commends the widow because she gave what she could from her poverty and the rich gave from their wealth. For the rich is was not an act of charity it was a show of how generous they are for the widow it was an act of love. What matters is you share and you share it in love.
- Sometimes we keep secret what we share as sometimes it is healthy to not let our right hand know what or left is doing! However sometimes in humility, our generosity can inspire generosity in others and encourage them to healthy giving. Prayerful consideration will help you discern this.
- Don't feel guilty. Sometimes we feel guilty when we have to say "no" to a worthwhile charity but the truth is you can't support everything and this is okay. We cannot be responsible for the weight of the whole world and we must trust that God is resourcing and inspiring others too who may have a genuine passion for a charity that may not stir you as deeply. Be at peace with this and resist the social pressure to be obligated to support something that you personally don't sense life in. Live in freedom and shake off the manipulation of the pitch and give or not give as you feel led and have means to do.
Giving is a wonderful gift to us personally and has many benefits and we should find life and joy in doing so. If we aren't finding life in it perhaps we are outside our area of passion or struggling under the weight of obligation and guilt. If this is the case, step back re-evaluate in light of prayer! Relax and trust God to lead you!
5 Often Underestimated Benefits of Generosity
- A deepening sense of Significance - investing in the lives of others multiplies 'success with significance' in others.
- It makes us feel good! - who doesn't like to help!
- Cultivates Personal Gratitude - Thankfulness is a wonderful attitude. Giving is a healthy outflowing of gratitude
- It makes a difference! - Love always makes a difference in people's lives. Your choice to love will expand your capacity to love!
- It connects us to our communities and the world at large - this is a gift of perspective!