As with most things that are difficult, it requires an act of generosity. The act of generosity in this is to recognise the fact that learning can come from anyone, and then to seek it out. Of course, it is easier said than done, but it is an act of generosity towards others and towards yourself also.
Whether it is your own business or you are working for someone else, here are three benefits for supporting a charity, with 1 proviso:
- Good for your staff
We know that today, more than ever, business employees are looking for much more than a pay-check to take home. They are looking for career advancement, flexibility, autonomy and purpose. A great way to assist employees to find their purpose is to align with a charity through generosity. That way, your staff know that as they help the business grow and become more profitable, they are creating a positive impact on the world as you donate some of the profit to a worthy cause. This can provide your staff with a greater sense of pride, well-being and team cohesion just by turning up to work on Monday morning.
2. Good for your customers
Having an intentional alignment with a charity can positively impact your customers as they understand that just by making a regular purchase they are also impacting the world positively. Like employees, customers are looking to do much more with their purchasing power and showing them that your business is good for the world will assist them in finding some purpose in their daily life.
3. Good for your business
Good news and positive experiences are some of the best marketing tools as word of mouth spreads. Making a positive difference through a relationship with a charity is good marketing material as existing customers notice it, get excited about it and entice new customers. It is also extra social media content for you as you highlight the charity that you support.
Plus it will also bring good staff to you as potential employees see the relationship with the charity as the point of difference between your business and others in the same industry.
Proviso: The charity that you choose has to be aligned with your values. It cannot be something that you do just get good press, people will see through that very quickly. The key is to build a relationship authentically with a charity that can grow over time and show real impact.
I can remember receiving my first ever pay-packet. I was super excited to get it. It was back before it was all sent electronically; I was called into the cash office of the supermarket and was handed an envelope with actual cash in it. I still remember the feel of that small, windowless, locked office, and the smell of the envelope in my hand. There was no greater feeling.
I’m pretty sure I blew most of it on unnecessary stuff. But why not? It was my first one.
I’m sorry to say that my financial decisions didn’t really improve too quickly. I would buy clothes I didn’t need, eat out way too much and generally have nothing to show for myself after payday.
I’ve learned some hard lessons over time, most through necessity. I would like to think that I have a much better understanding on how to run my finances now, but occasionally I will buy something with no purpose or positive impact. I’m only human, right?
When we think about those who are living in poverty and how they spend their money, how would we feel if they spent what little they had on something wasteful.
There is the classic comedic line:
I didn’t want to give some money to the homeless person I walked past because they would just spend it on drugs and alcohol. Then I realised, that’s what I spend it on!
Why do we have greater expectations on people living in poverty than we would put on ourselves?
What is really difficult to stomach is the reality that many people living in poverty in Asia and Africa handle their money much better than most Australians. There have been numerous studies done which show that a cash injection to a family living in poverty, rather than being spent on alcohol, drugs and gambling, go towards education and health. Exactly what we would hope the money gets spent on.
And if the money can be in the form of a small loan to fund an entrepreneur who can start a business and work her way out of poverty, even better.
It is easy to forget that we can learn a great deal from other people, even if they are living in a slum somewhere in India, and even if it is about how to handle our finances.
Don’t Read this. My Journey is not the same as yours.
I’ve seen quite a pattern emerging, and to be honest, I’m not sure what to make of it.
Everyone has 5 tips for this, the best 10 ways to create that, my two biggest takeaways from this. Heck, some of those I have created.
Whilst I love all of that content, and I think we can learn so much from each other, at some point what has worked for you will not work for me. If I just keep pushing through the tough times with an idea, or a business, or a strategy, will I actually come out the other side as successful as you? As wealthy as you? As well known as you? What if my idea, or business or strategy is awful? Will your simple strategy for super-fast business growth make me millions then?
Not everyone wins the gold medal. Not everyone tops the list, someone has to come second, or third or fourth. Is that still successful?
I don’t mean to sound cynical, but I genuinely want to ask the question about suitability and blanket promises of success.
At some point wisdom will be required, right?
And what can wisdom teach us? We cannot escape suffering in life, that is guaranteed, but wisdom is choosing what is worth suffering for. It says ‘even if I spend all of my energy on my idea/business/strategy and it doesn’t work out and blows up in my face, it was worth it’.
Wisdom is harsh.
Do you remember the last time you were really hungry? Not just peckish, but actually ‘missed out on lunch, breakfast was small and now dinner is late’ type of hunger. It is painful, but probably the hardest thing is that the only thing that you can think about in that moment is food. You can smell it, taste it and imagine how it would feel just being close to a meal that is ready to eat. Sure, you try to distract yourself and think about something else, but when the image of the perfect hamburger pops up in your mind then it’s all over. It’s food and nothing else that has your attention.
If you have experienced that, or something like it, then you are not alone. It is the psychological phenomenon of scarcity. There was a study that was done on the impact on people when they live on a starvation diet. Over time they grew so weak and thin, as you would imagine, but the impact on the mind was what caught researchers by surprise. They discovered that all the participants could talk about was food. They memorised recipes, compared food prices and shared about their favourite meals. So they decided to distract them with a movie but all they could focus on was the meals that the characters in the movie were eating. They were so consumed by what they didn’t have, their lack, that they couldn’t focus on anything else. They couldn’t see the big picture.
Not having enough of what you need can become the only thing that matters to you.
That is why the work of Opportunity International is so powerful. Providing a small loan to mothers who can start a business and create an income overcomes the scarcity problem, allowing people to shift their focus to other important things and make wise decisions.
I grew up in a home of Christian faith, and I distinctly remember a part of the teaching about treating people who are against you; your enemy. It said,
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”
I remember reading as an adult too, and, you’ve got to admit, that is a pretty weird statement. The image that this created in my mind was that of an antagonist and that God was actually suggesting to people who have enemies, ‘treat them nicely so that they get really angry and fume, that will be pretty funny’. I could never work that out.
I recently discovered that there was an Egyptian custom in which a person who had made an error and was wanting to make an amends, would carry a pan of coals on their head as a sign of their remorse, and the above teaching is likely to be in reference to that practice.
That changed some things for me. It turned an antagonistic philosophy and transformed it into a message of returning good for evil in the hope that someone who was actively out to harm you would be in a restored relationship with you. Now, I don’t know that repentance and restoration is a guaranteed outcome of giving food and drink to someone who hates you. There is always a risk in any act of generosity, especially one as this counter-intuitive (eye for eye, remember? That’s a whole other conversation…). But the possibility that you could bring something amazing out of something awful is worth it. Even if it only means that you don’t have to live with an active resentment towards the person, because the act of generosity towards them can shift your perspective.
I don’t hear it much anymore, but it was colloquial for a long time – the only two certainties in life, being death and taxes. Both of which we still try to avoid.
We try to avoid one by hiring great accountants and we try to avoid the other by not talking about it…
The internet tells me that I am not alone when it comes to talking about death. It can be quite the scary and uncomfortable topic, and somewhat strange to discuss whilst we are still healthy.
There are numerous benefits to openly talking about a time when we will no longer be around, including gaining a greater perspective of life, what we value, what we have achieved and what we still wish to accomplish. It is such an important conversation as we will all die, although we can’t control how or when, we can control what impact we can have after we have died.
One of the greatest impacts we can have post-death, is to leave something to a charitable organisation in our will; a bequest. We are on the verge of the greatest inter-generational transfer of wealth in our history, so it makes sense to allocate some of that to the causes and charities that mean something to us.
It is very easy to do – as you arrange your affairs, mention to your lawyer that you would like to leave a certain amount or a certain percentage to a charity and they will take care of the rest. If you already have a will, you don’t have to re-do the whole thing, you can add a codicil which serves an amendment to your will, recording your wishes to leave a gift from your estate. Again, chat to your lawyer and they will help you out – also your favourite charity may have a copy of the codicil to get you on your way.
A bequest is a simple way to be generous when the terrible happens.
I love personal growth. I love consuming books, podcasts and videos about growth. I find it exhilarating. But I realised a little while ago, I must be exhausting to live with. I am always searching for the reasons why I do the things I do, how I can do life better, and how I can find the blind-spots that I have. Nobody wants to live with that, and to be honest, sometimes I am exhausted by it too. So I am slowly learning about what being generous to yourself. I have been reluctant because previously I have been very good at letting myself off the hook for something and calling it ‘generosity’. It was really just laziness and a lack of integrity.
But now, I have three sayings that I use which help keep things in check.
We are all a work in progress
This is helpful for me and for when I am dealing with others. Sometimes I can get frustrated with people who don’t seem to be trying to improve and this saying is a great reminder that I don’t know other people’s journey, and I certainly don’t know where they will end up. It helps keep me in check too, as I realise that I am a long way from where I want to be.
I am better than I was yesterday (but not as good as a I will be tomorrow)
To stop me slipping into the depths of despair and frustration when I make the same mistakes or fall into the same victim racket in my mind, I think of how far I have come and I can have confidence in my trajectory of growth. If I can keep doing to small things each day; reading, learning, keeping fit, then I know I am moving forward. Progress is slow, but it is still progress.
In this moment, I am enough
With all that said and done, I can know that right here, right now, I am everything that I need to be for this moment. I can’t do anything about any work or preparation that hasn’t been done because it is too late to change it, so I can own who I am and what I am doing.
What are your best sayings?
We need generosity.
In a world with increased connections but decreased relationships, now more than ever, we need it. Because it is generosity that breaks down the barriers that we put up, even the subconscious ones, to bring about quality relationships and positive change.
We need it because it is good for us. I talk often about the health benefits, physically, emotionally and psychologically, that generosity has. It is so good for us.
We need it because kids in the developed world are growing up in an unprecedented time of wealth. In Australia, over the next 10 or so years, we will see the largest transfer of wealth from one generation to another as the older generation dies. Never before have we had so much wealth. One of the problems this creates is that children are growing up experiencing large houses, latest technology, private schools, frequent holidays and access to anything they want, thinking that is normal. But the majority of the world does not live like this.
We need it because we are becoming more divided than ever. Taking sides is the new black. We seem to lack the ability to try to understand those we disagree with and just write them off as a ‘nut-job’.
Generosity makes us healthier. Generosity takes our focus off ourselves and shifts it on to others, allowing us to notice that people live in poverty all over the world and we can do something about it. Generosity brings us together through one of the kindest acts of seeking to understand the people we don’t agree with and realising we have much more in common that we think.
We need generosity.
The greatest thing that I made with own two hands (apart from my children, but I was really a bystander in all of that) was a table that I built in Woodwork when I was 15. It wasn’t a masterpiece and I think I accidentally stole part of it from another student, but it was mine (mostly) and it maintained its structural integrity when I put something on it. It was amazing, because I made it.
We often feel that way about something that we create, but sometimes what we create isn’t amazing, and can even cause significant damage to people. That’s a little difficult to talk about though.
One of the man-made creations which has torn our world apart is poverty. We have created it, and we maintain it, and it holds hundreds of millions of people captive every single day, taking the lives of millions each year. The ‘we’ that I refer to are the wealthy in our world. If you are reading this, then that is you.
You see, poverty has not been created by people living in poverty – Muhammad Yunos would say that poverty was created‘…by an economic system in which all the resources tend to keep surging up towards the top, creating and ever expanding mushroom head of wealth belonging to only 1 percent of people.’ An economic system created and cultivated by those whom it serves. Those with wealth. You and me.
It is not a natural disaster, it does not happen at random and it is not a necessary evil. It is a vile beast that we created, and we must kill. Because it is holding us as a human race back, and we are missing out on the beauty, creativity and intelligence of the majority of people who live on the planet.
Ending poverty is a lofty goal – but we are doing it, one small loan at a time.
One of the toughest speaking gigs I have ever had was at a facility working with kids who had dropped out of a government high school in a lower socio-economic area of Adelaide. I was talking about global poverty and some of the difficulties that we face in this world and these students were convinced that whatever was happening was the Australian government’s fault. It didn’t seem to matter what I said or how many times I suggested there was something that we, as individuals, could do, their opinion didn’t change.
It’s safe to say that they were using the government as a scapegoat, as a cop out so that they didn’t have to contemplate the reality that they could take some responsibility for our world. This is not uncommon with disengaged students, but they are not the only people who have ever done that, I have discovered. To be honest, it is probably something that we have all done from time to time – asked the question, ‘Why doesn’t the government do something about it?’
But perhaps the time for us to ask that question is over. We have lived in a world where governments have held most of the power – some elected, some not, and this power seemed so far from our own reach that it can make us feel like we have no control over what happens. That may have never been totally true, but it certainly is not true anymore.
Out of the top 100 richest entities in our world, 69 of them are corporations, not governments. Not elected, but also not answerable to a nationality. Corporations who have the ability to impact our world simply by the way that they work and how they provide their products or services. Corporations filled with people, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons. People we know and people we have met. People like you and me. Individuals who have direct influence over the culture of their organisation and can steer things in such a way that if they wanted to fund some development work in a developing country, they could do it. If they wanted to provide free services to empower people living in poverty, they could do that. If they wanted to come up with a solution for homelessness, they could do that. If they wanted to hire newly arrived refugees, or the disabled, or the elderly, they could do that. People could insist on making a positive change in our world and by the sheer size of these corporations, these actions would echo throughout the entire world.
So, the government can’t help you anymore. But corporations can, and they might be a bit easier to influence to help create a better world, because they are filled with people who don’t need to seek re-election.