The difficulty that we can find in our world is that we often don’t have the chance to talk things through. Assumptions are so quickly made, battle lines drawn and people labelled and pushed to one side of the argument or the other. The thing that I have noticed is that there is never just two sides and it is only through genuine discussion that we begin to see the complexities of life. Very few things are black and white. There are very few ultimate truths, but we hold dearly to the ultimate truths that we find. Everything else is up for grabs.
Fears can keep us alive. Of that much I am sure. For example, my (somewhat irrational) fear of snakes and spiders has kept me breathing up until this point and it is my intention that it will keep me alive for a while to come. This fear has caused me to freeze in my tracks, or jump unexpectedly, or to run screaming from a room or more specifically, skilfully keep my finger in the page of the book that I was reading whilst simultaneously and violently recoiling from and flicking a spider approaching from under my pillow (I do not know how I actually ended up going to sleep later that night…). Fears can keep us alive.
But, I have discovered, fears can also keep us from living. To this day, I have never touched a snake (although I did hold a toad recently…I can tick that off my list I guess. If you have never had the pleasure of holding a toad, you are not missing out on much). I hear they can be quite friendly and smooth. I know of people who keep them as pets, which is simply crazy to me, but I will never know what it is like to create a ‘person to pet’ relationship with a slithery creature. To be honest, I’m okay with that. I know that my fears keep me from getting involved in some parts of life which doesn’t bother me, but I find myself wondering what else my fears are keeping me from doing. What experiences am I missing out on that could bring great benefit to me and others around me?
I have always believed that fear is a great motivator but it is a terrible master, and if we let it, it can keep us from doing things that can challenge and stretch us. When people talk about giving there can be many reasons shared about why they choose not to give. I respect anyone who says ‘no’, I am a big fan of it (see previous post), but as long as we understand why we say ‘no’.
Here are some of the most common reasons I hear for people choosing not to give…
‘Their overheads are too high’
The question around how much money is spent on ‘admin’ in comparison to how much is spent on the intended ‘programs’ is an important question that everyone should ask, but only if we really want to hear and understand the answer. Any charity worth its salt will be able to give you a ready breakdown of where the money gets spent. More than that, they will be able to give you an annual report which chronicles how and why.
What it boils down to though, is that it costs money to make money. You need to spend money to attract and keep good people, to market your brand and educate the public about the issues before people will trust you enough to give you their money. The question we really need to ask is ‘how much spending am I comfortable with?’. There are a few organisations who claim that 100% of funds given goes to its programs – I honestly don’t even know how that happens, except for a generous benefactor or a whole lot of money previously spent. Other organisations range from 95% down to 75-80% – usually these are the acceptable ranges. People tend to raise their eyebrows at an organisation who spend 60% of their income on their programs and 40% on admin or other marketing practices, or TodayTonight gets a call if it is below 50%. But it depends on the organisation, what they are trying to do and how comfortable you feel with their work.
‘There are too many not-for-profit organisations’
The amount of not-for-profit organisations has increased significantly over the last 20 years. Currently there are 600,000 registered not-for-profit organisations in Australia and 7 new charities being registered every single day. It seems that every man and his dog has set up a charity for, well, every man and his dog.
Over time, as with businesses, some will finish up after they have achieved their goal or had a few years of raising funds and awareness, and others will stick around. Do we really need that many? Probably not. The spirit behind it is great but perhaps some could place their efforts behind existing organisations and add weight to what they are already doing.
The benefit for us is that we are spoiled for choice. Instead of seeing it as an overwhelming situation, we can find something that we truly connect with and we get to be picky about it. We don’t have to give $50 to the first charity that speaks to us.
‘We should look after our own first’
When talking about giving money to overseas projects, this conversation quickly turns into a ‘them’ and ‘us’ scenario. There can be an underlying desire within people to advocate for our own in Australia, ensure that we all have everything we need before we look to assist those overseas. This response comes out of fear and ignorance. Fear that if we give to overseas programs we will turn our focus so much to overseas aid that our economy and society will fall over, ruining our way of life. And ignorance of how much money from Australia actually goes to overseas projects.
Currently, the Australian government gives 32 cents in every $100 towards overseas aid, but due to consistent cuts, by 2017-18 it will be down to 21 cents. That is 0.21% of our Gross Domestic Product. We are set to become the least generous generation in Australian history. Our lifestyle will not cease to exist if we maintain or even increase our giving as a country. In fact, the cut in funding to Australia’s aid program not only discontinues much needed work in developing nations, but it also puts the jobs at risk of those who are working for the not-for-profit agencies in Australia. That’s not really ‘looking after our own’. When our government is leading by example and showing us how not to give, it is understandable that the Australian people might follow suit. But at what point can we as a country stop and consider that ‘our own’ are appropriately ‘looked after’? When everyone has a home to live in, enough food to eat, when no one is sick anymore, when nobody needs to rent, when we can all have an investment property… or two? It’s an ambiguous term that creates a never ending loop of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ purely depending on the birthplace of the individual.
The truth is, foreign aid makes good political sense (I hate talking about it through this lens but some people view the world this way). Through it we help our ‘neighbours’ in the countries around us, and it turn, their development, health and wellbeing will assist us as a nation. They will be less of a security threat and a greater economic partner going forward. Everybody wins (especially the people who would have access to a sustainable food source and clean drinking water). We can receive benefits in a number of ways when we give to others, it’s not the reason we should do it, but it’s okay to accept that.
And who are ‘our own’ anyway? Who are we truly trying to ensure that we protect – the homeless, the sick, the elderly? We should absolutely be ‘looking after’ these people, but it does not have to come at the cost of helping those that were born outside of the boundary of Australia. Really, when we think about it, the concept of ‘our own’ stretches further than our national identity. It reaches to the very core of humanity beyond skin colour and language. We are all ‘our own’.
It needs to be said that most times I hear this comment, those who are saying it aren’t supporting ‘our own’ anyway, it’s just used as an excuse to say ‘no’.
‘We are not really making a difference’
This is my favourite, because as people, we have short memories. In relation to global poverty, we have come a long way…
In 1970, we are told that there were 60,000 children under the age of 5, around the world, who died every single day, due to basic illness, malnutrition and other easily curable diseases.
In 1990, the figure was closer to 33,000 a day.
In 2010, it was down to 22,000.
Today that number is just above 16,000 per day. It is still way too many, but it is a significant improvement. Especially when you take into consideration that the global population went from 3.6 billion people in 1970, to 5.3 billion in 1990 to 7.3 billion in 2015. The population growth over the last 45 years has skyrocketed but the number of children under the age of 5 who are dying every single day has plummeted.
We are making a difference. We are getting somewhere. We still have a way to go but we are in a much better place than we were – we just need to keep going.
There are many other reasons that people have for not giving.This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a starting point as we seek to bring the discussion around giving into the open. It is good to ask questions, to discover how organisations work and why, in order to educate our giving. Our fears or concerns should move us into a discussion that helps guide our giving and not used as an excuse to not give at all.
To find out more about how you can make a difference, visit www.opportunity.org.au
On the surface, we give in response to something that connects with us. A cause or an organisation that we believe in or want to invest in. Usually this connection happens because we have firsthand experience with the issue. We may have seen the effects of poverty in a developing country, or homelessness here in Australia, or someone we know may have suffered from a disease or some other life altering situation and we want to do something to help.
Sometimes we respond to, what we might consider to be, biblical commands. We look at the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:3-4,
“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
We can feel like there is an expectation to give. It’s not an ‘if’, but a ‘when’. Jesus assumes it is already happening in the lives of those listening to him and He gives instructions on how to do it so that we can be rewarded.
In Leviticus 19:10 the Bible talks about the concept of not harvesting all of your land or stripping your vineyard bare, but leaving the last part for the poor or the foreigner to glean something to eat.
Proverbs 28:27 implores us to be generous to the poor and if we do we will never go hungry.
There are just a few insights into what the Bible talks about when it comes to giving and looking after the poor.
On a humanistic level, many people who wouldn’t connect with the biblical reasons to give would still talk about it being the ‘right thing to do’. They have this perspective of thankfulness for what they have and recognition that someone or some ‘ones’ have helped them along in their journey and they wish to do the same for others.
We may be giving to others because God commands us and we desire to please Him, or because it’s the right thing to do and a good way to pay back some of what has been given to us, or to create some good karma, therefore making us a good person. These may be some of the reasons that we might give.
But there‘s a deeper level that than. I am convinced that there is something within our genetic make-up, part of our moral fibre, the way we have been created, that drives us to help out someone when they are in need. It’s a strong driving force that comes from within us. It’s part of who we are. Now, we get to choose whether we listen to that part of ourselves or not, and the more we choose not to listen, the more difficult it can become to respond over time (and potentially it can create a negative response to organisations asking for money).
For me, it can be summed up in recognising that God’s heart is for people – He cares for all people equally, regardless of who they are, where they are, or what they’ve done. He loves without agenda or obligation or fear. In John 3:16 we read, “For God SO loved the world, He GAVE…” And we are made in His image.
As humans, we all have the same moral fibre – but our experiences and upbringing often shape the things we care about and connect with – some might be interested in international aid, others in domestic homelessness, others may have a focus on health or even a specific people group somewhere in the world.
I care about people having the chance to reach their full potential, but I don’t have the capacity to reach all people around the world on my own. However, I do what I can with what I have, wherever I am.
I believe that’s what we’re called to do – give what we can and trust that it can, and will, make a difference.
Also, it feels good. It brings us joy. And that’s the gift for us.
Sometimes giving can be difficult to talk about. I’m not referring to different types of giving like volunteering your time or donating food or other resources, I am talking specifically about money.
I have sat in church services, conferences and other meetings around Australia and when the conversation turns to giving money for one thing or another, there has been something within me which squirms. Sometimes I think that the internal squirming has actually manifested itself into physical squirming.
You see, the majority of the causes that get talked about and promoted, and even those that don’t, are great. So many people are doing amazing, commendable things but when confronted with them, I feel forced to make a split second decision of whether I should give them some money or not.
We’ve all walked through a shopping centre when suddenly we are confronted with a chirpy team of Personal Marketing Professionals (PMP’s) or what they are commonly called, ‘Chuggers’ (Charity Muggers). This is a tough one. On the one hand, I am just enjoying a wonderful day out at the shopping centre (if there is such a thing, mostly it is a time of survival as we try to navigate through the list of things that we need to get, and the things that we really should get, alongside the things that we don’t really need which become the only things that we actually get, bracketed by questionable coffee) and I don’t want to be interrupted and forced to think and care about something I just don’t have the headspace for.
On the other hand, can you blame them? Where else can you find hundreds and thousands of people just walking around looking to spend money? It should be like shooting fish in a barrel. But nobody says that anymore and I am sure that nobody has ever really done that, and so I question whether or not this method is effective at all (a topic for another time…).
So, again, there is awkwardness.
The ‘chuggers’ attempt to get my attention through what seems to be a ‘genuine’ concern for my wellbeing and questions around how I am going. Or a searching question about whether or not I dropped a certain item on the ground…no? Well now that I have stopped why don’t we have a deep conversation around saving the world one dollar at a time (I have seen that one in action…it’s about as effective as it sounds).
But I will not be tricked into a conversation. I will talk to you if I want to. As a result I have become quite adept at the walking, smiling, ‘no thank you’. Sometimes it has less smiling, sometimes it is more like a speed walk past the confrontation, or a run, but there is always a ‘no, thank you’. Or at the very least a ‘no’, or a look in my eyes that tells them that they shouldn’t dare contemplate engaging me in any sort of conversation. Then there can be times when I pretend to look the other way and not notice that there was someone there, blocking my path, calling out to me and waving in my face. It depends on the day.
Early on in my life I came across some wisdom that has helped me in decision making when it comes to money. It said, ‘if a decision is required immediately with no option to think about it, then the answer is no’.
I recoil at the language used around a ‘one time offer’, ‘you walk out this door and the deal goes with it’, or ‘you don’t want to miss this investment opportunity of a lifetime’. I guess that says a lot about me and my desire to not be swindled or talked in to something that I don’t really want to be part of, especially when it requires placing finances behind a decision.
I approach giving money to organisations with the same philosophy. For me, it’s an investment into an organisation so they can do something special with what I have given them.
So, as I sit listening to someone talk about giving, feeling awkward, I realise I feel that way because my immediate answer is no… and then I feel guilty it.
Guilty, because what kind of person says ‘no’ to organisations and people who are attempting to do wonderful things in this world. In my awkwardness and guilt I feel the eyes of all the other people around me. Their judgement of my questionable character overwhelms me.
At times, as a result of this feeling, I have given, in an attempt to appease the silent judgement of others. I hated that feeling. As a response to that hatred, I determined that I would only give based on when I decided to and not what I felt others would want me to do. To do that, I had to strip the whole thing back and look at why I wanted to give in the first place…and that’s where we go next.