Give First

One of the earliest Jewish teachings was about giving. The Jews were instructed to give 10% of what they had to the priests as an offering to God. It wasn’t the last 10%, or 10% from somewhere in the middle, it was the very first 10%, or first fruits to be set aside from their latest crop or produce they had harvested.

Religious doctrine aside, this is a great practical process, because it ensures that whatever happens, you are generous first before consuming what is left over. If you were to wait and see what was left after you had used up all that you needed, there wouldn’t be anything left to give away. Generally, people will spend and use what is available to them.

This is one thing that I struggle to do but it is one of the best disciplines to have. Being intentional about giving means knowing how much you want to give away, and to whom, then putting that amount aside before it gets used on other things.

Give first, then live. It will help keep your priorities straight and loosen the grip that the love of money can have on you.

Which One?

I recently saw a list of those who make significant political donations and I was a little surprised that there were a number who gave to both major parties in Australia. I guess it makes sense if you are looking to hedge your bets, so you don’t back the wrong horse, but it reminded me of how most people give money to charity.

It is very rare to come across someone who donates to only one charity. Instead, I often hear that people give to a few different ones, sometimes to two that are working in a similar space because, whilst they may be different organisations with slightly different approaches, the supporter likes them both. So why not?

It’s a portfolio style of giving, where you choose a selection of charities to support across a few different areas. Some will be similar, others will be doing something completely different so that you can diversify your portfolio. Over time you become more engaged and connected with the charities you support which leads to greater fulfilment in your giving, as you learn more about the difference that your generosity is having.

The Most Underpaid Team Member

The most valuable person in my team is underpaid. In fact, she earns nothing.

The most valuable person in my team is Lorraine.

She volunteers her time each week to make phone calls. Not a cold-call, scam type of phone calls. But in a ‘thank you for donating and making a difference’ type of way.

Each week, she gives up her time to go through the list of people who gave over the last 7 days and calls them simply to say ‘thanks’. That’s it.

And the response?

People love it. They truly value being thanked for doing something great. I have had many people let me know that they got a call from her and they really enjoyed it. I have had people give more often after getting a call from her. Maybe they felt so good about being thanked that they gave again. Maybe they just wanted to speak to Lorraine again. Whatever the reason, I know that Lorraine is the most valuable part of my team because she is at the forefront of caring for those who are using their generosity to end poverty, one family and one community at a time through the work of Opportunity.

No doubt, she needs a pay rise.

I’m Not Asking for Your Money

I work for a charity and meet with people who donate significant amounts, but I don’t ask them to give money.

I used to do that, and it felt wrong. I felt like I was apologising every time I wanted to meet with them and that they thought I only wanted something from them…which was kind of true – their money.

I got tired of that feeling and of asking people to give money, so I decided to try something else.

Instead of asking people to give, I now invite people to fulfil their purpose through generosity. By giving money to Opportunity, an organisation that they are passionate about, our supporters are finding a way to fulfil their purpose.

They are bringing dignity to those living in poverty.

They are giving back some of what they have received.

They are living out their values.

They are showing care and concern for their fellow human beings.

They are releasing the hold that money can have on those who have it.

They are being generous and reaping the rewards that generosity bring.

So I don’t ask for money. I offer a pathway to purpose.

Why People Give

“When you give to charities, what outcome are you looking to achieve?”

This is the most common question I get to ask people who support Opportunity. It’s important to find out what motivates them to give, mostly so that we can achieve the kind if impact they are looking for.

Often, the answer I get is “I want to make a positive difference”, and after further discussion they tell me about how someone helped them early in their life. So, they give to pass it on and help someone work their way out of poverty.

For many Opportunity supporters they see creating businesses as a great way to help people help themselves. A small loan gets given to kick start their journey out of poverty, by creating a small business which provides them an income. They can then put food on the table, send their kids to school, pay the loan back and leave poverty behind.

The types of business the small loans create in places like India and Indonesia are not what you normally think of. There are no ABN’s, no offices, no IT set up, no convoluted distribution channels. It’s more simple than that. You buy items at one price, take it to a market or the side of the road and sell it for a little bit more. You get a loan in the morning and can create an income to buy food that evening.

Whilst it takes time for loan recipients to fully leave poverty behind, a small loan is the injection they need to start that journey.

That’s what making a positive difference looks like.

$160 is enough to help create a small loan – donate here.

Always Poor

“The poor you will always have with you” – Jesus

Jesus was talking to a room full of people after someone used an expensive item in an extravagant act of gratitude towards him. Some in the room criticised this act, and in their moral superiority suggested a better use of this gift would be to sell it and give the money to the poor. Jesus essentially said, “if God is in your living room, then shower Him with your best. Spend up big on him because it probably won’t happen again. Tomorrow, when God is no longer in your living room, give generously to those who are living in poverty.”

What we think it means…

We take this interaction and think that it means that we don’t need to worry about trying to end poverty, because you can’t. It’s a fool’s errand. People will always be poor; it’s just how thing are. Give up now and save yourself some heartache.

What it actually means…

Aside from the main point of giving your best to God if He is literally sitting right in front of you, Jesus was talking about situational poverty, which is a transitional time that people go through. Life has all sorts of ups and downs and sometimes the downs can put you into a place of poverty for a season, which is when you require generosity from others. Situational poverty is a short term experience.

This is stark contrast to systemic poverty, which is generational in nature and ensures that those who are poor today will also be poor tomorrow – you know, the kind if extreme poverty we see in the world today. Systemic poverty is man-made and exists in the structures we have put into place which, among other things, ensure that those who are vulnerable are the ones that earn less, suffer greater life shocks, and end up living without what they need to flourish. It doesn’t matter what they do, the system is stacked against them and they are unable to work their way out of it. Most are born into it, and some fall into it, but it doesn’t matter how it happened, it doesn’t need to exist and we can end it.

Poverty will always exist, people will fall into poverty through challenging life circumstances, but to think it will always be the same group of people, and their family for generations to come, or that some people should live their entire lives in poverty because of where they were born, is arrogant, ignorant, and wrong.

Fortunately, we have been making some pretty great headway with some smart structures and a bunch of generous people. We know that systemic poverty doesn’t need to exist and that we can end it, one family and one community at a time. We can’t do it without you though.

Donate here

It’s Never Too Late

You may have heard the question, when is the best time to plant a tree?

The answer is ‘20 years ago’.

The second best time to plant a tree? Right now.

There is a cost to spending time doing something.

Time spent at school could have been time spent at work.

Time spent at work could have been time spent with the family.

Time spent playing sport could have been time spent studying.

Time spent learning an instrument could have been time spent playing sport.

Time spent playing a video game could have been time spent doing anything else.

In the moment it doesn’t really matter. But over time these decisions add up, and lost time is gone forever. It’s a tree never planted. You get no shade. You get no air. You get no beauty from a tree that doesn’t exist.

It is never too late, though. You can always start now. You can always do something for the first time today, to become the type of person that you want to become – and little by little, over time, it can build up to be a new skill, a new passion, a new job. A new tree.

Generosity is just like that. I have failed many times to be generous when given the opportunity. I have written people off. Not given when the chance arose and not cared when someone was in need. But that doesn’t mean I have to live like that always. I can begin again today by being generous with my time, my care and my forgiveness.

In 20 years’ time, the small decisions I make today will grow into something that will bring beauty to all who see it.

Spend Elon’s Money

One of my favourite TV show memories was Supermarket Sweep. I was pretty young when watching it, but what I remember is that contestants got a short period of time to run around a supermarket with a trolley, grabbing as much stuff as they could and the winner was the person who had the highest value in their trolley.

I remember getting stressed out just watching it, but the idea of spending someone else’s money to get free stuff seemed like the coolest thing in my mind.

I came across a similar concept recently. Call it the most extreme supermarket sweep ever. A website where you have 30 seconds to spend as much as possible on selected items, in an attempt to use up all the allocated money. The twist is that the total figure is the net worth of Elon Musk. $166 Billion of it. Check it out here – https://www.leasingoptions.co.uk/spend-elons-money/index.html

It stresses me out as I run out of time trying to buy all the stuff with all the money. One time I spent over $17 Billion which is quite impressive in 30 seconds, but that was mostly because I bought 345 Falcon 9 Launches at $50 million a piece, which still left Elon with over $145 Billion. I think if I had longer than half a minute I could make more of a dent in the phenomenal net worth that he has, but I doubt I could spend it all in my lifetime.

What could you possibly do with that much money? What is the point of that much wealth?

We know that happiness does not increase after you earn a certain level of income, in Australia that’s about $175,000pa (we are one of the most expensive countries in the world for happiness). Without earning another cent, Elon could be happy for 948,571 years.

Don’t get me started on Jeff Bezos.

Those Billionaires will have some questions to answer about what they have done with what they have been given.

Then I turn around.

And I look at everyone in the world who earns less than I do.

All 97% of them.

Looking at me, thinking that about what I could possibly do with all that money. What is the point of so much wealth? And that I will have some questions to answer about what I have done with what I have been given.

Don’t Work for a Charity

People often like to hear about the work that I do, and say things like,

‘It must be nice to have a purpose in what you do every day’, or

‘You must find it very rewarding’, or the almost condescending,

‘Is that your full-time role?’

The answer is ‘yes’ to all of those.

I see the longing in their eyes as they think about how amazing it would be to work in the not-for-profit world. Whilst I love it and I wouldn’t change it, here is my encouragement to you if you think that…

Don’t do it.

Not because charitable organisations are challenging places to work (which they can be), or because charitable organisations can be limited with funding to pay staff (which they can also be), but because not everyone should do it.

Here’s why you shouldn’t work for a charity. Whilst we could do with more great people who work for charities that are doing good, it is more important for the world to have more people creating amazing businesses and organisations – making as much money as they can, so they can give away as much as they can, to do the most good that they can.

Instead of working for a charity, create businesses people want to work at, that are known for their amazing culture and incredible generosity, and I guarantee that not only will you make a significant impact in the world, people will also say the same three things to you that they say to me.

In saying all of that, volunteer for a charity as much as you want.

Choosing a Charity

Most people who give to a charity will regularly give to a few of their favourites. There are common names that people will list off as they explain to me their giving regime.

But how do they choose which the organisations that make the list? How do you choose a charity?

On occasion someone has mentioned to me that a random charity once “cold called” them, they immediately donated over the phone and have been supporting them ever since. People who do this are few and far between, but generally have a difficult time saying no and will get sick of it after a while. This is more of an ad-hoc selection criteria.

Those that have a strategy behind their giving are more intentional about what they give to and are more thoughtful about who they support. They will take a bit longer to make a decision about donating but will also stay connected to those charities for a longer period of time.

These people look at their giving through a portfolio perspective. Within their charity portfolio, they will normally have a couple of domestic charities they support, an international charity, and maybe one other area. After defining the issues they want to focus on, they research the different charities that work in that space, see how they spend their money, meet with the staff and start giving at a relatively small level. As they grow more confident in how the charity works and the depth of their impact, they will increase their giving over time.

Like any good relationship, it is built at the speed of trust. The deeper the trust built, the longer the relationship will last.