Don’t Screw Up Your Investment in Eternal Things

coinsWe are given limited resources, how are we going to use them? It doesn’t matter what we do, the years we have on this earth are limited so we need to use them wisely. In the same way, at whatever level of income we find ourselves, we need to use our funds with wisdom. The parable of the talents was taught by Jesus for a reason. We need to realize everything we have belongs to our Heavenly Father and it’s just been entrusted to us. We need to use what we have responsibly, not on a whim, not in areas that don’t matter in the eternal sense. Below are some random thoughts, I claim no wisdom in this area, just bringing up some observations.

If you’re buying a house, a car, or planning for retirement, you spend some time defining your goals and researching the finer details. Where do I want to buy a house? What kind of car do I want that I can afford?”  When we’re spending our hard earned money, we want the best return on our investment. We need to put the same effort into our decisions of where and how to give. Is this charity a wise investment of my resources? Does this donation have a long-term impact? Does this group requesting my help have a track record of using resources wisely? These are questions that are important to look at when you’re deciding where to invest your donor dollars.

A couple of things to consider:

Give more than just seasonally. Ask anyone who runs a non-profit and they will tell you it’s not only retailers that look forward to Black Friday. Yearend giving is huge. Not just for tax purposes, people just really like to donate over the holidays. It’s a warm, fuzzy, emotional, giving season and some people are making up for not donating through the year. For whatever reason, December is a great time to run a charity. The thing is, there are needs throughout the year, not just in December. A good example is food banks, they turn a lot of people and perishable food away during thanksgiving because EVERYBODY wants to help for that one holiday. Food banks need help in January, in April, pretty much throughout the year, not just for Thanksgiving. The essential work that charities perform are rarely seasonal; people have needs every week. Give accordingly.

Give to what works and has an impact, not just the greatest apparent need. The orphanage my team runs looks homey and well cared for. We have bright, clean buildings, well-kept landscaping, and a large property. We’re this way because there have been decades of work put into it by visiting groups and our staff. Our children here in our home also work hard to keep the place clean and well maintained. We’re all proud of our home, and want it to be nice for the people who visit. So what’s the problem? People walk in, and their first thought is “Well, they must not need my help.” Some people straight up tell me “I was looking for a sadder, more depressing orphanage.” That’s OK, I understand, but it’s still frustrating. We sometimes feel penalized for doing a good job.

Having beautiful buildings doesn’t mean we don’t have needs. Our buildings are complete but we need to heat and light them, we need to pay for hot water for showers and staffing to care for kids. Yes, our kids are in school, but transportation is a massive challenge for us. We need to feed everyone three times a day and pay for on-going medical needs. We depend on small donations to care for our kids and keep the doors open. Looks can be deceiving; a great organization usually needs great funding to continue the work.

When someone asks for a “needier” orphanage, I will gladly send them to some other homes in our area, but also send them with some advice. “Go, give a lot, help all you can, but if you don’t see any changes in a few months, start to ask questions.” There are always needs, but if an organization is in a constant, desperate need for funding, they might not be managing what they have responsibly. I know one orphanage that would always keep one broken window so people could pay to have it fixed. (It never got fixed). Give where you see the money will be used responsibly and for the intended purpose.

Give to help in an emergency, but not just what’s trendy. 9/11 almost put us out of business. “But wait, you’re an orphanage in Mexico, how did 9/11 affect you?” Almost all US giving shifted from existing needs and went to New York organizations. The need was real, but so were the needs of every other organization where day-to-day donations stopped for about 60 days. At this point, I know whenever there is a hurricane, earthquake, or some other national event we will see a major drop in donations for a few weeks. The other draw for some people is whatever is trendy. The joke in some non-profit circles is “If you want funding, just put “human trafficking” or “well drilling” on your website.” These are the two hot causes being donated towards right now. Both are worthy causes, both need to be addressed, but there are other ongoing needs and challenges all around us. Give with a purpose, not just emotion. Find a cause or need you’re passionate about and commit to it.

There are books written about what I just tried to cover in under 1,000 words. I’ve only scratched the surface on this topic, and I’m sure some people disagree with these ideas. But how we use the funds entrusted to us matters a great deal. Give, give a lot, but give wisely.

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