by Lisa Schwarz
I think it is only fitting that our Local Life Magazine would devote a month to the importance of giving back locally. With the sensationalism of the media and its attention to national and international events, it is easy to have our attention and affection drawn away from what is happening in our own backyards. Too often we get wrapped up in national or even international issues that we forget the importance of starting locally. This is why I love the idea of taking a month to celebrate your local charities and how they are impacting the socio-economic status of our community. More importantly, I love the idea of presenting to you how you can be a part of that impact. Whether it is giving time, resources, or monetary donations, there are benefits not just for the charity. Your giving will go beyond the charity and will benefit you personally, as well as the community as a whole. So let’s take a look at some of these benefits.
IT TRANSCENDS SELF
When grappling with the challenges of our own lives, it is often so easy to get focused on all our own problems. Our view becomes narrowed by “self” and introspection keeps us from seeing outside the walls of our own lives. Yet, so many are searching for purpose and looking for an opportunity to “step outside” of “self” and be a part of something bigger. But beyond that, I think it is important to point out that an innate human need that we are all born with is to have “a sense of belonging.” To feel and play a part of something that is beyond self. Your local charities are your opportunity to do something that transcends self, while fulfilling your need to belong.
IT “FEELS” GOOD AND IMPACTS YOUR HEALTH
No doubt we have all experienced that “feel good” moment when helping or giving to someone in need. However, did you know research shows that generosity affects our brain and our health, possibly even extending our lives? Science has proven that “happy” chemicals are released in the brain through that “feel good” moment… and when released consistently has led to overall improved mood, physical health, and increased longevity. So, whether it’s monetary donations, resources or volunteer hours, when it comes to your health, it truly is better to give than to receive.
YOU CAN SEE THE REWARDS
It is great when we have the opportunity to see the fruit of our sowing. A perk to being a part of a local ministry is that you can actually go and see how your giving is making a difference. Every one is motivated by results and wants to know that efforts are not in vain. A local charity provides the opportunity to have more than just information about the mission, but offers the opportunity to see it and experience it first hand. I feel it is important to know the outcome of a charity’s activities. And, while going to website or reading newsletter can share some of those outcomes, there is nothing like being able to personally see and hear the testimonies of individuals who have been impacted by that charity. This is the ultimate measure of performance! And the result is the motivation you will feel intrinsically to give, volunteer or serve even more.
IT CULTIVATES COMMUNITY
We all would agree that one of the fastest ways to cultivate community is working toward a common goal. Being a part of local charity provides a common goal or unified mission that rallies and unites people who otherwise might not even know each other. It doesn’t matter if it is through monetary donations or time; your common ground becomes the mission of that charity. It is amazing to me to watch how everybody’s “little bits” of what they can give, when joined with others turns into a community, “big.” We may disagree about many things, but a local charity provides a platform where community and unity can be cultivated. And unity is what causes a community to thrive!
IT TEACHES VALUES
Most of us acknowledge the importance of teaching generosity to our children and in fact are looking for ways to get our kids to see beyond themselves and their own needs. Plus, we all want our children to know that they have the power to change the world. Being a part of local charities is a great way to engage children practically. Whether by serving or saving, they can make a difference…and I can’t think of a more effective way to teach them that concept. It is by example that children learn. The old adage, more is caught than taught certainly applies when it comes to teaching philanthropy. But, I think the Bible sums this up best in 1 John 3:18, “Little children, let us not love [merely] in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity)” (The Amplified Bible). This is not only a pernal benefit within your family structure, but ultimately is how we build a community that is benevolent and understands the value of giving.
So what about the charity itself? We have learned how giving benefits you personally as well as a community as a whole, but what about the actual charity? Well, the most obvious answer is that charities rely on the donations of others as well as volunteers to keep their mission going. But, let me press into that as the founder of Crazy8 Ministries and give you some more insight from my view.
First, when giving monetary donations, you are actually purchasing and securing services. While services are provided “free” to clients, the reality is, those services cost money and someone has to pay for them. When I am giving to other charities, I try to keep in mind that I am not just donating; I am purchasing services that someone else is going to receive. Think about when you purchase a gift card for someone. If I buy a one-hour massage for a friend, I have purchased and secured that massage for her/him. I would not call that a donation, I would call it a purchase that I am gifting to someone else. Monetary donations are the same way, they are a purchase of services that you are securing and gifting for someone else.
Second, regular committed donors and volunteers help our vision casting and budget setting process. While we always reach beyond what we can see, there is a level of wisdom that MUST be used when looking ahead. I need to be able to SECURE the services to the people we serve BEFORE I commit to them. For example, our Empowerment Housing Program is up to two years. So, I need to know that I can follow through on EACH resident financially as well as operationally for that length of time. This is only possible through the participation of donors and volunteers.
Third, we benefit because your giving frees us to do what we love and are good at. I know so many founders who end up walking away from their charity because they are forced to spend the majority of their time fundraising, cleaning, and doing things that could be done by volunteer help. Not only can this pull our time away from our clients, often we just aren’t good at it. Think of it this way, for every hour served by a volunteer, it is an hour gained for the charity to serve their clients. The same could be said in regard to fundraising. I know for me personally, I spend about 40% of my time working on raising and securing funds to keep our operations going. This is 40% time lost to our clients. It is all a part of the job, but the reality is, the clients are what I love and are BEST at! This is why your monetary commitments are invaluable to the mission.
So we have looked at the personal benefits, the community benefits as well as the benefits to the actual charity in regard to giving. But what does the Bible say about giving? I would be remiss if I did not include some Biblical Truths in this article.
Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (NKJV) I want to be careful not to take this verse out of context and make just about giving money and getting “more” money back, it is much richer than that. It is about the principal of reaping personal benefits THROUGH our giving…whether time, resources or money. It is precisely what was discussed above. The Message reads like this, “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” It is the law of reaping and sowing. If a man sows seed, he expects that not only will he get fruit, but also that the seed of that fruit will increase; this is not just a natural law, it is a spiritual law.
Isaiah 58 says that those who “extend their soul to the needy” will be like “a well watered garden” and “like a spring of water whose waters never fail.” They will experience “light in darkness” and “strength to their bones.” It says, “healing shall spring forth speedily” to those who “share their bread” or “open their house to the poor.” I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like a personal impact that “feels good” and promotes health and life. My point is, God knows that giving to others is good for the soul. It promotes health within the individual and thus overall health within a community.
Giving is so much more than meets the eye…so get involved; find a cause, jump in and watch how not just the charity prospers, but your soul and your community as well!
Lisa Schwarz, C.B.C., C.P.C. is the Founder and CEO of Crazy8 Ministries, www.crazy8ministries.com.