For 14 years now I’ve been obsessed with a single thought. It’s a question really. A question I’ve asked a million times. And it took flying all the way to Africa to even realize it was bothering me. The question is – Why is a charitable donation so disengaging? There are other words I could
We’ve all likely heard at least one person say it. And many of us, myself included, have said it ourselves at some point or another. “When I have more I will give more.”
This is noble and makes some sense when you first hear it. But it’s not as certain as we might think. Simply having more doesn’t simultaneously make you a giver. It doesn’t even mean you’ll become more likely to give. In fact, chances are you’ll continue to be you, only with more stuff.
This is a hard truth that the toonie challenge is showing me. Because I’m only giving away $2 at a time, in a sense, my giving is very affordable. And it should be easy right? But it’s not. And there’s several reasons why. All of which I believe link back to why it’s not automatic that if we made more money we’d give more of it away.
First reason – We actually have to remember to do it. This isn’t always a natural priority in a given day. We’re busy, there’s lots happening, we have deadlines and meetings. Giving money or stuff isn’t always top of mind.
Second reason – Giving takes time. So unless we’re really sold on the concept of giving and have made it a priority, it will just be another thing on our list of to-do’s that eats up our time. And if we view giving as losing something, then just how high up the list of to-do’s are we going to prioritize it?
Third reason – It requires a bigger perspective. One that causes us to think outside of ourselves. Let’s be honest, even with a small amount of money there are always reasons we can come up with why ‘now is not the best time’ to give. Even if it’s a few bucks there’s always something else we can think of doing with it. Some other thing we need. A reason to wait one more day. Giving any amount will always be tough as long as we’re only looking at ourselves.
Fourth reason – We must risk rejection or failure. In this toonie challenge I must risk people saying no to my toonie and looking at me strangely. In real life we must risk how the money we give is used. There is a risk in how much of it is passed forward. There’s a risk in what the recipient does with ‘it’. Then there’s the risk of whether in the end it really made a difference. No matter how much money we have, this sense of ‘risk’ will always be there. Will this keep us from giving?
Make no mistake, having ‘a lot more money’ doesn’t make giving easier.
That’s why I believe it comes down to habit vs. ‘have it’. The key to giving is not how much you have to give but the habits you create. These are so much more important than the amount of money you have. Habits are consistent and can lead to significant change. The habit of looking beyond our own needs and also to the needs of others can lead to tremendous opportunities to make a difference. Habits of giving are what help us overcome reasons not to give. And they are what will ensure that no matter how much we have, we will always feel like we can contribute. Time, money, skills – these are all resources we can lend every day when it becomes something we’re aware of every day.
Whether we live in poverty or prosperity, we can still live generously.