Although I am frugal, I like to at least think that I am neither stingy nor greedy. I am quick to spend if it will make my family happy and I have always been quick to donate to a good cause. When I go through the checkout line at my grocery store, I always try to give to whatever cause the store is supporting and we always put our envelope into the collection basket at church on Sunday. When neighborhood kids are selling candy or candles for school fund raisers, we always buy something, even if we know that we will never use it. We like to help others and we enjoy the feeling that we get by doing so. Charitable giving is a win-win situation for us, or so I hope.
Lately, I have been wondering whether we are being irresponsible by giving to charity. It’s been almost ten months since I last drew a paycheck and cash has definitely been headed out the door much faster than it’s coming in. At what point, do we need to heed the adage that “charity begins at home” or the maxim that “God helps those who help themselves.” After all, every dollar that I contribute to help with a school fundraiser could be a dollar that I need in another few months to pay for some necessary item that my family might need.
With our church, the issue of charitable giving is particularly interesting. The church asks that we give ten percent of our income. I am pretty sure that very few people at my church are doing that but even so, does that mean that the church wants us to give ten percent of nothing? After all, if I am making nothing, I can give ten percent, twenty percent, even a hundred percent, and still give nothing. I am pretty sure that the church would give me a different way to calculate my weekly donation if I tried to fall back on simple math to avoid a donation.
Thinking about charitable giving, which is down in all sectors this year, I think that all of us, can and should donate to charity, even if we are out of work. Here are a few reasons to consider:
There is Always Someone Needier than You: I donate small amounts because I know that there are many people in far worse financial condition than me. Even if that were not the case, I would want to believe that there are people in far worse financial condition than me. Giving to charity makes me feel better about myself and that is well worth the contribution.
Any Contribution is better than No Contribution: If I donate one dollar to a good cause, that is one less dollar that the cause needs to raise. If everyone tried to find a way to part with an extra dollar in the checkout line at the cash register or when the collection plate came around on Sunday, a lot of good would come of it and we would all benefit from it. Think of that the next time you buy a bottle of soda at the checkout stand.
Contribute Time without Spending Money: You do not need to donate money to contribute to a charity. You can volunteer your time. I have time on my hands so this week I will be donating twenty-five hours to various local charities. I know I won’t be able to do that when I have a new job so I need to take advantage of my free time now, and who knows, by volunteering you may meet someone who can lead you to your next job or a better job.
Contribute Skill without Spending Money: Perhaps you have a skill that you can share with a charity. Are you a plumber, a craftsman, a cook or a seamstress? Many charities need skills such as yours. Take a day each month and set aside a portion of it to assist a charity that you support.
Support a Charity by Going to Its Events: Even if you really cannot afford a donation, you might still be able to find the time and the money to go to charitable events. If a band is performing a benefit concert, buy tickets and enjoy the show. If a restaurant is hosting a tasting to raise money for a charity, go to the tasting. The charity will get some money and you will be entertained or fed or otherwise get a benefit.
How and why do you give to charities? Does the current economic climate have you donating less? Are you relying on charitable assistance? Whatever your relationship may be with charitable giving, tell us about it.