These three ways of making a difference have been on my mind: charity, micro-lending and (new thought to me) social business. All are ways I can make a difference in the world.
Simply giving money, time or things to someone with no expectation of return. This is still probably the bulk of my giving. I find it important to give from the heart, not to be tied to returns – i.e., the tax deductability of the charity for me should not be a driver (should I stop helping a family member in need because I can’t ‘write it off on my taxes’?) nor should any outside proscriptions (some churches – thankfully not mine – believe you should give all of your tithe to them. Not for me, thanks!).
I notice even with charity my favorite one is one that empowers people to be self-sufficient: Heifer International (www.heifer.org ). Giving a poor family farm animals helps them to be self-sustaining – I love that! And I love giving animals on the behalf of family or friends. My beloved father doesn’t want gifts any more – he has what he needs and would just rather not get stuff. So I get my farm-raised Dad animals – but not for him! I love this!
Charity has a very important place in the world, but it’s not the only way to give, which leads me to Sharing-my-Abundance Method #2.
Muhammad Yunus, author of “Banker to the Poor”, is the father of micro-lending, for which he won a Nobel Peace Prize. Micro-lending works on the principle that the poor don’t want handouts – they need a hand up – often a very small ‘hand’. His first loan was $27 to buy a goat. That enabled the woman to whom he lent the money to create a business to sustain her family. So micro-lending provides poor, typically third-world people with small loans with which they start micro businesses. The payback rate on these loans is well over 90% (no foreclosures or bankruptcies here!). Yunus had very innovative ideas when he formed Grameen Bank – loaning primarily to women (they need to support their children so they’re very diligent), doing the loans in groups of women – having several women with disparate businesses form a support pod, and including education and support in the process. His thinking is truly revolutionary! Whilst I could support Grameen Foundation, I have found Kiva to be fun and easy. You can make loans to people using a wide variety of criteria (continent, country, gender, type of business, amount needed, etc.). The loans are done in $25 chunks. So one borrower may have multiple lenders – Kiva handles all the paperwork, et al. So far I’ve made 7 loans – several are fully paid back, the rest in progress. Oh yeah, these are LOANS so you receive interest on them. You can take your money and go home. Or you can re-lend – up to you! I think it’s so fun to change the world with the money I could easily blow on dinner out that I just keep lending. In fact this year I’m doing a loan a month and I’m letting a different family member pick the recipient each month. Why? I’m kind of like the dope-pushers of yore – I’ll give them a hit for free and hook ’em for life! that’s my hope at least.
This concept is totally new to me! And deserves its own post – watch for next Tuesday night/Wednesday morning installment of the IDEA post (remember, I”m doing posts on different categories, five days per week!) for more on this highly intriguing new idea. I just finished Yunus’s newest book “Building Social Business” and I think I also need to let it percolate more – it’s truly revolutionary idea-wise!
I”m a great believer that money is energy and it likes to circulate. I don’t give away money in order to get more – even at my most self-serving that seems icky. That said, that’s EXACTLY what happens. You get what you give!
I’ll end with my favorite story about that principle. I may have told you this before, but it’s such a lesson for me – I hope it is for you too. It’s true because it happened to me!
I was walking to the train one night very late, crossing the Chicago River on a bridge where beggars love to stand as you can’t dodge them unless you want to play in traffic or swim. An old man limped over and with a beautiful Irish brogue asked for some money for “coffee”. I reached into my wallet and found a $1 bill and a $20. Darn! Had I a $5 or maybe a $10 I would have given that, but too cheap to part with a $20, I gave him a buck saying “ah, with that beautiful brogue, of course I’ll give you a dollar!”. He smiled and said “May it come back to ye ten times over!”
I thought nothing of it, felt happy to have given a buck and went home. The very next night, when I returned from work, in the mail was an envelope from “The Republic of Ireland.” Hmm. Opened it up and there was a check for EXACTLY ten dollars (“ten times over…”) for a VAT tax I had paid months before and totally had forgotten about.
Damn! I should have given him the $20!
True story. But you know what, friends? I ‘get it back’ way way way more than ten times over.
What does giving look like in YOUR life?