Have You Added “Giving” to Your Financial Plan This Holiday Season?
Do you struggle with giving? If so, you’re not alone. Many Americans (even Christians) struggle to give out of their abundance.
I work in an industry that doesn’t value giving. It’s not that we discourage giving, it’s more that we focus on accumulation. One of our main objectives is to make sure people have enough to sustain their lifestyle long after they stop working. With a heavy emphasis on wise spending and debt reduction, there is often little room for conversations around giving.
Occasionally I run across a client that includes giving in their financial planning. This takes the form of tithes, donations, and random acts of kindness. It’s encouraging, and, hopefully, we will see more people make giving a cornerstone of their financial plan.
Giving is somewhat an industry in our culture. We all know non-profits that work diligently to secure one-time and annual donations to fund their mission. We’ve all received mailings, phone calls, and emails asking for our donation at this “urgent” or “critical” time of need. I’m not suggesting this is a bad thing, just acknowledging that the “giving industry” exists.
A recent article explains the “art” of fundraising pitches and how they are designed to tug at our heart strings. While we might be tempted to get angry at such tactics, I think we should consider why the tactics are needed in the first place. One reason, the article explains, is that even though we can have immediate feedback about an object we purchase. But donating to charities doesn’t have a mechanism for feedback. This can create an almost built-in skepticism when giving to charities. The article states:
“That fundraisers make emotional entreaties should not make us cynics about charity. So do marketers who sell us iPhones and frozen pizzas, yet we still buy such things. But unlike a phone, which we can evaluate and decide to keep or return, charity has few feedback loops. For most of us, it’s impossible to determine if our investment produced real results. So the classic fundraising story serves as both sales pitch and satisfaction survey all in one. If we feel good about our donation, we tell ourselves it made a difference.”
This statement seems to ring true when compared to a study showing women planning to give more of their time and energy to serve local charities while men seem to enjoy spontaneously helping neighbors and friends in need. This isn’t a commentary on whether one is right or wrong over the other, it’s a commentary on the differences between the genders as it relates to giving. The article writes:
“Separately, men tend to give far more impulsively, while women plan their giving. That happens during the holidays, when, as in my experience, a woman tells her kids that the family is going to go to a soup kitchen to volunteer or when that same mom schedules time to help at church in a children’s ministry. Dad, in contrast, will spontaneously help a neighbor fix a car or donate online to help with hurricane relief.”
Giving, whether through donation of time and energy to help a local non-profit, or by helping your neighbor fix his car, is an essential for any good financial plan. Yes, you read that right. Giving is an essential for a good financial plan. If we are greedy to the point that we refuse, or neglect giving, our greed has become a serious problem. If we work so much we don’t have time to give, our priorities are out of sort. For this reason, giving must be an integral part of our financial planning.
I might be inclined to direct these comments at Christians, specifically. Perhaps to think that giving as a critical part of financial planning pertains only to people of faith. Even though I think the Bible makes clear that generosity is part of stewardship, I think that non-religious people should incline themselves towards giving.
J.I.Packer wrote about how we understand stewardship – the management of all that we’ve been given and what our attitude toward money should be. Packer writes from a biblical perspective. But his wisdom is valuable to everyone seeking to live a generous life. Packer writes:
“That is the point of the word stewardship, which nowadays is in effect the church’s label for the discipline of giving. A steward is someone whom an owner entrusts with the managing of his assets. An investment manager is a steward: he has control of his clients’ assets in one sense, but his job is to understand and implement his clients’ wishes and priorities regarding their use. In the same way, a trustee is a steward: his job is to invest, safeguard, and disburse the money in the trust according to the stated purpose of whoever appointed him. Society (which Scripture calls “the world”) sees each person’s money as his own possession, to use as he likes. Scripture, however, sees our money as a trust from God, to be used for his glory.”
If we understand our money and possessions as being a trust, something given to us for the purpose of helping and serving others, it will change how we view wealth. We will carefully add giving to our financial plan and seek to better the circumstances of those around us. Not for fame or recognition, but to say “thank you” for the blessings we have received in our life.