Sep 15, 2013

Almsgiving Mishmash

Just as it's important to diversify our investments, so too should we diversify our giving.  

Our church parish is on a capital drive to raise a million bucks.  Half the money goes to our church, the rest to the local diocese.

A member stopped by my house last week and asked if I'd be willing to chip in some change.  Told him I'd think on it a few days, then let him know.

Here's what I said when we later talked on the phone:

I think it's important to diversify both our investments and our giving.  I already fork over a fair pile to the church each year.  If I increase the contribution, I won't have anything left to help out with other charities. So I'm unable to contribute anything to the capital drive.

95% of the other families in the church said yes when asked to give.  I was the odd man out.

I like to hug the curve of that inner ring of influence, but also am careful not to toss all the almsgiving eggs into one basket.  These three are important to me, I try to not short any of them:

- Spiritual - church and daughter's school (they are the same, her school is at church)
- Those in need - spend time with Quincy and help him replace obsolete cochlear implants
- Fitness - marathon pacer volunteer, school track team stuff

Quincy would still have fuzzy hearing if people didn't diversify their giving and toss gold tokens to help.  Readers have never met him, likely never will, yet they cared enough to contribute. 

There is plenty of need to spread around.  Money talks, but it doesn't necessarily cost anything to leave an impact.  Everybody can chip in a couple hours to make life better for another. 

Lonely seniors stuck in a retirement home with no one to talk to.
The sick and poor.
The animal rescue league.
Your kid's school.  

Start with one, but don't stop there.  Open up a can of alms and scatter that puppy across a wide path.  
Tell me in the comments what charity matters to you.  You might bring attention to a gap and inspire others to help fill it.  



  1. We have not received "the call" yet, but I have been giving a lot of thought to what we could/should give etc. I was confused by a few of the statistics...95% have pledged, which can't be right because they said 105 families. We have about 1000 families in our parish which is only 10%. Not that any of that really matters as we all need to make individual decisions. But I have wrestled with the same thoughts as you Beard. I know I have received much in the way of support, but during all of that, I continued to make the kids' tuition a priority, along with my tithing as well as contributing in time and talent. I have done more in this area as finances become tighter.

    We have a large chunk going to, some to charitable...many miscellaneous asks that come through the year, and community...outside from church.

    I believe no matter how much time, talent, and treasure we give, there is always room to give more. But I often have to balance that with ensuring my family is taken care of. And when I say taken care of, I don't mean "the extras", but basic necessities. I am constantly reassessing this as finances change and needs change.

    Good post Beard!

    1. My understanding is 105 families so far have been asked to give, and of those something like 95% said yes.

      For sure taking care of family first should be #1. Single income in my house and no chance of other income from a spouse, so I have to be extra careful about protecting my kid. I've found it's okay to say no sometimes. Also, a giving opportunity could fizzle if 100% of my charitable funds are pumped into the school and church and I have nothing left.

  2. I guess we think similarly in this regard -- we don't have tons of the green stuff to throw around, but here are some ways that we try to make a difference:

    We try to look after our own -- meaning if there's a way we can help a family member out that may be struggling, we do. For example, I have a disabled parent who is on a very tight budget (VERY), but wants to remain independent for as long as possible. I try to pick up a few items when I make my grocery store run to take by her house when I am there. Cans of soup, fresh fruit, little items that I think she will enjoy, but will not put on her grocery list herself because they are too "costly". Some may say "Oh, you should do that anyway b/c it's your parent." That is true. But it's still something that I do.

    My husband mows our church's yard and he also loads up the yard equipment and mows my mom's yard (she lives 40 miles away) -- when he hears of someone with a need (yard work, honey dos, etc.) that he can handle, he will just show up and do it.

    Last spring we walked our first 5K for charity (brain cancer research) -- the year before, we made a donation, but this year we figured we could earn more money by actually participating, and so we did. We plan on doing it every year now. :)

    I don't advertise it, but when I hear of someone who needs a photographer for a special event and doesn't have money to pay an expensive photographer, I will do it as a gift. For someone REALLY in need. I think everyone should be able to have some record of the special events in their lives and finances shouldn't stand in the way of that.

    1. All good things you mention and very generous of you and your husband. The free photographer shoot is a great long term gift for a friend. Digi pics cost nothing other than a storage card and some of your time, but the recipient will cherish them for life.

      Speaking of mowing, my yard dried up in July and the Briggs & Stratton has sat idle for months. Your husband would love it if I was your parent.

  3. Anonymous9/15/2013

    thanks, beard. i like this post. i donate all of my old clothes, furniture, house hold items, etc., rather than trying to sell things in yard sales or on craigslist. i work as a social worker in a prison, and in addition to my regular duties, i voluntarily help organize music and art events for the inmates. you cannot ever underestimate how much the smallest acts can matter to others.

    1. Goodwill and Salvation Army are perfect for dropping off gently used clothes or when my fat pants shrink in the dryer. Helping at a prison is intriguing, but I haven't had the courage to try it. How did you get started?

      Good work, keep at it!

    2. Anonymous9/16/2013

      i actually work in the prison for a check, so it isn't really volunteering. i just volunteer at the place i work to organize art/music...if that makes sense. i can imagine there might be literacy volunteers in prison, which would be interesting and rewarding. i also know there are non-profits that take volunteers to become pen pals with inmates.

  4. Interesting post, interesting comments, Beard!

    In RSA we have such a dire socio-economic situation with a huge gap between the have's and the millions of have not's, with actually a small middle class, as compared to the ideal. So our diversion also goes nearby, paying the studies of our cleaner's son who will hopefully) graduate this year with a BCom (Accounting) and the gardener's daughter with a diploma in Tourism. Three more kids on both sides coming. We hope that this investment will lift their families to the next level, so these kids don't have to work as gardeners/cleaners with a gr 4 education one day.

    But have a look here at what The Husband did -

    I married an ironman.

    1. Awesome read, you B&P readers need to head over to South Africa and Stel's blog to follow the adventure of Waka:

      That sounds intimidating taking care of tuition for the children of your helpers, what sort of cost is associated with schooling there?

      Always interesting hearing from life down there, thanks for the note and making a difference in your area!

    2. The college works out at ± $175/month, can't remember the uni, might be similar as it was distance education. Public schooling (primary & secondary) can be anything from 0 (just can't pay), ± $95/month (us)up tp $150. Private schooling goes from ± $250/month (average) to ± $1500 (big guns).
      Our Montessori preschool was just raised to $2200 per annum as from next year.

  5. Anonymous9/16/2013

    Like the post.

    While we are more blessed now with extra finances than ever before in our 16 years of marriage, we have always tithed a minimum of 10% (even when we were eating oatmeal cereal 3 meals a day for a few weeks b/c $ ran out).

    Which also makes me a little frustrated with people who hate the rich b/c they are rich. Most of the people who are "rich" that I know, worked their butts off and sacrificed for it, and while we had NOTHING, I was well aware of how much "THE RICH" were donating/tithing to organizations that actually kept great things going where as our measly few bucks would not have. We are now among the "Haves" with still a chunk of debt for purchasing a professional practice, but we give now more than ever. To whom much is given, much is expected.

    Love all your posts on living simply/denying oneself/needs vs. wants, etc. So contrary to the norm in society today, but it really does provide for a freeing lifestyle, and right order within one's life.

    -4 of seven kids attend local, Catholic schools, so right now, we have to count some of the tuition as tithe or that would be it!
    -We occasionally donate/work at the local soup kitchen.
    -Donate heavily to the local Rt. to Life office and local crisis pregnancy center that does ultrasounds, etc.
    -donate all extras to local discount stores like FISH and GW.
    -B/c we are big believers in principle of subsidiarity, we also help local families that we know of when a dad decides to ditch the family for a fling...counseling, groceries, bills, etc. (and a side note, one husband/father to a family of 6 then, now seven children left for nearly a year for Jezebel and fathered a child with her, and humbly returned...absolute miracle all the way around!)
    -My husband does work for free and reduced costs for local animal shelters.

    -Religious Orders that friends from college entered (that are faithful to the Magisterium and TRUTH):
    and a few others that we just love and appreciate:
    -Our Alma Mater, Franciscan University
    -The occasional appeal for money from an organization that is doing great good...the list is endless of whom we do/have supported.

    -We send money to the Cardinal Kung Foundation which helps the underground Church in China.

    -Our children save all their tithe money (10% of every gift/income source of money) and make a yearly contribution to the orphanage we support in Ethiopia where two of our sons came from...water purifiers, a soccer ball each year, flip-flops, and a goat or donkey or chickens. We also send money to their widows and orphans home.

    -Human Life International

    -Our sponsor child...which also supports his family.

    While this list is long and maybe makes me look like I'm touting "Holier than thou," I really am not. Sometimes a little goes a long way, and for some, we send only one donation a year. Since sending kids to the local Catholic school, donations have had to go down quite a bit which is sad, but my husband works 60 hours/week and is on call 24/7. We still don't own a TV or even a netflix subscription, and we mostly wear hand-me-downs and clothes from GW. We rarely eat out and when we do, it is usually the $ menu fast food (Wendy's when possible b/c of their support of adoption, and when we are feeling uber generous while traveling, we try to splurge on Chick-fil-A b/c of their stance of lots of things and for closing on Sundays.) We try to make our money speak for us whenever/wherever we can.)

    1. Error 404 - You've exceeded the 1,200 word comment limit.

      Just kidding, thank you for taking the time to link up to orgs that need help. I started working through them, a few to go and I will check all of them out.

      Scott Hahn was schooled at the Franciscan of Steubenville, correct? His books plus Steve Ray's Crossing the Tiber were instrumental in plucking me into the Catholic Church out of a Lutheran and Baptist background.

      I especially like the idea you mention of helping a mom and her kids when dad went AWOL. Such a personal and deep way to help when someone is at the bottom. Thinking maybe a strategic uppercut to his sack is in order.

      Oatmeal is delicious, but thrice a day would be brutal. Unless it is peaches 'n cream, yums.

      Thanks for living out your faith, God bless!

  6. Anonymous9/16/2013

    Besides my church and local charities (food kitchen, United Way), I like charities that hit several needs at once--my favorite is Solar Cookers International: my donations stretch to cover environmental issues, women's rights, hunger,and poverty all at the same time. I invest in Oikocredit for the same reason--the 2 per cent return looked pretty puny before 2008, but leaves me feeling rather smug right now--lots better than a bank account, not as good as my mutual funds--but consider that the money adds lots of social value all the time.
    Thanks for bringing up these issues--your take is seldom mentioned in the usual financial advice sources.

    1. Watched the Solar Cooker vid', simple and effective way for people without electricity to roast beans and vegetables:

      I should try one out on camping trips.

      The Oikocredit microfinancing for small business is spot on. Encourage people to fish, rather than just feeding them.

      Appreciate the heads up on these organizations, reading about them now and learning how they help the poor.

  7. I am just drawn to charities, period, and we do have to make sure that we're targeting our giving. I do think that a 10% tithe doesn't necessarily mean 10% all to one place (or that you necessarily stop at 10%; just using that as an example).

    What is your church going to use the funds for? That would be important to me. If the church is in a sturdy, safe building, is able to maintain its outreach services, meet its financial obligations, etc., I tend to be less inclined to help build a new wing onto the building just because. Not that a new wing is de facto waste, but is it necessary. Etc.

    1. The funds will support retired priests in the diocese, plus replace our church roof and some other maintenance biggies. Good causes, but feel like I already dish enough to cover my fair share for the school and church.

      Thanks for stopping by, later!

  8. Anonymous9/16/2013

    I feel similarly, Beard, and have used that thinking to politely turn down tele-charity drives. There are many causes near and dear to me, and to donate to one may mean I can't give to another. So I'd rather give money to my local VOA so that they can throw children's birthday parties than to, say, the local Troopers' union. Doesn't mean I don't appreciate the Troopers (have several family and friends in there) but I have to pick and choose where the funds go.

  9. I've been reading your blog for a bit now because I like how you express yourself and your financial advice is pretty sound.
    I have been out a job since last September, but I am a continual volunteer. I volunteered with the Peace Corps in Malawi as a teacher and I am currently volunteering as a Guardian ad Litem (a person who is the "eyes and ears" of the court representing abused/neglected/taken from their homes children...I meet up with them, and observe their behavior, their parents, and other people in their lives and determine what would be the best permanent living situation for the children).
    As for jobs, I am focusing on finding a career that assists. I would like a house, a nice car, and lots of purses, but I can be fulfilled without those things, whereas I wouldn't be fulfilled just by getting a high-paying job. So I found a job working with the state, as an eligibility specialist for food assistance, medicaid, and temporary cash assistance. My ultimate goal is to give me in the most major way I was given to, as a trauma counselor.

    Once I start getting a paycheck, I plan on donating to the Crisis Center that assisted me through a traumatic time in my life.
    Thanks for the reminder to do so.

  10. You are a mindful fellow. I enjoy reading about what makes you tick. It always makes me pause and take stock in my own decisions (or lack of direction). Thank you for offering a glimpse into your decision making - it is helping to streamline my own. Best wishes.


Thanks for the note, check back for my response!