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[00:39] - When we think of charity, we usually take the traditional corporate approach, which is simply to look for and fill a large gap.
[01:20] - People should continue to try to help those in dire need.
[02:16] - A recent article about an automotive shop providing assistance to those in need is a good example of proactive charity.
[03:08] - The biggest issue with charitable giving is that it is reactionary rather than proactive, in part because we have heard the same script about what giving looks like or includes for so long. Many companies enter into this trap by looking only at the same charities year after year.
[04:24] - The concepts of personal autonomy, grit, and capitalism all can interfere with being proactive. We tend to think that if someone needs help, they didn’t try hard enough, and so we wait until things are more dire to help.
[05:27] - There is a large number of people in the United States who are in precarious situations and just need a little bit of help to prevent a massive snowball into disaster.
[06:25] - Healthcare is another example where reactionary assistance is common.
[07:09] - People must be constantly on the lookout for signs of initial trouble, because people don’t always want or know how to ask for help. We must be like the watchful good Samaritan, always watching for hints that someone is in trouble, even when they cannot cry out.
[08:22] - Rewinding the tapes allows individuals and organizations to identify the initial common denominators that cause trouble for people. Once those common denominators are identified, we can create teams to target the problem effectively.
[08:54] - Leaders who want to engage in charity should be on the lookout for good talent so they can delegate and fill the logistical needs that are present. They also need to be aware that, if they approach charity well, they will eliminate the need. This requires a mindset shift, because most leaders think in business terms, in which continued need means continued demand and, therefore, profit. They can think like serial entrepreneurs to tackle more than one social issue.
[10:34] - Rewinding the tapes might mean that you have to work harder to connect the dots for people and help them see how your activities align with the core values of your organization.
For many people, charity defaults to activities like volunteering or giving change. The focus usually is on people who have the biggest need — i.e., the people who are in the biggest trouble.
Recognizing severe need is a good thing. Keep giving to people in desperate circumstances.
An article about an automotive shop doing work for reduced rates or free offers an example of how to be proactive and address “snowball” points people might encounter.
The main issue with contemporary charity is that it tends to be reactionary rather than proactive.
The concepts of personal autonomy, grit, and capitalism all can interfere with our ability to be properly proactive in charity. People often cannot bootstrap or help themselves and already are doing the best they can, but we tend to believe they should try harder or have dropped the ball if they need help.
Instead of asking “How bad is it?”, we should ask, “What do you need to make sure it doesn’t get work?”
People do not always reach out when they need help, and sometimes they are too disoriented or in danger to do so. As a result, we have an obligation to read between the lines and look out for signs of trouble.
To be proactive, rewind the tapes and get to the root of why people got into trouble. Find the common denominators that lead to big issues. Then create a team that can tackle that issue well, using delegation to make everything work smoothly. Do this well and the need people have will gradually disappear — this is different than in traditional business, which sees continued need as desirable for its connection to continued patronage and purchase. As needs become resolved, think like a serial entrepreneur and pick new ones to tackle.
Charitable giving should be aligned with your core values. Rewinding the tapes properly might mean you have to work harder to make sure others understand why you are targeting the activity you are targeting.
Research what is causing the needs you see in your community to identify how you might more proactively combat the issue.
What’s coming up next:
Most leaders have a completely different perception of what is happening in their companies or what workers need than their teams do. Episode 86 of Faithful on the Clock offers some ways that people at all levels can get everyone on the same page.
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Well, hello, everybody out there. Thanks so much for joining me for Episode 85 of Faithful on the Clock, the podcast where every acorn grows into an oak to get your faith and work aligned. Whether you’re new to the show or returning as an old fan, I’m Wanda Thibodeaux, your host, and today, we’re talking about charity. I’m gonna lay out why the traditional approach to giving fails individuals and communities and how workers and their employers can do better with a more proactive mindset. Let’s get started.
So, when you think of charity, what do you think of? Do you get a picture in your head of maybe giving change to somebody on the street? Maybe volunteering at a homeless shelter or having your company donate toys at Christmas? That’s, I think the image most people have, and even though you can have a lot of different ways to give, there’s kind of this formula where, like, we try to look around and see where there’s an obvious, big gap and then fill that gap, right? And if you think about it, that’s a very corporate, very business-oriented way of looking at charity. We take that same fill-a-need perspective when we’re trying to design new products and innovate.
Now, I do not want to say that there’s anything bad about recognizing when people are in severe need, OK? We have scriptures like 1 John 3:17, which says, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” And there are other verses that talk about, you know, leaving some grain for the poor when you harvest, and of course, there’s the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-27, which teaches us not only to be loving, but also that sometimes the people who are the most charitable are not the people we expect. So, please don’t stop contributing when you see somebody’s down and out, OK?
But a while back, I happened to read this article about this new automotive shop that had opened up. And what made this shop different is that all of their services were either discounted or free so that people could get back on their feet. You know, I loved this article, because it’s such a good example of something that’s like a key joint or load-bearing post, right? Because so often, if you don’t have a vehicle, you can’t get to work, and if you can’t get to work, you can’t pay for basics like your food or rent. So, if you make sure people have this little bit of help early on, you can often stop their situation from snowballing into circumstances that are a lot worse. And so this is a very different way of helping people. It’s much more proactive. It doesn’t wait until people are on their last chip to intervene.
So, that is really what I see as the crux of the problem with charitable giving right now. It’s very reactive rather than proactive. We’re not very good at identifying the points where we could help people out of the gate, and I think the reason for that is that we’ve been told the script for giving is the soup kitchen for so long that we just default to it. We don’t think creatively about it. Or alternately, what I see a lot is that companies keep on supporting the same community charities and programs every single year, kind of taking an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it attitude. And that’s not always bad, because programs need sponsors they can count on. But what sometimes happens is that the routine established around giving creates a bias or blindside around other community problems that aren’t being handled. And it can end up hurting communities and individuals because then the businesses are not responding to the immediate needs that have cropped up, or they’re not looking ahead to how new issues could potentially cause harm down the line. If you want to put that in business terms, it means that the individuals or groups within that community can’t respond in an agile, flexible way to whatever gets thrown at them.
Now, this stop-the-snowball idea is not new. For example, there are studies that show that access to education lowers the risk of someone getting into trouble with the law and going to jail. But I think what happens is that people let the concepts of personal autonomy, grit, and capitalism all interfere with being proactive. There’s this notion, I think, that the very fact that people are in trouble somehow proves that they didn’t play the game well enough, that they didn’t give it everything they had. And so when things start to get shaky for someone, our tendency is to basically tell them to just suck it up and bootstrap and try harder. You know, we put the moral or knowledge or effort failure all on them and tell them that it’s their responsibility to figure it out. And to me, that’s like walking up to the guy who got robbed on the road to Jericho and telling him he’s not allowed to ask for help until he’s bandaged all of his own wounds, or that it’s his fault for getting beat up because it was his decision to take that road in the first place.
And so, I really want to challenge that perception. And I talked about this in Episode 12 about grit, but there are so many people doing everything they can, genuinely trying their hardest, and it’s still not enough. I’ll have links in the show notes for everything here, but 61 percent of people in the United States live paycheck to paycheck right now. And just to be clear, that also includes people who make decent money because of things like school debt and whatnot. 30 percent wouldn’t be able to cover three months of expenses if an emergency happened, and another 22 percent has no emergency savings at all. There is no state in America where a person can work a minimum-wage job and still cover rent for a two-bedroom apartment now, OK? So, we all really need to understand that a lot of people are in a really precarious place, and they just need a little bit of charity to prevent a massive spiral. You know, they don’t necessarily need months of help or a lot of manpower. You know, a lot of the time, it’s just a few hundred bucks one time.
So when we look at our communities or at individuals, I don’t think the right question is “How bad is it?” I think the right question is, “What do you need to make sure it doesn’t get worse?” Probably the best example I can give is healthcare. You know, in America, our system is incredibly reactionary. Often, you have to have a medical issue causing real interference with your life before insurance will step in and pay for care. So people have to wait and wait until they’re in serious pain or real physical danger before they can get help.
But within all this, we have to be willing to read between the lines sometimes. Because what happens a lot, too, is that pride gets in the way. Because we have this perception that people should be able to make it independently, people don’t wanna admit that they’re in trouble. And a lot of the time, they go to great lengths to hide the fact that they need help. They’re embarrassed and ashamed about it. So, they don’t talk about it, or if they do, they minimize everything and pretend they can handle it. And sometimes they’re knocked down so bad they’re disoriented or knocked out and they can’t ask for what they need. The people who need the help aren’t always going to make noise. And in those times, they need you to look down into the ditch. This is where it becomes your job to keep your eyes open as you travel to Jericho. Or better yet, you go early and get out ahead of the thugs so they don’t put anybody in the ditch in the first place. It’s really about understanding what the problems are and why they happen and then organizing your charity so you have to move a pebble for someone rather than a mountain. I hope that all makes sense.
So, what I’d like to challenge you to do as an individual or organization is, of course keep giving to the people who really are hard up, but then rewind the tapes, as they say. Ask people how they got where they are and try to figure out what some of the biggest common denominators are that cause trouble. And then try to find organizations that are targeting those common denominators. Or if those organizations aren’t in place, create a team of your own that can start to tackle that problem.
And to go back to that auto shop example, part of this is also seeing the talent around you. You know, one of the things leaders learn really fast is that they’re not good at everything and that they have to delegate to make good things happen. So, if you’re the person who sees people need help with their cars, maybe you’re not a mechanic, but you can say, all right, who in my community is really great at tinkering under the hood? Or who’d be really awesome at keeping all the applications for repairs organized and filed the way they have to be filed? And the whole goal as you delegate isn’t just to fill the immediate gap. It’s to make sure that that gap doesn’t keep opening back up for people. That is a little different than in business, because in business, you actually want the customer need to persist, right, or there’s not going to be a demand. But with charity, you wanna get people to the point where they don’t have to come to you anymore. And I want to stress that because when you’re in the business mindset all day long, it can be hard to switch gears to this idea that you actually don’t want people to keep coming back. If you truly solve the problem, you won’t have people come to you at all, and if, hopefully, that happens, that’s when you say, OK, what other social issue can we start to tackle? You do not have to stop being charitable just because you solved something. You just have to identify a new gap. So, try to think like a serial entrepreneur, OK? It’s OK to pivot and let go of what you’ve worked on, because that means you can go do good somewhere else.
The last thing I want to say about proactive charitable giving is that it’s still important that all of your activity is in line with the core values you have. And I point that out because you might find that, as you rewind the tapes, you have to really show other people why you are targeting what you are targeting. You know, you have to connect all the dots for them to show them that your activities actually do tie back to what you stand for. Like, going back to that education example, if your core value is that everyone deserves freedom, well, how does making sure someone takes a class or has access to the Internet give them that? Right? So, you might have to work a little harder when you’re getting people to donate or volunteer to make sure they understand how their contribution is gonna make a difference.
So, as you take all of this in and maybe consider what the people around you could benefit from, let me pray for a minute.
Lord, we use the word charity now when we talk about giving, but the original definition of the word, especially for Christians, is love. So, God, help us remember that when we give our time or money or whatever else we have, it oughta be driven by a genuine desire to love our neighbor the way You taught us to. Don’t let it be just something we do for, you know, a tax write-off or any of that. Let it be because loving reflects and honors You. And Lord, direct people the right way, get their biases out of the way so they can rewind the tapes all the way to the beginning. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.
It’s time for me to wrap it up already, listeners. I hope this show has inspired you to be, maybe a little less passive in how you approach giving to others, and I encourage you to join forces if you can to have the biggest charitable influence you can. Next time, it’s all about the purpose effective boundaries serve in the workplace. When should you say no? When should you say yes? And how in the world do you say either one without creating conflict? Check for that in two weeks, everybody, and until then, be blessed.
Faithful on the Clock is a podcast meant to get your Christian faith and work aligned. You won’t find mantras or hacks here--just scripture-based insights to help you grow yourself, your company, and your relationship with God. If you want out of the worldly hamster wheel and want to work with purpose, then this is the show for you. Hosted by freelance business writer Wanda Thibodeaux.
Wanda Marie Thibodeaux is a freelance writer based in Eagan, MN. Since 2006, she has worked with a full range of clients to create website landing pages, product descriptions, articles, professional letters, and other content. She also served as a daily columnist at Inc.com for three years, where she specialized in content on business leadership, psychology, neuroscience, and behavior.
Currently, Thibodeaux accepts clients through her website, Takingdictation.com. She is especially interested in motivational psychology, self-development, and mental health.