You’ve been there. Your friend asks you to donate to their effort to raise money for a charity that means a great deal to them. You acquiesce, for one reason or another, good or bad. You supported them, which made you feel great, but are you shorting yourself? You helped a charity, which you may or may not have cared about. You helped your friend. But did you help yourself? I know what you’re thinking: this is charity, why would I be concerned with helping myself?
You should be concerned about helping yourself because you care about charity.
For a moment, let’s hypothetically say you are tremendously out of shape (physically). You know you should exercise, and you most likely will. You don’t know what type of exercise will work for you, but you know it’s a good thing to exercise. One day, your friend invites you to to their Cult-Fit class. You exercise. You’re glad you exercised, but you didn’t enjoy it. You know it was the right thing to do, but it wasn’t your thing. Are you soured on exercise? Not quite, but you aren’t exactly enthused either. The satisfaction you felt for exercising didn’t surpass the disinterest you had in the particular type of exercise. Stalemate.
The next week, your other friend invites you to her Joomba class. It’s a Brazilian jazz step class. You liked it a little bit better than Cult-Fit, but felt much the same way, post workout. However, the Joomba class gave you an idea. You discovered that you liked particular elements of Joomba, and were going to deliberately seek-out a fitness practice that had those particular elements. Finally, you found the prefect exercise for you. You quickly get addicted, in a healthy way, to this fitness craze, and it impacts your wellness forever.
Had you never sought out something that truly interested you, you never would have changed your life. Had you only played catch waiting for your friends to pitch you fitness ideas, you wouldn’t have found something so meaningful for you. I believe this same phenomenon exists with people’s charitable giving habits. Many people are so used to playing catch and fielding requests, that they never take the time to realize the possibility of how something more personal and fulfilling could truly change their life. This “addiction” is very important. No one is addicted to fielding their friends’ asks. The charitable spirit that exists in all of us will just curl up and die if we don’t let it loose.
You need to be a proactive giver. Being a reactive giver can lead to unsatisfying giving, and ultimately kill your desire to do good. If you become a proactive giver, you will fully realize the fruits of your charitable efforts.
Sometimes you’re just going to need to make your opportunity. One of the ways to do this is to choose a charity of your liking, and then focus on buying them things they need. In other words, you are owning the gifts. One of my favorite charity stories ever was when a group of elementary school students raised money to buy a local police dog a bullet proof vest. The kids got to leave the experience having purchased a vest for a dog. Ask how much certain items and processes cost within an organization that you want to support. How much does it cost for a family to spend one week at the shelter? Donate that amount. How much do ten mammograms cost for underprivileged women? Donate that much.
Own the gift. That’s my bench. That’s my scholarship. That’s the business suit I bought so that he could find a job. Stop thinking about charity as money. Think of charity by thinking about the physical impact that it has. And then act on that. Every community, including the community you live in, needs people who understand this concept. Seek. Don’t wait.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.