As a certifiable tightwad, I constantly survey our household budget to be sure that we are getting the most "bang for the buck" in each budget category. As a balanced person, one column in our household budget is labeled "church and charity."
Although advice is plentiful for the grocery, clothing and even the entertainment column of the budget, for the value laden area of charitable giving, advice is rare. Feeling particularly brave (and with a clock of anonymity surrounding me), I will stand tall and share my giving philosophy.
My faith teaches that all of us have an obligation to help one another and to support the church and its mission. In the practical application of this principle, my first obligation, beyond home and family, is to my local church and local community.
Experience demonstrates that purchasing products for a charitable cause is an expensive and inefficient method of fund raising. I refuse to buy a ten dollar candle (which I could purchase at a yard sale for 25 cents), so that one dollar will eventually find its way to a local cause. Nor do I respond to mail or phone requests. These requests multiply exponentially if you respond to even one.
It is helpful to be prepared for the inevitable arrival of the little "darlings of the doorstep" with a well-rehearsed response. For example, "Oh, isn't that a beautiful candle. But, you know, I just don't need one right now. I sure do wish you good luck!" (said with a warm smile as you close the door).
Now that we have covered what we don't do, let's proceed to what we should do. My husband and I both make it a point to always carry a one dollar bill in our wallets for those times when a dollar is an appropriate donation. For example, we give when friends or neighbors are standing outside the grocery store selling Tootsie Rolls to benefit Special Olympics or Buddy Poppies for disabled Veterans. Or when there is a family tragedy affecting a co-worker, I can sign my name to the workplace gift card and add a dollar to the "love offering" taken up on his or her behalf.
Each New Years Day, I prepare a large recycled business envelope upon which are posted all donations along with the amount and date. Inside the envelope, receipts are collected so that at the end of the year, the record is complete.
An obvious giving area for tightwads is the reuse and recycling of household goods. For example, clothes and household items contributed to the church yard sale are re-sold for ten cents on the retail dollar. This is a "win-win" situation. Buyers can find the goods they need at bargain prices. Givers have more orderly closets and cupboards stocked with items in current use. And the church gains from its greatest source of income beyond the weekly collection. Likewise, used books, videos, tapes and CDs donated to the Friends of the Library are either added to the library's collection or sold in a seasonal fund raiser with the proceeds used for supplemental needs. Often, a local bank, Sears Vision, Lenscrafters and Pearle Vision will have bins for accepting used eyeglasses and hearing aids for recycling by the Lions Club.
Local schools often welcome "Box Tops for Education" labels for funding school playground equipment. The Red Cross is always eager for strong and healthy blood donors.Giving is a personal and private matter, reflecting deeply held values, goals and religious beliefs. What is right for me and my family may not be at right for the reader. Nevertheless, in my view, our giving does matter and how we give matters even more than how much is given.
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