Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

19 June 2010

Are we in the middle of a giving revolution?

I saw this on Donald Miller's Twitter site the other day...

It's a link to a press release from Warren Buffet outlining why he is personally pledging to give away 99% of his money to charitable philanthropic destinations. Here are some highlights:

Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day. Millions of people who regularly contribute to churches, schools, and other organizations thereby relinquish the use of funds that would otherwise benefit their own families. The dollars these people drop into a collection plate or give to United Way mean forgone movies, dinners out, or other personal pleasures. In contrast, my family and I will give up nothing we need or want by fulfilling this 99% pledge

My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest. Both my children and I won what I call the ovarian lottery. (For starters, the odds against my 1930 birth taking place in the U.S. were at least 30 to 1. My being male and white also removed huge obstacles that a majority of Americans then faced.)

My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I've worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate's distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.

The reaction of my family and me to our extraordinary good fortune is not guilt, but rather gratitude. Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others. That reality sets an obvious course for me and my family: Keep all we can conceivably need and distribute the rest to society, for its needs. My pledge starts us down that course.

He, along with Bill and Melinda Gates, are challenging rich Americans to give 50% of their net worth as well. It's called the "600 Billion Dollar Challenge". Some are very suspicious of the motives behind their actions. But regardless of our opinions... this is changing the face of giving.

CTV news talks about how groups representing "average" folks are responding:

Other more grassroots groups have made more modest calls. For example, Giv3 encourages Canadians to donate three per cent of their income every year to charity, while also volunteering three hours a month.

While that doesn't sound like much, the group notes that most Canadians give less than once per cent of personal pre-tax salaries to charity, with lower income groups giving a higher percentage of their income (1.7 per cent) than higher income groups (just 0.5 per cent).

Really? Canadians give LESS THAN 1%?? And the lower income folks giving MORE?? Those are very sad numbers. It's clear to me that giving in our cultural context... is broken.

Giving... quite simply is RIGHT. Sacrificial giving... is RIGHT. It changes both the giver and recipient. And it feels SO good. Even Hollywood knows it, because that "giving is right" revelation/euphoria sells tickets. Doesn't always mean that they DO it however.

Here's the other thing about giving (and it's also reason why people are suspicious about Gates and Buffet) ... giving gives you power and influence. Imagine the influence on the earth the rich of America will have through giving to causes they care about. Not only will legitimate problems be solved... not only will your spirit be lighter... but people will listen to you more. Your cred level goes up. As it turns out, people will want what you have even more than when you just bought homes and drove Italian cars.

Companies are learning that giving bolsters their brand. Same with individuals.

Is this devious? I'm there are some gentle hearts that might feel that. But process this a bit further here. Giving just turns out "right" because it IS right! In fact we should recognize that you will change for the better and have influence in what you give towards. It's pretty spiritually accurate actually. You sow where you want to go.

Former NBA notable Manute Bol died Saturday. He is 14th on the all-time blocks leaderboard in the history of the league... but the notable part of his life was because of giving.

Bol came from Sudan and was given what he described as a "gift from God". His height. He was 7'7 and weighed only 225lbs. He was standout individual because of how different a player and person he was. Manute Bol built hospitals, schools and even served as a liaison for peace in Sudan. He gave pretty much everything. So much so that in 2007 he got very sick and didn't have the money for his own health care because he had given it all away.

After his NBA days were over, he did stupid reality TV and goofy made-for-tv things (ex boxing matches and horse races) even though he was in physical pain, because they would pay him more money than most Sudanese people could dream of. And he gave it to things he believed in.

Today he's remembered as one of the most exemplary professional athletes of this or any generation.

God cares about our giving. He knows that WE need to give to have a healthy life, to provide care for others AND have influence on earth and heaven. What He doesn't care that much about... it the amount. Although however... He DOES care about the percentages.

Mark 12: 41-44Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, "The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford—she gave her all."

That widow has been remembered and impactful for 2000 years. Back to the eye of the needle thing. Jesus said in Matthew 19:

23Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

He said it when an exuberant, wealthy, young buck wanted to know how to get eternal life and Jesus suggested he sell all his stuff! He turtled. Quick. Jesus was making a point that you have to be able to give it all away because stuff here doesn't matter. We aren't accumulating here... we're accumulating in heaven based on how open handed we are here. It's just a bit harder when we have a lot of stuff. Not impossible. Same mindset required. Just a larger number.

We get fooled and impressed by numbers. It's not the amount... it's the percentage... and the sacrifice. So here's the Gates/Buffet deal. It's not about the amount. God's not impressed by their numbers. But no matter how Buffet spins it... 99% costs something. In an age where most people are giving NOTHING (or precious close to it) ... 99% is pretty darn cool. And their challenge is well-timed because the rich have a LOT of making up of time to do when it comes to giving.. so this great start.

But it WILL start something. Quite likely in the middle of a giving revolution. Those who give will steer the focus of the world. Time to start really thinking about how to give strategically. Find what you believe in and give to it. It's just RIGHT.


Sarah@EmergingMummy said...

Fantastic! I agree completely. My husband is from Omaha and, therefore, feels a certain kinship with Warren Buffet (same hometown, nowhere near the $$$!). I was so blessed by his attitude and hope that more of us can follow his example - not just the billionaires but even those of us "normals". May we all embrace a simpler way of living and hold our material goods a bit more loosely. So inspiring!

Anonymous said...

WoW. thanks for posting this. :D

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