Donating On A Budget

Many of us like to give.  We have those particular charities, organizations, or causes that we like to support.  We have the sense of contributing, of making a difference.  It makes us feel good.  In one particular class that I teach, we work through a budget that includes a line item for donations and offerings.  In a scenario that is designed to be very tight, I have watched groups struggle with this item.

The responses range from “No way – he hasn’t been doing it so far” to “Absolutely!  He needs to get past himself and this is necessary.”  This particular item has actually raised some of the biggest ‘discussions’ I’ve had in the class; far bigger than the essentials like housing and food.

I get it.  We want to help and make a difference.  And yet, depending on our circumstances, giving financially can really be difficult for us.  Are we really called to risk our essentials to give to someone else?  Well, I’ll leave that philosophical debate for another time.

So you have decided you need to give, but aren’t sure your finances are going to allow for any donations.  Now what?  Have you thought about what giving can really include?  Thinking through my time as a leader in my church, I can tell you that many churches (and MANY organizations beyond that) would love to have someone walk in the door and ask “What can I do?”.  I dare say many organizations would almost be happier with a donation of time than strictly money.

But does it really make a difference?  I mean, what could I really accomplish in a few hours compared to what they could really get done with a couple hundred bucks?  Well, let me quantify that for you.

A StatisticBrain study as recently as September of 2015 found that an hour of donated time had an average value of $20.25 for an organization.  small plant in handsWork out that math.  Five hours of time (a good Saturday afternoon) and you’ve made a donation equivalent to over $100 to the organization of your choice.  While we could work extra hours to make more money to donate, I would guess that a large number of us do not make $20.25 per hour at work.  Therefore, it may actually be a better return for those organizations if we donate our time.

Nearly all of us have some free time to give if we set it as a priority.  For those in a tight financial situation, finding extra time can be much easier than finding extra cash to give.  Where would you like to make a donation?

Friends OutsideBeyond helping the organization accomplish tasks, we find that donating time has other side benefits as well.  People actually find a stronger connection with the organization they are helping.  There is a face to the place, if you will.  People also tend to develop more and deeper friendships when they work along side people who have similar passions.  They become friends.

But bigger than donating time, this illustrates a couple of key points that apply very well to our broader situation.

First, think creatively.  We can sometimes end up in a rut so deep that we can’t see out of it.  But if we force ourselves just a little, there are often all kinds of opportunities for us to think a little differently than normal and make a big difference.

Second, priorities rule.  We talked about finding time to donate if we really set it as a priority.  The same can nearly always be true of money if we are really honest with ourselves.  More often than not, it is not that we can’t pay our bills, but that we won’t.  We have the money but have made a choice to spend it elsewhere.  That may be the best option, but by claiming the choice as our own, we also reclaim a certain amount of control and self-determination over our greater circumstances.  What are your priorities?

If you have set your priorities and would now like help getting the budget in place to make those priorities happen, the Center for Financial Resources is here to help.  While we have our own personal priorities, it is our job as counselors to help you achieve your priorities.  What can we help you achieve?


written by Breck Miller
images courtesy

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