My best friend had moved an ocean away, when her husband died in the line of duty. There wasn’t anything practical I could do to help being a whole continent away. So I went out and spent $300 on new shoes for her. Cute shoes. Snazzy boots. I didn’t have $300 to spend in that month’s budget. But I didn’t give it a moments thought, because we have a Giving Fund.
We have spent a lot of money in our lives on things I have long forgotten about. Can I even count the number of Chipotle burritos I’ve eaten? Or the clearance clothes I bought on whim but never really wore. Some things are best forgotten.
But the money I have spent from the Giving Fund? I remember all of those dollars. Each is a meaningful story. Stories I cherish long after they happened.
Our giving fund enables us to meet people in their moment of greatest need without notice. We can also surprise people with a huge blessing at the perfect time. No need to work the numbers. No wondering how it will effect our own budget for the month.
Here is how to get started:
1. Create a separate checking/saving account
There are 2 organizations we give to every month and I love seeing the long term effects that has. But we also have a Giving Fund. Each month we transfer money into that account so we are ready when the need or opportunity strikes.
Each person can start with a number that works for them. Right now we give an extra $200 a month to help fund these one time gifts, but any amount can add up! Even $10 a month could be leveraged into a huge impact. Imagine if you saved that up for a year ($120) and gave it as a Christmas bonus to your favorite cashier at a local grocery store. Armed with cash in hand (or in a nice card), that gift might be a bigger blessing than you could ever imagine.
In college, I had a friend was working at a ice cream shop. When a customer asked her how her day was going she admitted, “Honestly it has been a rough week for me.” ( A family member had passed away that week) The older gentlemen pulled out a $100 bill and put it in the tip jar. She was blown away by his kindness. I have never forgotten that story because of how meaningful it was to her.
When we already have the money set aside, we don’t have to stress about using it when the opportunity arrives. It’s in a named account, and for a specific purpose. We can give with more joy because we are prepared. It’s a line item in our budget.
2. Eyes wide open
One of the great things about having a Giving Fund is feeling empowered to make a difference. When we feel powerless to help, it’s easier to live with blinders on. We keep our heads down because we feel we have no ability to effect change. We want to connect with people but can be overwhelmed by not being able to fix things, so we keep a distance. With a chunk of change in our giving account, my eyes are wide open. I can lean into conversations to hear what someone might need. I can be attentive to someone’s struggle, knowing I might be able to help. My eyes can scan for fun opportunities to be a blessing. It gives me a framework to act freely. I can look at the number in our giving account and know that up to that dollar amount, I am prepared.
I can’t fix every problem, but I can do something.
Sometimes that is all people need.
Someone to show up and care.
To send a gift basket when they experience loss. Or drop off some ice cream at their office if they have had a hard week. A Costco gift card at the holidays so they can buy holiday gifts and food for their family. A Papa Murphy’s gift card when a new child arrives (adopted or biological.)
3. Be stealthy
Although I have dozens of amazing stories about giving, most of my friends have never heard them. Maybe they helped me play a part in one story. They keep my secrete safe as my accomplice in a good deed. A few times I have talked to a friend about how I could help. Most often the money just shows up in a card, or via a friend of a friend. When the story is retold, my name is left out of it. It’s better that way. For me, and for the story.
Here is one such story where my name was omitted after the fact.
Mr. Mt and I had decided to give away 10% of our net worth (on top of our regular giving) when we had about $25,000 saved up. So we pulled $2500 out of our account and kept our eyes and heart open. We were down to the last little bit, and I had it sealed up in a card. I carried that card around for weeks, waiting for the perfect opportunity.
I met up with the Children’s pastor from our church one evening, and he mentioned a strange experience he had that day. He had stopped to get his guitar repaired. When he was in the shop he spotted a certain guitar. He played on it for a while, as he waited. He told me, “You know it’s crazy. But I felt like that was something I needed. I never buy anything. And I absolutely don’t have the money for it. I just really felt that I could use this guitar for work. I had to walk away because it’s an impossible amount of money, but it’s been hard to shake.” “Really?” I asked. “How much exactly was that guitar?” He pulled out a little slip of paper that had the price with tax written on it. I almost fell over. To the dollar, it was the exact amount of money in the card I had been carrying around. I pulled the card out of my bag, and said, “I think this is meant for you.” Now, beings we didn’t have any idea what we would do with the money when I took the money out of our savings account, it was a stack of all sorts of bills. $10’s, $20, $50’s and $100’s. As he unsealed the envelope and started counting the stack of cash, the weight of the moment was palpable. When he got to the exact dollar he had been quoted, his eyes filled with tears.
I heard that story retold second and third hand for weeks. My name had been erased from it, and it was a far better story that way. Be stealthy when you can. After 15 years of giving to all sorts of organizations and people, I have never once been asked for money. I think people fear if they start helping, it will be like a damn that sprung a leak. Soon they will be flooded with requests. But that hasn’t been my experience at all.
I felt so honored to be able to be part of that story. And it only happened because we planned for it before the moment came. I am able to lean in to others stories, and help write an alternate ending without worrying about our personal budget. That is the joy of a Giving Fund.
- Do you set aside money for certain organizations or spontaneous gifts?
- Any fun giving stories you care to share?
- If you could set aside $10 a month, what act of generosity would you put it towards?
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