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Charitable Giving

Charitable Giving - The Heart of Giving
When it comes to charitable giving, Americans are the most generous people in the world. Even in a difficult economic year like 2002, charitable giving still rose .5% to $241 billion. In fact, charitable giving was 2.3% of the U.S. GNP, exceeding 2% for the first time since 1971. Remarkably, this increase came after the greatest two-year equity market decline in U.S. history.

Citizens of all income levels respond quickly and generously when they're convinced of a true need. Initially, donors respond from their heart because of a desire to help others in need. This emotional response can generate a widespread outpouring of small gifts, like it did following the 9/11 tragedy. Over $1 billion was given by private individuals within one week of the terrorist attacks. Only a month later, the outpouring of individual gifts dried to a trickle. For individuals to keep giving or to give at a larger level requires an intellectual connection to the emotional draw. In a nutshell, sustained giving requires confidence on the part of the donor.

Charitable Giving - The Mind of Giving
With respect to charitable giving, what does it take to give with confidence? How do we get past the skepticism that the money we give won't have the impact we desire? Well, confidence requires verified information. In biblical terms, we call this accountability and stewardship on the part of the donee organization. Donors are often hesitant to ask questions and erase doubts for fear of coming across as prying - telling the organization how to lead or operate. These givers lack confidence, but they choose to give anyway for a variety of reasons.

If a gift is used to help fund a capital project, the donor can see some tangible results, and therefore has some confidence in the gift's impact. However, gifts for general operations can be a whole different story. One of the largest gifts in U.S. history was $1 billion given by Walter Annenberg to improve education in the public schools. Sadly, a recent study conducted by the Annenberg Foundation stated that there's been "no measurable impact on the quality of public education as a result of the $1 billion gift."

What happened in this case? What was the measure of success? Was a desired impact determined before the gift was given? The key for larger donors is to invest some time and resources in carefully evaluating donee organizations, so they can increase their confidence and properly structure the gift. The donor should meet with the recipient organization before giving the gift to define the desired impact, reporting benchmarks, and measurements for "success." Donors making sustained pledges or multi-year grants may want to make proper reporting a condition for continued funding.

Charitable Giving - The Joy of Giving
Charitable giving is a gift - physically, emotionally and spiritually. First and foremost, it's a matter of the heart. The only motivation for giving should be the gracious gift itself. As Winston Churchill said, "You make a living by what you make, you make a life by what you give." In the Bible, we learn that God loves a "cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). In fact, the Greek word used in that scripture is where we derive the word "hilarious." Obviously, God wants us to enjoy the gift of giving!

As a wise steward of God's resources, the only thing better than a cheerful and generous giver is being a confident, cheerful and generous giver. Being confident in your giving involves time, wisdom and discernment. Confidence in the gift's impact is the key to experiencing the true joy of generosity.

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WHAT DO YOU THINK? - We have all sinned and deserve God's judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, "Jesus is Lord," you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.

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