Charities: To give or not to give, that is the question.

So, here we are with only 35 days left in 2010!   It is usually around this time of year when savvy financial planning people(unlike myself) look at their total giving for the year and decide if they should throw more money in the pool just to bump up their charitable tax receipts for the year.  While this may be financially smart, it’s probably not out of a “generous attitude”.    Don’t get me wrong.  I figure if the government is willing to give us tax receipts for what we give away then by all means we should be smart about it and good stewards of the money that God has given us.   But that argument about when to give and how often is not my reason for posting today.  Rather, I’d like to make you all aware that WHO you give your money to is as important if not THE MOST important part of your charity giving plan.

There are many that may argue that the biggest and best known charities in the country are the only ones to support as they’ve been around the longest, have great track records and obviously with more money can do more work.  Not necessarily so, though, is what I have discovered.  It appears that size does not matter in this case.  More often it comes down to the cause, the people running the charity and your own personal belief in that cause.

I believe that for myself and my family, helping the less fortunate in our town, city, province and world trump all other charities.  I believe in missions minded people and serving ministries that tend to disasters.  But that is me.  You may have a completely different opinion that centers around the MS Society, Breast Cancer Awareness and The Heart and Stroke Foundation.  All are worthy causes and thank God we all feel led to give in all of these areas.

But it is still important to know how your money is being spent and if you can justify it.  After all, God expects us to budget our own family’s income wisely and therefore the money we give away needs to be just as justified.   We have left churches over the mis-management of funds.  Churches where a lot of money was coming in weekly and no ministries were happening, no homeless being served, fed or helped.  No children’s or youth ministries and the list went on. We simply were so convicted  that our money was being mishandled that we had to quit tithing and ultimately leave.

But we’ve also been part of churches who had an abundance of ministries even if their congregation sizes were small.  A strong volunteer force, an awesome work ethic, great planners and people who gave above and beyond helped these congregations to be able to serve literally thousands of people in their surrounding communities.

And then there’s the “luxury” lotteries for charity….

I don’t buy STARS air ambulance lottery tickets or any other “lottery for charity” tickets.  Why? Because the focus is on what I could get and that’s not charity.  We are to give out of the abundance that we’ve been given~ generously.  And I’ve also found out that very often those lotteries , though they do well, have about 80- 90% of money raised paying for the prizes and the company who actually facilitates the lottery.  These charities argue that any money that they receive is more than what they were getting before but if I , as a donor, am buying a $100 ticket, I want at LEAST $80 going to the charity when in reality it is often only $8-12.    This sort of thing is often repeated when any charity does a major fundraising drive.

So, what can you do? Research, research, research.   It is your money, so spend it wisely.  Check out their website, Canada Revenue Agency or any other charity ranking site like this one: http://list.moneysense.ca/rankings/charities/2010/aid/Default.aspx?sp2=1&d1=a&sc1=0

You can also call the charity and ask what percentage of their donations actually go to the cause.  If they fumble or change the subject, hang up.   Any charity that does not want to share that information is not worthy of your hard-earned cash.

When you feel comfortable with a charity or two, or three,  give generously and give often. Don’t be cheap and don’t wait till December.  They need your help all year.  Haiti still needs all sorts of help.  And when the call came in, Canadians more than any other nation stepped up to the plate the fastest and with the most cash.

Show your kids that being generous does not always mean getting a tax receipt.  When you enter the Walmart store this weekend to spend WAY too much money on Christmas gifts, don’t just walk by the Salvation Army bucket. Do you realize how many people that charity helps every year?  Those bell ringers are volunteers who believe in serving and helping their fellow man/woman in need.   Give your kids each a $5 or $10 bill to put in.  Not just the nickels and pennies jingling around in your pockets.

Our family has had the same charities for a few years.  Their records are impeccable and they are the kinds of charities that don’t pay their CEO’s multi-million dollar salaries.   I don’t mind sharing them with you.

Samaritan’s Purse

Compassion Canada

International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

Focus on the Family Canada

Power to Change Canada(Campus Crusade for Christ)

Whatever charity you decide to give to, give generously.  Don’t be greedy hoarding all your money for yourself or your kids who you think you need to spoil and buy more and more stuff for.  We are blessed so much in this country and we need to be sharing that with the world around us.

Bless and be blessed.

Don’t worry

Worry is sadly a part of life.  It shouldn’t be, but it is.  We’re human after all and sometimes we just can’t trust SOMEONE else to “worry” for us so we hoard the worrying and do it all on our own. I’m trying not to be this way.  I’m really trying to let God look after the details: appraisals, banking, realtors.   It’s hard because it looks like nothing is getting done but I know that behind the scenes God is at work even though I don’t really understand his methods.

Matthew 6:25″Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28″And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 

Lord, help me to trust in you.  Look after our needs and our worries; show us that you have it all under control.

Amen.

Pinching pennies

Years ago, when we were a young family starting out, we struggled.  Most families do but I don’t think any of our friends and probably most of our family knew how bad it really was.   We found ourselves very often 5 days from payday with absolutely no money.  If I found a quarter it was like finding a $20 bill.  I knew where every dollar was; I knew if a jacket pocket had change and how much it was.  I had a penny jar and I would roll them to gather enough change to buy diapers, milk or eggs.   We were seriously that poor.  

The past few years have been much easier financially.  Owning a business has its perks especially when the “boss” is your husband and his work ethic is above and beyond the norm.   We’ve been able to relax and even though we’re not rolling in the dough like some would believe, I haven’t had to count the pennies.  In fact, I have penny, dime, and quarter jars all over the place and I have no idea how much they contain! What a concept for me!  But that’s all about to change.

Sacrifice is something that we take seriously.   And sacrifice is what we are doing right now for the safety, sanity and future of our family.  I can’t get into all of the details but suffice it to say that we HAD to move for various reasons and leave behind a thriving business.   Leroy is in mourning.  He is lamenting his work and all that it afforded him.  It makes us think, and doubt.  Sacrifice is our new way of life.   All of the sudden I find myself back to my old habits, which thankfully I haven’t forgotten.  Habits like dividing a package of ground beef into more than one meal, maximizing a grocery bill to last longer than a few days, and conserving trips to town for the sake of the gas bill.  We’re in Saskatchewan now and the money isn’t flowing here like it is in Alberta.  Now some Albertans may not care for that statement, but it’s true.  There is a modesty in spending here that doesn’t happen in most places of Alberta.  Even the people in Alberta who say they don’t have money but still run to 7-Eleven every afternoon or eat out more than once a week don’t realize how good they have it.  A service call for a tradesman in Alberta could run you easily over $150 in an hour but out here, it’s more like $80.   To the homeowner it’s great, but for the tradesperson putting gas in his tank and trying to feed a family on a couple service calls a day you can imagine that that is not terribly profitable.

I foresee less trips to the city, less entertainment and social events and definitely trimmer grocery bills.  It’s a little depressing but there is a flip side.  We’ve complicated our lives with money.  When you have money to spend, you spend it.  When there’s money on the credit card and you’re bored, you take off.  There’s nothing wrong with spending but there is something wrong when the spending becomes expected and demanded.   There’s also something wrong with buying things we don’t need just because we can. I actually look forward to the challenges of budgeting and penny-pinching.  It’s my job.  I am the homemaker, the housewife and the money manager in our home.  Some women think that is so old-fashioned but it is my job.   If my husband can work hard to bring in the money then I can work hard to make his money last the longest that it can. Bring it on. I’m up for the task.

Today is baking day.  No more Oreos and Chips Ahoy; it’s time to get some REAL food into this house.  I will keep you posted on what creations I have made and how far a buck can go.