Last year I gave away $10 every Tuesday.
Ten bucks might not seem like a lot, but I started the year as an unemployed writer. How cliché, no? I could’ve spent the money buying a new/fresh pair of sweatpants from Wal-Mart each week ($7), eating hot pockets ($3 with coupons), and watching the Price is Right. But the Price is Right sucks now that Drew Carey took over.
(My Why Price is Right sucks now theory: When Bob Barker was the host, the host, decor, and cheesy games all matched. But Drew Carey is a little too hip (and by too hip I mean that his hips haven’t been replaced) and makes the games seem as dated as they actually are. Also, Carey seems like he’s trying to fit into a role that’s not him. I still love the mountain climber, though.)
The Big Give
I gave to big organizations like CARE and World Vision, and to smaller organizations like NURU, SeeKids Dream, Team Red, White, and Blue, Life in Abundance, and to local ones like the Muncie Mission, TeamWork for Quality Living, and Ball State’s NPR channel.
There are loads of organizations out there. In fact, every 15 minutes a new non-profit registers with the IRS. Often my decisions were based on personal relationships: I knew someone familiar with the group or at the group. Sometimes I chose to give to a group that was at the heart of disaster relief, as was Partners in Health after the earthquake in Haiti.
Giving $10/week forced me to find new organizations. If you haven’t found a charity or cause to support, I think completing your own $10 for Tuesday project is a great way to do it. And once you choose an organization to support, you’ll become more familiar with them through newsletters and mailings, giving you an even better feel for them. After several months, you should have a pretty good idea of how you want to focus your giving.
An Army of One
I gave to individuals funding amazing trips like my buddy James heading to Liberia, and Kristi Scott who graduated from college and headed out to work at an orphanage in Trujillo, Peru. $10 probably didn’t cover their expenses to the airport, but it connected me to their trips and experiences that were deeply important to them both. I check in on Kristi now and again and James and I talk Africa quite a bit. My $10 went a long way.
Your friends are doing some pretty amazing things; you should support them.
One week I posted that I would give $10 to someone, if they gave me a good reason. 100+ comments later, I learned how to shutoff the comments! Half of India turned out giving me their bank routing numbers and PayPal ID’s. I informed them that I would send them $10 but first they would have to give me their credit card numbers.
The comments on the Free Money post captured the suffering of a nation. Almost outnumbering the foreigners looking for money were the American tales of woe – job loss, abuse, and fear. I gave to several of these individuals. Maybe they were just stories to get my money, but what if they weren’t? Any time I gave, I tried to vet them as much as I could, at least to the point where the story was so specific and detailed that lying on that level would have been borderline psychopathic.
From a very selfish perspective, the comments weighed on me. The fact that someone with his or her world crashing down around them would stop and ask me for $10, broke my heart.
Giving isn’t enough
Gifts should connect us to a cause that we’re passionate about or an individual in which we believe and want to support. Caring isn’t just writing a check or filling in the credit card field; it goes beyond that. This is where my $10 for Tuesday project fell short. Sometimes it would play out like this:
“Oh crap! It’s Tuesday! I better give away $10.” I would then frantically search for a group to give support, give up my credit card digits, and then get back to whatever I was doing.
It felt like a hollow gesture, and it probably was.
I’ve got some ideas how to give better, how much we should each give, and what we should do in addition to giving that I’ll share soon.
But the #1 thing we should do when giving is ask ourselves, “What’s important to me? What do I care about?”
You can bet that Bob Barker gave a lot of money to have dogs and cats spayed and neutered. He ended every show of the Price is Right with a PSA about his cause. Drew Carey has carried on the tradition, but it just doesn’t seem right. I’d like Drew to find his own cause.