The conversation was right after Thanksgiving. The topic was Thanksgiving dinner at the Salvation Army Lodge. There were questions about whether everyone who came through the line was really in need; evidently several were overdressed for a free meal for the homeless. The catch of course was that not all were homeless, but certainly most would be counted among the poor. Trust and respect were not apparent that day.
Have you had an experience like that? You volunteered or gave to an organization with one expectation in mind only to be surprised by the outcome or your experience?
In a different conversation friends were describing Christmas present deliveries to families through a PATH program. One person was very disturbed about the size of the family television. This conversation took place at the height of the oil and gas downturn in the eighties.
Many families had been caught off guard with lay-offs just before the holidays. Some middle income families were stressed and couldn’t figure out how to do Christmas for their children that year. Televisions, cars and designer jeans were inaccurate indicators of circumstance.
In both conversations I could hear that what began as a good feeling about helping the poor had turned to donor disappointment.
The solution to this kind of disappointment is add trust and respect to giving. Trust that the organizations doing the work are doing the right things at the right time and respect for people caught in situations we don’t have enough information to judge.
Trust and respect were low both days, and donor disappointment was high.
Add Trust and Respect Here and There
It is easier to have respect for people from a different culture or country an ocean away, but what about a different neighborhood right around the corner. Respect for feelings, rights, wishes or tradition is a tool that belongs in our donor toolbox. With trust added in it’s like protective gear from donor disappointment.
Poverty is complex, whether becoming poor or being born poor or trying to climb out of being poor it’s beyond the everyday understanding and experience of most of us. Organizations that work to help, support, encourage and even to change the circumstances of those in poverty usually know the most about how to work toward change while not doing harm.
Here we are nearly at the end of the year with little time to make informed decisions. From the what, where and how of a gift to what source to give from -your bank account, funds from your IRA, a donor advised fund, and even your volunteer time, the decisions only mount.
As you consider all the ways to help this season let trust and respect be a part of your giving.