The need to give is everywhere.
Giving is an important and integral part of personal and family budgets throughout the nation. As American’s we are blessed with an abundance, and with great abundance comes great responsibility. But are we forgetting our own communities by focusing our giving efforts on national and international tragedies?
No matter where you go in the world you will always find the needy. There are needs in Indonesia, needs in Haiti, and needs in Africa, and need elsewhere in the United States, but…
What about the needs right here at home? Extensive television coverage of major tragedies can easily command our attention. Local community needs, on the other hand, rarely grace our TV screens.
Does this make one need more important than another? Of course not. It simply means that the focus our media gives tragic global events can cause the needs of our local communities to slip under the radar when it comes to charitable giving.
Shouldn’t we focus on meeting the needs within our local communities before committing our support to other national and international crises?
Media tends to focus on sensational events
When disaster strikes, no nation responds with the speed or quantity of the United States… Yet there is so much unmet need at the local community level. Why? Do American’s care about the broader needs of other states and nations more than the needs of their own neighborhood?
I don’t think so. I think local needs often go unmet simply because we’re unaware of exactly what they are. It’s more sensational for media outlets to carry stories of global disaster than to talk about the homeless people living 10 miles away.
If we care to know the needs that exist right in our own back yards, we have to seek out that information ourselves.
How to find local need
If you are interested in giving locally, here are a few place to start:
- Local churches – Many local churches actively support community needs. If you’re interested in seeing how your church budget is spent, ask to see a copy of it. Churches often keep open books and are usually proactive about giving attendees a breakdown of how charitable funds are being distributed.
- Township and city halls – Another great way to discover local needs is to check with your local municipality. Many times they will have precompiled lists of all local charities complete with location and contact information.
- The phone book – Crack open the phone book and look up your local homeless shelter or food bank. Next, give them a call or stop by to see what they’re all about.
- Take a walk – If you really want to get a feel for the needs of your community, just take a walk or a drive around town… It shouldn’t take you long to discover local needs. This may be a little disorganized, and you don’t want to just hand over cash to strangers on the street, but taking a look around can open your eyes to things you never saw before.
Giving locally makes sense
As I was writing this article, my wife came home from work and told me about a local family that lost everything in a house fire last night. She gave a good portion of her the money from her miscellaneous cash envelope to help their cause. This is the exactly the kind of local tragedy that happens every day, but rarely receives the media coverage necessary to elicit enough giving to meet the need.
The following snippet from a local charitable organization expresses the point beautifully:
“Giving locally makes sense because you know where and how your charitable dollars are being spent. Local charities and non-profit organizations understand and embrace the interests and values of our community. Local charities have fewer layers of administration than international or national charities and more of your dollars are likely to go directly to delivering the service the charity or non-profit was established to provide. In the end, giving closer to home improves our city’s quality of life and helps to build a stronger local community.”
Give where your burden or passions lie
Ultimately, you should give where you feel called to give. If you feel that your charitable donations should go to the aid of a foreign nation, then you should follow your heart. If you feel inclined to work with the homeless population in your community, then do that. The most important thing is to give somewhere.
Where we give
Because we believe giving should be focused locally before being committed elsewhere, our entire giving budget is allocated to our church and our local homeless shelter. Once we become debt free, we hope to be able to expand and give much more, but that’s a story for another day!
Personally, I have never given to an international organization nor to support the tragedies in a state or country other than my own. This is not because I don’t care about other nations or other communities, but because I have limited resources and would rather see them resources poured into the place where my family lives, works, and plays.
While I don’t want to project my burden for giving onto anyone else, my view is that a locally-focused giving strategy would greatly benefit individual communities.
Where do you give?
Do you give? If so, do you give locally, nationally, or internationally? Or perhaps a combination of all three? What do you think of the idea of focusing on your local community first?