Increasing Generosity (At Least Financially)

The book I was reading this past week (“Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” by Richard H. Thaler) and the wonderful Stacking Benjamins podcast that I regularly listen to have both had interesting suggestions concerning how to up your giving that I thought I would share. I believe giving is important, especially if you a follower of Jesus. If you are a follower of Jesus then I basically see giving as spiritual training. Every time I give I am essentially saying “this is not my god” and it helps me to trust that I depend on the Lord of Hosts rather than on my own resources. Specifically, I believe that for Christians generosity is important for two reasons:

  1. It is a spiritual act of proclaiming Who we trust. Giving is the equivalent of saying “this money is not my god.” We give to remember that at the end of the day we trust in the Lord of Host, not our own resources.
  2. It is an acknowledgement that we are recipients of gifts form God. We don’t create our resources. Instead we receive them from God. Therefore, if the Creator wants us to give the gifts He has given us, we should do so. ” Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:8b)

Please notice that the two reasons I listed didn’t involve “YOU HAVE TO GIVE”. Christians are free. You don’t HAVE to give, we GET to give. We’re free to give extravagantly because we know our money is not our god and we have received gifts from the Lord of Hosts.

Wisconsin, the great state that I love living in, is rated on the lower side of giving in our nation. Here’s the bottom 10 giving states (percent of income) from a 2015 study.

I personally believe that most residents of the United States of America, and people of faith in particular (who generally give more than non-religious people- study here and here), desire to be generous.

So I thought I would list some of the suggestions in the article on Marriage, Kids, and Money while also commenting on their suggestions.

Here goes:

1. Ladder Up Your Giving

This is just like “laddering” your savings rate. You start with what you can give and then give a little more later as you have gotten used to giving what you started with or as your income increases through raises or bonuses. In his book “Nudge” Thaler refers to this as “Give More Later”. You start small and teach yourself, and your spending, to begin giving. Generosity is just like almost everything else, you can train yourself to do what doesn’t come naturally.

2. Encourage Your Kids to Give

Start ’em early and it will be easier later. I believe most of us want to raise generous kids. Pam and I used the 3 jar system with the boys – one jar for the money you can spend, another jar for the money you are saving, and a third jar for the money you get to give to help. It is a simple little system that I believe worked very well for us. Personal favorite story from this was when Noah wanted to give more than he had saved and decided to sell lemonade in front of the Ring, our church’s college ministry at the time, and now one of my favorite churches, Living Hope Fellowship. Those college students bought a lot of lemonade and he used all that money to increase the giving he personally cared about.

3. Make Giving Automatic

There is an old saying that, “budgets don’t matter, we adjust to what we have.” While I believe budgets do matter I get the point of the saying. We adjust to the resources we have. Therefore, if you want to give or increase you giving make it automatic and you’ll find that as long as you are giving close to your present means you will adjust your spending behavior to the less money you now have. Then you can adjust your automatic giving, give more, and watch yourself adjust again. You may already be doing this with you retirement (i.e. taking it out before you see it in your bank account), this is just using the same behavior for giving. I like to do this at the beginning of the first paycheck so that I am adjusting to it throughout the month.

4. Find Charities That Move You (I would add get involved in that charity – all the better if it is a local one)

It is easier to give to what you care about. We tend to care more about the organizations that we are actually involved in. You want to become a giving person? Why not begin by giving to an organization that supports a cause you care about or that you are already involved in? If there is something you care about I would bet money (Ha, see what I did there) that there is a non-profit that works on that subject you care about. Support them as they do the work and you suddenly are a part of that work. What I believe you will find is that you will begin to feel good about supporting that organization and may want to therefore start supporting more organizations that do work you believe in. If you are a part of a religious community I would encourage you to support that organization – when you do you will usually be supporting many other organizations that do good work too. 

Here are a few that the Terrell family believes in and support:

This is our list of regulars. I promise you that you can find your own regulars easily. If you care about something there is an organization doing good work on that thing you care about that you can support. Even if it is weaving cardigans for hairless dogs

5. Random Acts of Kindness

I love Random Acts of Kindness. I think they are all the better when they are a part of a purposeful desire to be more generous. The reason I stress this is because I think almost every one enjoys during a random act of kindness every now and then, but being generous isn’t about doing it every now and then. Instead, within generosity random acts of kindness happen because the person is becoming a giving person. So giving it what they naturally do. For believers I believe this fits within the two reasons I mentioned at the beginning of the post: 1) “This isn’t my god so I’ll just give it away,: and 2) “This was given to me and I trust that the God Who owns the “cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10) will continue to take care of me. so I can gift it to someone else.” Random Acts of Kindness are a great way to expand generosity throughout our entire day.

There is lots of other advice out there. The key is starting to take regular steps. Give what you can to make the world a better place now, do so regularly. and you will eventually be surprised at how much good you have supported.

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