When Life Gets in the Way of Giving, Get a Strategy

By Matt Farmer

Businesses run on them, investments depend on them, and even your favorite sports team, musician, or artist can’t work without one. I’m talking about a strategy. We have them to make all kinds of things successful. 

But what about a strategy for giving? Even the most well-intentioned people can face all kinds of barriers to giving – spreading our time too thin and our wallets too broadly, fear we don’t have enough, and lack of access to our funds. All of those barriers are real, but they can be eliminated by having a solid strategy for giving. The Giving Strategy Guidebook is a great starting point for you to develop your own strategy. As that document downloads (because I know you immediately clicked that link!), let’s break down each barrier to giving and how we can overcome them. 

Eliminate hurry, make time to focus
If you don’t have a strategy, knowing where to give can feel overwhelming. If you’re a long-time participant in the giving community or a one-time donor, you know that you can quickly feel bombarded with requests from different organizations who have you on their mailing lists.  The best strategies help you focus by establishing guardrails for giving. If an organization doesn’t fit into your plan, you can have peace of mind that now isn’t the right time to invest there, and pray that God will lead you back to the organization if it’s right for the future.  

Narrow your ‘yes’, broaden your ‘no’
Strategies help us know what we can say yes and no to. If you’ve found your way to NCF, it’s safe to say you’re a person with a generous heart. Generous hearts tend to say yes a lot, creating the busyness I mentioned above. Yet when you narrow down where you give, you can maximize your impact. When you give broadly, spraying it out like a firehose, your impact can leave you with a feeling of scattered generosity. 

Successful giving may mean saying no to more requests, the ones that are not your passions, and concentrating on the organizations that are doing the best work in the areas you are called to serve. We serve many givers who have found that identifying a specific organization or cause can help solidify a strategy and clarify focus on supporting those causes. 

When they heard God’s calling, the Rattermans focused their passion on fighting homelessness, so it was an easy YES! Because they took the time to hear from God and narrow their focus, they’ve made an incredible impact on helping Kansas City’s homeless population. Like the Rattermans, a strategy helps keep you from getting overwhelmed with too many ‘good’ choices so that you can give in a way that feels impactful.

Manage misplaced motives
Living with a scarcity mentality rather than an abundance mentality can trip us up when it comes to giving. Sometimes we’re afraid there’s a limited number of resources, so we hoard them away. But remember the parable of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21: 1-4)? Despite her poverty, she gave all she had. Those who were rich in resources may have given more coins, but it was still not as much as the widow who gave the riches of her heart. There is always something to give.

Greed, or prioritizing ownership over stewardship, is also an obstacle. It’s easy to be tempted to falsely believe that what we own belongs to us and not God. Our misplaced motives tell us we’ll find more satisfaction investing in ourselves over others. But at the end of the day, giving is a heart issue. We spend money effortlessly on the things that we treasure. A giving strategy helps us identify and align our motives for spending and investing.  Like the widow, it’s not about how much you have, but what and where you’re giving the resources God has entrusted to you. And if you’re stuck on the question, But how do I know how much to give?, the easy answer is this: ask the owner. (Hint: you’re not the owner.)  

Unlock your assets, number your days
Sometimes we think we can’t give because we don’t have easy access to our resources, like real estate or other assets – they feel “locked up”. It’s true. 90% of net worth is tied up in non-cash assets, and 10% is in easy-to-access accounts. 80% of giving typically comes from that 10% of easily-accessed cash. Because that’s the same 10% that we live on, there’s often very little left for giving. 

Oftentimes our mentality is that those less-accessible resources will be used to give away  ‘someday’. But we are invited to number our days and live with a sense of immediacy when it comes to our stewardship. We have the opportunity to be as generous as we can be while we can. NCF can walk you through how to unlock your 90% to give today through non-cash giving tools. It’s all part of – yep, you guessed it – developing your strategy and following it. 

NCF Heartland wants to support you with creative giving solutions to help you maximize your impact for the causes you love. Reach out to us to start or revisit your giving strategy.