I meet with my tax guy today, which means I’ve been frantically pulling together forms and statements and crunching numbers. I hate accounting and I’m horribly disorganized when it comes to that stuff. Which is exactly why I hire a tax guy. It’s always wise to hire people who are really good at the things you’re really bad at.
Anyway, I had an revelation as I was looking at the numbers for our charitable giving. I felt like I’d been pretty generous this past year. My wife and I have talked a lot about generosity and giving and being more intentional about supporting good causes, not just with our words but with our wallets. We’ve tried to support causes as they come up and not be so cheap about it. Personally, I’ve tried to only plug the causes I’ve actually donated to. It seems disingenuous to spread the word about something but not chip in yourself.
So with all that focus on giving, I thought we’d do pretty well for 2009. Go us.
Turns out our giving is down compared to 2008. By quite a bit. Doh.
There can be all kinds of factors at work to explain this, including the fact that we made less money in 2009 or we were more tight-fisted because of the travel expenses to Ethiopia or whatever. But I think the real factor is consistency.
While we tried to actively donate to more causes in 2009, the result was a lot of tiny donations. $10 here, $20 there. That’s good money and it will go to good causes, but it doesn’t add up to much. It’s a drop in the bucket. What does add up is consistent giving. Weekly or monthly donations add up a lot more quickly. That sounds completely obvious and it is (I told you I hate accounting), but it doesn’t really sink in until you sit back and look at the numbers over a period of time.
Our donations were down in 2009 because we lowered one of our consistent donations. It seemed financially prudent at the time (and still is), but it means we gave a lot less and our impact is likewise reduced.
Like much of life, it comes down to consistency. If you really want to make a difference in anything, you have to work at it consistently. You can’t just do something once and expect change. It’s true with teaching your kids, it’s true with learning any skill, it’s true with work–and it’s true with money.
[Note: Money and giving can be a pretty touchy subject. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to do it, I’m just sharing a lesson I learned. I also don’t mean to minimize one-time donations. Those one-time donations add up when you bring them together (remember how they made me bald?).]