Toward A Minimalist Guide To Being Charitable
How does someone committed to living a simple, deliberate life approach being charitable? Does charitable giving fit into a simple life?
Deciding to live in a way that doesn’t depend on stuff requires focusing for a while on your own needs. You must decide which so-called needs are really just wants and eliminate from your life everything that doesn’t fit in.
Those of us who choose simple living often choose a minimalist approach to work too, and that sometimes means making less money than those who willingly sell their lives.
Still, the world is overflowing with people and causes that need help. No matter how little you have today, there are those who have less, and you’re in a position to help — if you want.
In my developing list of the five priorities that shape simple, minimalist living, there’s no mention of charitable giving. Point 5 suggests being a well-rounded, complete person, however, and giving to charity could be considered part of that priority. What do you think?
Here are three things about charity for minimalists that I think I are worth considering:
1. You must give something, mustn’t you?
I think we all have an obligation to give time, money and other resources to those worthy people and causes that need help. Don’t you?
That said, I make very few charitable donations these days.
In the past, I’ve supported museums, political causes, animal welfare groups and public television, but none of these causes get money from me anymore. I’ve lost interest in politics, and while I sometimes benefit from museums and public TV, they aren’t a crucial part of my simple life.
If I give anything to anyone in 2012, it will be to animal welfare causes or directly to the people who the help.
2. Direct giving makes sense.
While donating through a non-profit organizations allows you to combine your gifts with others to make a big difference, directly giving to someone who needs help is often a better way to make a real, quantifiable difference in someone’s life.
Direct giving isn’t necessarily tax deductible, but it’s often rewarding in other ways. It can be as simple as helping your friend who has fallen on hard times or using your gas and time to feed the hungry, take people where they need to go or get things for people who couldn’t get them any other way.
3. Limiting the number of organizations to which you donate reduces waste.
Some non-profit organizations spend an appalling among of the money they collect trying to get more money. They bombard those who already give to them, insisting that they give even more.
Limiting the number of non-profit organizations to which you give limits the amount of junk mail you get. Donating a small amount to an array of organizations, as I once did, keeps you in touch on many different fronts, but it’s terribly inefficient. Have you tried this approach?
Of course, true minimalists are vigilant about limiting the amount of postal mail and junk email they accept from anyone, including their favorite non-profits, so all this waste is really an unacceptable byproduct of well-intentioned actions.
Whether you have a lot of resources at your disposal or not, I’m sure you sometimes give some of them away.
As I’m writing this today, I don’t have many resources available. Money is tight because I’ve been dropped from an agency that was providing me a lot of writing work and because I wasn’t making that much anyway. While my old bookselling business is showing some signs of new life, there won’t be much extra money coming this week or next. I’m not in a position to help anyone else, am I?
Yet I’m writing today with little hope of financial gain, mainly for the benefit of myself and my readers. And I’ll be spending time in the next few days with people who enjoy and perhaps even need my love and attention. That sounds charitable, doesn’t it?
Perhaps the simple, minimalist approach to being charitable is to live a charitable life. Being charitable means being devoted to the assistance of those in need. Are you?