Helping Others Out

How do we decide when and how to help other people?

We’re all asked to donate to different causes daily.  Over the past month alone, I have been asked to give to Habitat for Humanity, The Nature Conservancy, Doctors Without Borders, The Smile Train, the local food pantry, the fraternal order of police, various alumni groups, public radio, and numerous online causes.  They just want my money.  The people who want my time and energy constitute a list equally as long, if not longer.

I am getting fatigued.  I feel like I definitely have to pick and choose which causes I donate to; what projects I give my time and energy to- I do not have infiinite resources in either department.  I have a family; I have a business; I am stressed like everyone else, and worried about the direction the Country and Economy are heading.

But the bottom line is this: I also have to take care of my own “needs” and maybe even a few “wants” and then I can spare some extra for your project.  I am sometimes foolish with both my time and my money, not always choosing based on “highest value or return” but based on things I care about.  I have ADHD so I often have my fingers in many projects, but if I am working on something, I intend to see it through.  If I help you out on your project or cause, it’s because I honestly believe you can have a positive impact on the world through what you’re doing.

I have no problem helping people out who need the assistance.  But I want them to have made the decision about how to solve their problem on their own before asking me for help, as well.  And then if help is offerred, I expect that it will be appreciated and not taken for granted in turn.

Earlier this year, a bunch of people helped me to help a mom in China running a school for autistic children- one of the few in all of China, trying to provide a lace for these kids to go once their schooling was completed, so they had a future.  The response was overwhelming, and we sent over $1,500 to Ma Chen in China as a result.  Ma Chen wrote and told me about what the gift meant to her and her school- but the most important part to me was that Moms in the US were able to help Moms in China out of the goodness of their hearts.

Some people on the internet start Chip-ins, asking friends, family and complete strangers to help them pay for things like trips to conferences or other “wants” not “needs”.  I think we have to triage out when we ask others for help, and when we just have to be industrious little bunnies and save the money until we can afford “x”.  Or finance it.  Or ask your folks for a loan.  Or have a bake sale or run a lemonade stand or take a second job.  Heck- I even require my silly little new media business to be budget neutral, and took a tutoring job to pay for my “habit” and all the accessories it requires.

So what I am asking, in part because I am asked to help out so very many people, is to turn to your community for financial support as the very last resort.  Be fiscally and financially responsible.  If you have to charge it, do so.  Save the money you need first.  Do whatever you can to solve your problem on your own before asking your friends to solve it for you.  And then, I am more than happy to help you out with a very happy and joyous heart.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Helping Others Out

  1. People need to be amazingly careful at how they exploit the goodwill of others — especially for ‘wants’ and ‘nice-to-haves’. If you exhaust it for your luxury items, the well may be dry for you and others when it comes to necessities.

  2. I agree, Mark- we can’t “cry wolf” or the community won’t be there when we really need help for something major

  3. Back in 06 we put a PayPal donation button on our podcast page. We have received 1 donation, which is one more than I ever expected to get….

    Directly asking people, even people you know, maybe especially people you know, for money for stuff you don’t really need is, to me, unseemly. Perhaps I am not that hip…

  4. I agree Dave- it just rubs me the wrong way, and I think it’s important to only tap those resources in emergency. To tap it for your own lack of planning, or because you just think something would be nice is setting yourself up for trouble. One, if it doesn’t succeed, do you then blame community for not supporting you? If it does, does community then become something that is a non-stop pass the hat collection? Where are the boundaries? I guess I just don’t know.

  5. I’m torn, because although I completely agree, I also think there are times when it’s not a bad thing to give someone a helping hand.

    But I’d want it to be okay if I didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t for whatever reason at that point in time, and I think the problem is that it *does* set up a kind of negative vibe if one doesn’t/couldn’t/won’t.

    It’s hard to know where those boundaries are sometimes. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a handle on them when it comes to myself and what I do (despite some missteps and fumbles along the way, but that’s part of learning), but there are days that I do wish I could do more/give more to others, and I know I just can’t.

  6. To ask money say to help someone else out to me is a tad different, like we did when we tried (ultimately unsuccessfully) to bring James Whittingham to PAB 2008.

    I remember back in 2000 when we (the profs at MUN) went on strike. This was in November, and believe me, supporting your family on 350 a week strike pay is not easy. People who were on a forum I used to post to back then bought Christmas presents for my daughter. That was very cool, very touching (indeed I am choking up right now typing about it) and completely unsolicited. That is a different type of thing.

  7. I think it all comes down to helping out people when they are in truly tough circumstances. For this, I have infinite patience and will willingly lend a hand.

    But I also think that if you need to raise money, you should try to trade goods or services to raise that cash before asking your friends for a hand out. Help me with my SEO or web site design, or do me a favor, and I will be willing to help out in return.

    Even National Public Radio has a membership model where you are essentially donating to support the programming you already enjoy and can enjoy for free. Even they offer premiums for your gift- your money goes to help run the station, but your trinket is your souvenir of membership and helps you join a club.

    I think with some of the recent pleas for help have been a bit geared towards the “want” versus “need” side of things, sometimes for something we would all like in a perfect world, with infinite resources at our disposal. (Anyone offering to replace my minivan? *crickets* I thought not.)

    I would not dream of asking my friends to help me buy anything for my own personal use- it is imposing on a community which is, like Chris Brogan said, “We’re all poor together- why not hit up starting rock bands, too? They just have heaps of money….sure.”

    That stuff I have to handle on my own.

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