THE BLOG

To Give or Not to Give?

04/28/2014 04:33 pm ET | Updated Jun 28, 2014

The topic of giving and philanthropy is becoming more popular with the public wanting to "do the right thing" and give back. They are left struggling to decide where to give their money or if to give at all. How do you choose? How much do you give?

The true spirit of giving is to help someone without expecting something in return. Give what you can. Give to a cause that you are most passionate about. Well, what if you aren't passionate about a cause? That's another story.

"I want to give - but charity begins at home." Yes, family comes first not only financially but also with the precious gift of time; our most valuable commodity.

Before we get into the discussion of "to give or not to give" let's take a step backward.

Picture this for a moment. What if each day, we woke up, drove to work, went the speed limit, parked, arrived at the office, did your job, received a pay cheque, drove home, had dinner and went to bed.

Would this be a good life or a great life?

To some, this may be a great life. To others, this would be far from great.

Let's look at this from a different perspective. What if each day you woke up, and someone in your home prepared breakfast for you and filled your travel mug with coffee; and on your way to work as you struggled to merge into traffic, the other cars made a conscious effort to let you in front of them. When you got to work someone held the elevator for you as you rushed in the front door, and then upon reaching your office someone not only held the door open, they actually turned, smiled and said hello. Throughout the day your coworkers were friendly and went out of their way to lighten the workload? Upon arriving home someone made your evening special.

Doesn't this sound like a better life?

A kind gesture of a smile; holding the door; easing the traffic pain or preparing a meal can brighten someone's day and be your way to give back. Start with the basics.

Just imagine for a moment if we were ALL conditioned to be kind, considerate and grateful. Wait! Isn't that's what our parents ingrained into us?
If so - what the heck happened?
Did we lose our way?

Ok, so here we are. Distracted. Too many choices. How do you decide how and where to give?

If each one of us spent a few moments to do something for someone else, then life can get better for all of us.

So I ask again - "To give or not to give?" It's like anything, it becomes habitual and part of your DNA. Just start now, this moment, to give. You choose your threshold. Time, resources, funds, gestures. Determine your comfort level and JUST GIVE.

One of the things I love about working for the Michael "Pinball" Clemons Foundation is we encourage people to JUST GIVE. It doesn't have to be to our Foundation. Sometimes people will ask me, "How do I get started? What do I do?"

If you actually get out into the community and spend time with a charity and help out you can later choose if it's a charity you want to support further. When you are on location, request a tour, ask questions, meet the staff, the patrons, look around, and see where the money goes. Don't ever be afraid to ask how much money they raise each year. Do they receive government funding? Can you see a copy of their last audited financial statement? A great question is what do you need funds for right now? What kind of impact can my donation have?

Measurable results, transparency and accountability are three important things to consider.

Did you know that the Daily Bread Food bank in Toronto has their own vegetable garden that yields over 1200 pounds of fresh produce each year? When the food donations are low, they are still growing produce. Sustainability is awesome, smart planning and healthy.

Did you know that there is a homeless shelter for youth in Toronto that houses 50 youth? Their facility budgets $2.63 per day, per youth for food. This cost is supposed to cover 3 healthy meals and two snacks. How is this possible? What can you do to help?

Here's what we do. We shop for food, and go to the shelter and prepare and serve a meal. Then the cost the shelter had budgeted for that day can go to another day. We always get a tour, spend time with the youth. If you gather a group of friends or colleagues together and pitch in on the cost of food, you can have a measurable impact. It's amazing how comfort food and a hot meal can make someone feel better.

All charities and foundations need money. BUT, they also need resources and the precious gift of time. I love helping people get started. The more you give, the better you feel. Especially when you know you are helping someone else and not expecting anything in return.