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Practice year-round generosity

Our God is generous—all the time. We should be too!

This story originally appeared in the print edition of ChristianWeek. See it here.

A few months ago we passed through the holiday season and its bombardment of consumerism. Retailers hoped you would blow your budget on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Or maybe you took part in Giving Tuesday instead—a day that demonstrates how charities, businesses and individuals can transform the way we participate in giving.

What began in 2012 as a grassroots effort with 2,500 non-profit agencies grew to include 20,000 charities in 2014. Online donations on Giving Tuesday were up 90 per cent in 2013 and 60 per cent in 2014.

While Giving Tuesday has raised giving awareness by designating a day for charitable activity, real success will happen by an overall increase in year-round generosity. On Forbes.com, the founder of Giving Tuesday, Henry Timms, states the goal of the event: “The most passionate givers come to celebrate the cause (their charity of choice) on a year-round basis. People can get behind (their cause) for a long time, and if they’re able to, make a recurring gift. There’s nothing more valuable to a non-profit than recurring giving.”

Canadians are already making recurring gifts as evidenced by the approximately $9 billion given annually since 2008. This might indicate stability, but there is more to consider. The number of donors is decreasing, while the number of charities in Canada is growing. There are currently more than 85,000 charities recognized by Canada Revenue Agency. The pie hasn’t grown—there’s just more competition for who gets a piece.

If charities want to get more dollars, they’ll need to do four things:

1) Prove themselves worthy recipients. Charities need to clearly articulate their purpose using a variety of mediums.

2) Focus on impact and engagement. Charities need to tell stories of the difference they’re making in people’s lives. People give to causes, not to ‘overhead.’

3) Incorporate gift planning into their promotional and fundraising efforts. Charities should encourage donors to consider bequests along with gifts of life insurance, securities, etc.

4) Change the mindset from scarcity thinking to abundance thinking. In the late 1980s, almost 30 per cent of Canadians claimed a charitable donation on their taxes. That number has been steadily declining. On average, Canadians now give less than one per cent of their annual income to charity. If charities can get people to focus on their blessings, people will be more likely to give.

The $9 billion pie is capable of significant growth in Canada but it requires more than just a generous heart on Giving Tuesday. We need year-round generosity. For those who join MFC in believing that we serve a God of abundance and that generosity is a form of worship, the message is clear: Our God is generous—all the time. We should be too!

Darren Pries-Klassen is the Executive Director of Mennonite Foundation of Canada. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit www.MennoFoundation.ca.

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