10 Things to Think About Before You Give in the Amazing Raise 2014 (or anywhere else for that matter!)

UPDATE:  This was a really hard and painful post to write. I struggled with whether to write it or not, because I don’t have it all figured out. But, as I talked to some experienced nonprofit folks and community leaders, I felt compelled. And…I just know I/we need to think and pray more before we invest God’s money!

Amazing Raise season has arrived! In response to last year’s Raise, I wrote To Give…or Not to Give. Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE the energy around the Amazing Raise and have dear friends and organizations that I believe in and give to. In fact, giving is good for us. According to the book The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose by Smith and Davidson,

“More generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression.”  .

So, we benefit when we give. However, who we give to matters to others. So I implore you to think about…pray about…WHO you give to. I live in and love a community that receives a lot of ministry and non-profit focus. I’ve seen some good, some bad and some really ugly over the years. So, allow me to talk from the street level after living in and loving the inner city for the last 9 years. It behooves us all to do our homework. Please.

A group of us have bounced some ideas around…and came up with this list of 10 things to think about before giving or volunteering.

1st – PRAY a listening prayer. Ask God to speak to you, to show you where to invest HIS money. We are called to be good stewards of the money God has given us. He’s counting on us to make WISE decisions regarding who we support with our time, talent, resources and finances.

2nd – Don’t believe everything you read or hear! Do your research! 

  • Talk to the community.  It’s important to get first hand information from the folks in the community – not just the ones being ‘supported’ by the organization.
  • Talk to people who used to work for the organization. Why did they leave? What did they see on the inside?
  • Review the 990s. Do the numbers add up? Is there a return on the investment? 
  • Ask questions. 
  • Look for ways that folks may be privately benefiting from the work being done. They may not get salaries, but there are other ways to benefit… using ‘the ends justify the means’.
  • Talk with current and past partners. What does that partnership look like? Why are they not in partnership anymore?
  • Talk with past recipients of their services, if you can. Where is the ‘poster child’ from a year or 2 ago that is no longer around?

3rd – Track what’s happening. Is the nonprofit sustainable? or do they jump from one project to another? to one part of town to another? Are they committed to their mission…or are the suffering from mission bleed…and find themselves all over the place..shifting with the tide? Pulling out before the job has done or pulling out too soon…pulling out just as trust is being built? Signs of going from one project to another and never fully completing what they started is a sign they are either chasing money and/or not building a sustainability plan after receiving a one-time grant. In addition, they just might be unfocused, suffer from ADD or just good ole impatience. This work takes time. CCDA folks say that you need to commit to at least 15 years in order to make a true difference. That’s a really, really long time. Sometimes it takes 5+ years just to gain trust.

4th – Stories are really compelling tool. But, those stories might NOT be all true…sins of omission and sins of commission. (See #1) Are they taking creative liberties to sell the ‘story”? Ask for data to back up those stories. Think about the pictures of poor starving children and abused dogs, etc. which are meant to tug on your heart strings. And we JUMP to give. We see the ‘poor inner-city child with too small clothes’ who needs a bed, a home, clothing, etc. We want to fix it…now.

5th – Are the community and the residents treated with respect and dignity? Are they being done TO? BAD! Are they being done WITH? GOOD!  Are the residents/people/children being exploited just to raise funds? After speaking to one longtime community leader yesterday – this exploitation is considered particularly heinous. The ‘friend’ can’t say ‘No’ to having their picture taken because they are too beholden to the organization, and their livelihood, housing, and resources might depend on it. The community leader said that some may not know their pictures are being used to market the organizations, and they are being told what to say and how to say it…often written for them. YIKES!

6th – Organizations that are 5+ years or older should be transferring some organizational leadership to the indigenous people or the people they serve, especially if they focus on leadership development. Are they employing people from the community by now?  Are community members consulted with, listened to, and heard before something is implemented? 

7th – Look for meaningful results for sustainable change. Are there wrap-around services to go with the transitional housing for the homeless? How are they partnering with the larger movement within the city/county? Are there strong partnerships with other non-profits or churches in the geographical area or same focus (homelessness, sex-traffiking, education/tutoring, etc.)?

8th – If it is a faith-based organization, does it align with your theology? If not, then is it close enough for you?

9th – Before you give significantly or promote… volunteer with them for a length of time. Get to know the organization from the inside. Ask the hard questions from the inside. Observe. Listen. 

10th – Asks yourself…Is the work for the common good of the community? Is there harm being done? This is a hard one. Hard to get to the root of it. Because it may look good and feel good, but after asking yourselves all these questions, you may learn that it is in fact doing more harm then good. Some ‘good’ work is actually a drain on the community, because work is done in a silo, and the whole community…or impacts on the whole community, are not considered. Partnering with the other nonprofits, the city, the community, etc. is a necessity. 

Remember…It’s not about making us – the giver – feel good because we gave, although that’s an addictive feeling. It’s about implementing sustainable transformation, not enabling. Read about the differences between Mercy, Betterment and Development work in last year’s post >>> To Give…or Not to Give.

I know I missed some. I am still learning. What do YOU use to determine where to give and how to give and serve?

If you want to discuss more about any of these or others, happy to chat about it. Just contact us!


Becoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown Murder

Marti (Michalec) Williams:

I have been having lots of verbal discussions about the injustices that I have read and heard about out of Ferguson. I have prayed and lamented over issues of racial injustices over the last 9 years of living in our beloved community. However, I have not taken to online social media to discuss it. Honestly…because it is hard. Just dang hard. Comments digress so quickly. I digress so quickly. But, that is not a good enough excuse.

Over the last few weeks, what has been very noticeable, however, is the silence echoing from my many, many friends (white friends) in St Louis and in Richmond. We are busy videoing ourselves dumping ice water on our heads to bring awareness to ALS (which I also want to see a cure for ALS – hear my heart!!!). What are we willing to do to bring an end to Racial Injustice, Inequality, etc. Yes… it still exists.

So…I’ve decided to take it to the online streets to share this piece, which I found extremely beneficial and educational.

So, as written in this attached post, this post is for all the white folks who “aren’t speaking out publicly against the killing of Michael Brown because they don’t see a space for themselves to engage meaningfully in the conversation so that they can move to action against racism. It’s not so much that they have nothing to say but rather they don’t see an opportunity being opened up for them to say something or to do something that matters. Or they might not be sure what to say or how to do it. They might have a hard time seeing a role for themselves in the fight against racism because they aren’t racist, they don’t feel that racism affects them or their loved ones personally, they worry that talking about race and differences between cultures might make things worse, or they think they rarely see overt racism at play in their everyday lives. And, sometimes, they are afraid. There’s a real fear of saying the wrong thing even if the intention is pure, of being alienated socially and economically from other white people for standing in solidarity with black people, or of putting one’s self in harm’s way, whether the harm be physical or psychological. I’m not saying those aren’t valid fears but I am challenging white people to consider carefully whether failing to speak out or act because of those fears is justified when white silence and inaction mean the oppression and death of black people.”

Would love to have more discussion with “White people who are sick and tired of racism” and want to “work hard to become white allies.” and my black friends who would like to engage with us in the process. I come to you as a learner and a sponge…willing to do the hard work I need to do to become a better ‘white ally’.

Anyone else?

2 Updates:  Be sure to read the full article below on steps we can take to become a better ‘white ally’.  

Moments after I first posted this article, I received an email about an event that could add to or begin your learning journey… check it out…and join me.  

http://www.vahistorical.org/attend-event/programs-and-activities/social-events/created-equal-americas-civil-rights-struggle-film

Originally posted on WHAT MATTERS:

Michael Brown

As we all know by now, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenage boy, was gunned down by the police while walking to his grandmother’s house in the middle of the afternoon. For the past few days my Facebook newsfeed has been full of stories about the incidents unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri.

But then I realized something.

For the first couple of days, almost all of the status updates expressing anger and grief about yet another extrajudicial killing of an unarmed black boy, the news articles about the militarized police altercations with community members and the horrifying pictures of his dead body on the city concrete were posted by people of color. Outpourings of rage and demands for justice were voiced by black people, Latinos, Asian Americans, Arab American Muslims. But posts by white people were few at first and those that I saw were posted mostly by my white activist or…

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Latest News: Jen Hatmaker’s Visit to RVA

Originally posted on Into The Neighborhood:

Hello, everyone! We are super excited that this day has come!  Jen Hatmaker turns 40, and her family’s show premieres tonight on HGTV at 11pm tonight! Where will you watch it? Louis and I are gathering at a friend’s house to watch it!

Happy 40th Birthday, Jen!

Jen and I have been chatting about the upcoming event….JUST 8 DAYS AWAY…and she’s excited and feeling ‘as fresh as a daisy’.  Yes, friends, she’s as delightful as we would all thought she would be!

A couple of updates for you…

  • The team has been busy working on all the pesky details…making sure we have everything covered. So, if you are registered, keep a look out for additional information and details next week. The team is thrilled with all the goodness we have to offer you next week. We are so grateful for St. Giles for hosting us! What a warm and hospitable group…

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The harvest is plentiful…5 Things I Learned Planting My First Garden

Living a life of mission can be really rewarding some days.  But, many are just plain TOUGH! A constant struggle between the microwave, instantaneous society we live in, and the sometimes difficult, almost ALWAYS lengthy process of going deep and building relationships. Living a life of mission is to BE the church and DO the Bible. It’s not a drive-by, hit-and-run way of life. As a matter of fact, it is a way of life, not a one-time event or project. That’s what makes it so hard….and that’s what makes it so rewarding at the same time. With my new ‘eyes’, I can’t just go home and not see the challenges every. single. moment. of. every. single. day.  On days where it’s more challenging than most, it’s a matter of pausing from my ‘Martha’ activities and spending time going deep in my relationship with Jesus….it’s time to ‘Mary’.

This morning has been a ‘Mary Morning’. For reasons left untold, the last 24 hours have been tough – mentally and emotionally – for me. My ‘Mary Morning’ consisted of…

  • reading God’s Word
  • sitting quietly
  • cooking
  • a few emails/texts with friends encouraging and praying
  • gardening

Gardening…I recently learned that I really love gardening.  I knew NOTHING about it. Yet, God has revealed a lot to me through this gardening process…and especially this morning when I was playing in my veggie garden.

When planting a garden…

1.  It’s important to do a little research and take time to prepare. Friends would say – just throw it in the ground and see what happens….you can always dig it up, transplant it, throw it away when it dies. If you know me well enough, you would know that I’m not that person. I’m more thoughtful…doing research (ad nauseam)… trying to figure out the best way to do it…asking questions.  Total fear of failure! Louis did research on the best way and size to build the raised beds. H learned what he needed to do before he got started.  Measured 10x before he cut.

  • Living a Life of Mission –
    • Ask God questions like – where are you at work, God? how can I join you in what you are doing? what would you have me do in my community? where is my person of peace?
    • Ask your self questions seeking your motivation. We must first prepare ourselves… Someone once said… You must be a changed agent in order to be an agent of change.  Safety precautions are airplanes state to give yourself oxygen before you help someone else. We must first know who we are and whose we are before we can be sent out by God.
    • Ask the community questions like – If I brought coffee tomorrow, would you be interested in hanging out during soccer practice/ballet class/etc? What are your dreams for your children, community, family, life?  What keeps you up at night? Could you help me with….?

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2.  I actually had put off planting a vegetable garden, because it was something new…and I didn’t know where to start! I didn’t want to screw it up. I was afraid. I had to take a risk and just do it. After doing a little research and asking a few friends questions, Louis built me 2 4×10 beds (yeah…that’s not starting small….).  We threw down some newspaper and some dirt, and planted a few seedlings from Lowe’s. Wasn’t going to even try starting from seeds!

  • Living a Life of Mission –
    • Talk to some friends who are doing it. Ask questions. Watch them. Be willing to share your fear. You will learn they were afraid initially, too!
    • Start small. You don’t have to make it a big production….actually don’t make it big event. Work it into the everyday rhythms of your life…but yet it does require intentionality.  Pray for opportunities to be a blessing to someone because God gave you new eyes to see.

3.  I got a late start at gardening.  Louis and I didn’t plant our garden until the end of May. Friends have been reaping their harvest for weeks. Mine is just coming in. I came close to giving up and just waiting until the fall or even next year. Louis encouraged me by building them anyway…as my birthday gift. It was indeed a labor of love, because carpentry doesn’t come naturally to him.  He’s a plumber, car mechanic, electrician….not a carpenter.

  • Living a Life of Mission –
    • You aren’t meant to do this alone. In Luke 10:1, Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs….2×2 to prepare the way for Jesus to visit. Pray for the other half of your pair.
    • Call in reinforcements. I am grateful for my friends who join me in the journey.
    • It’s never too late to get started. Plant where you are. Plant where you go. Plant in good soil…where God is moving. It doesn’t matter when you start – just start.
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my first tomato… we missed the harvest because we were out of town… :( It’s all about the timing…

4. Things go wrong.  Birds, deer, and bugs eat your potential bounty.  Bees don’t come to pollinate your flowers, so you have to change your approach.  Dogs dig up your plants… or in my case…eat my dirt. (Weird…I know…but Bella loves the rich, ‘meaty’ dirt!)  so you build a fence. Storms and hail  come and beat up your poor little plants. (I’m thankful that we planted late! The hail storm that came earlier wrecked some friends’ gardens.) And then…there’s the dreaded…ugly ‘dog vomit fungus’. Yes…true story…and it was GROSS!  It required tender, loving care..and removal of the fungus and adjusting the soaker hose.

  • Living a Life of Mission –
    • The enemy…Satan…seeks to discourage, kill and destroy. Yes. It is true. Be prepared. Our God is ALL POWERFUL!
    • Timing is everything. Sometimes it’s just not the right time. God’s timing is always right on time.  Trust Him.
    • Turn to the Lord. Trust that the Lord of the Harvest raises up laborers…He draws them near.
    • Christian community is often the fence around your new seedlings. Build a fence of support and community to protect your upcoming fence. Sunday morning church service isn’t enough. It needs to be closer, more intimate discipleship…tending, sowing truth, etc.

      Fungus Among-us

      Fungus Among-us

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The creative fence Louis built to keep Bella out. Sunflowers and strawberries (5/30)

5. It takes time.  Plants take time to grow…some grow faster than others. There were a few moments I just wanted to give up…and let the beds go to weed. Some start slow and then take off like crazy. Some are weaker than others..and aren’t producing anything at all…and are almost dead.  No 2 plants are the same.  2 days ago I had a cucumber that was about 5 inches long. Today…it was about 9 inches, and I am eating it!

  • Living a Life of Mission –
    • Surround yourself with support and encouragement, too. You are not meant to be a lone ranger.
    • Tend to the garden…and to the gardener. Go to the Master Gardener who will tend to you.
    • Look for the little wins. Where God is at work.
    • Praise God in the difficult challenging times….and for the fruit of your labor!

A few scriptures that often encourage me…

Galations 6:9      Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Romans 5:3         Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings,because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 
And Lastly…
Luke 10:2            Jesus told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” 

Time to get busy… Want to join the conversation on living on mission?

Check out this opportunity!

click the link below…

Living On Mission

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Enjoying the first fruits of our labor


Camp Splash 2014 – Tell a neighbor! Bring a friend!

It’s our 3rd annual Camp Splash – in partnership with Hope Church! Hope to see all our neighbors and friends! Here’s the video from last year… And….keep reading for more info. Print the flyer to share with a neighbor, please!  Thanks!

Camp Splash 2013 from Marti Williams on Vimeo.

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RVA: Under Construction – Jen Hatmaker Speaks

Marti (Michalec) Williams:

Seriously… I Can’t Wait!!!! 4 weeks from today….

Originally posted on Into The Neighborhood:

INT presents Jen

presents

Jen Hatmaker Speaks…

RVA: UNDER CONSTRUCTION

 

METRO Richmond, VA is under construction!

WE, the Church, are being called to rebuild it by fulfilling the mission Jesus gave us: 

Love God. Love Neighbor.

Make Disciples who Make Disciples.

Join us in welcoming Jen Hatmaker, as 700+ attendees will hear Jen speak and discuss what it means to live on that mission as an individual, as a small group or family, and as a church!  Jen’s message is NOT just for women only! GUYS – You are welcomed and encouraged!!!  Although many of her books are geared toward women, her message is for everyone who is part of the body of Christ in RVA: men, women, church leaders, young adults, singles and parents!

Location:

St. Giles Presbyterian Church
5200 Grove Avenue
Richmond, VA 23226

Weekend Schedule:

Friday  8/15   6-9:30pm

Saturday   8/16     8:30a – 1p

Saturday…

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Memorial Day 2014 – You’re Invited!

Every year, we hold our annual community Memorial Day Party!  Come if you can…and bring something to share! Here’s last year’s post if you wanna check it out…  Memorial Day 2013.  See you Monday!

Memorial Day Flyer 2014


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