Philanthropy Under Ice

Let me start this off by saying that I have no real issue with the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. There was a family at my old church who was directly affected by ALS and I think that we definitely need to raise awareness for this disease and raise money for research to fight it.  I think the Ice Bucket Challenge has succeeded at that goal. Kudos to all of you who have participated and donated.

Let me say, secondly, that….I can’t stand being cold. There, I said it. I’m sure everyone who has done the challenge is feeling it. I’m not a big fan of fads, either. I’m fine with others participating in them, but I’m probably going to hold off. I want some time to think about it.

We are also on a budget. I know that if I dumped ice water on me, then I would only be expected to donate $10, which wouldn’t break the bank. But it’s the idea of it for me.  We have so many people telling us where our money NEEDS to go, for bills and such, stuff that we don’t have much option with. The money that we give to charity is precious to us, and we put a lot of thought into it.  At this time, the donation bucket in our home has already been emptied.

So all of that aside, I want to address some things that I’ve noticed with this recent internet phenomenon.

1.  The general public does not read the fine print.

NPR came out with an amazing April Fool’s Day prank this year. They posted an article with the headline, “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?” It was accompanied by the blurb preview of “In an age of readily available information and countless ways to get it, we seem to be losing touch with our powers of comprehension,” and a picture of lines of books on library shelves. The comment section was already filled by the time I got there with incensed individuals across the WORLD who were infuriated that NPR would make such an awful generalization and how little they actually met the purported claim. And yet, they were proving NPR correct by their own comments in a pointed sociological experiment. When you actually clicked on the link, you were directed to a page congratulating you on being a “genuine reader,” and to like the post and to “not leave a comment.”

We are a society where there is so much information available that if we are not fed it in one sentence at the top of our computer/phone screen, with an appropriate picture or video (albeit short), then we’re not going to give it our attention. I am saying “we” because I am so guilty of this too.  I was under the assumption with the Ice Bucket Challenge that if you dumped the water on your head, you did not have to give. But if you didn’t, then you had to give $100. That’s incentive enough to not give, but it still gets the word out about the disease so I figured it wasn’t completely terrible.  I’m glad that I found out it was a tiered donation concept. Whether you participate in the ice bucket, you are donating, little or much. That’s a great fundraising technique!

2. Do you know exactly what you are giving to?

First off, do you think that all the people who are dumping ice water on themselves really know what ALS is?  I feel like I have a pretty good idea about it, but I definitely don’t know all the ins and outs of the disease.  I definitely don’t know all the ins and outs of what “research” means. I’ve been hearing/seeing things about stem-cell research, and that makes me uneasy. I’ve also heard that ALS allows you to designate whether your funds will go to stem-cell research or to other functions (like support/comfort/therapy/etc). So, I’m glad for that option. I would probably give to them since I could make a distinction as to where my funds would go.  Here are some good vids I’ve seen about the disease and challenge:

Are you giving because you know what is going on and you are supportive? Or are you giving because someone nominated you to and now you feel like you’re obligated?

3. Do you give to anything right now?

I’m talking besides ALS research.  As a couple, the Huz and I give our tithe to our church, we give to a couple of radio stations and then also to a handful of missionaries in the US and overseas.  We feel that God gives us financial liberty so that we can be generous to others. We pray about it, we discuss together, we make commitments and we make sure we have extra just in case a need arises. Anything that we have is gifted to us by God. It’s not even ours. God tells us to be good stewards of the blessings He has given us, but not to be stingy with them – and to give cheerfully! If we have the resources, we LOVE to give! It is such a great feeling knowing that we were able to meet a need.

But that’s the difference between the kind of giving we strive to make a habit of and the giving from this campaign. It’s not thought out, it’s not a habit, and it probably won’t stick. I’m not saying that now that you’ve given to ALS, you have to always give to ALS. I’m saying that if we had a habit of giving in our lives, the world would be a better place.

and

4. Giving should most often be something done unseen.

Part of this campaign is that the videos will be seen by many and raise awareness of the disease. I get that. When Human Trafficking was becoming a buzz-word on the interwebs, we were sharing as many videos and articles and cleverly designed gifs as possible to get the issue out there. There is a purpose and that’s inherent to the Ice Bucket Challenge. But for the most part, giving to the needy (and the sick are included in “needy”) should be done in secret, out of the public’s eye.

I’ve been working my way through the Bible this year and I’m currently in the book of Matthew. I just read the other day from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus teaches on principles for giving to the needy:

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:1-4, ESV

This was a problem in Israel, back in the day, where people would make a huge deal over how much money they were going to give to the Temple. It could get pretty wild, a party in the streets – where everyone could see them and oo and aah over it.  Jesus was telling them that the reward for their good deed was received right at that moment. That fleeting moment of fame and adoration was all they would have to show for it. Yes, the money would go to help a need, but that was all the giver would get out of it.  Later in the chapter, Jesus encourages the people listening to store up their treasure (read, “reward”) in heaven and not on earth because it is all fleeting here on earth. In heaven, rust cannot get to it and thieves cannot steal it.

I’m not saying that everyone who is taking part in the Ice Bucket Challenge is doing it just to make themselves look good. I’ve watched several videos, and many of them make mention of someone the participant knows personally who is suffering or has passed with ALS. (Geez…it’s hard to right a blog post about ANYTHING in current events without feeling like you have to cover your tail at every phrase.) I’m just saying that the best way (I’ve found) to give is without anyone else knowing and sometimes even spur of the moment.

Conclusion

So, be mindful of what it is you’re participating in. If you are going to give your money or support to a cause, know it inside and out, as best you can.   There are so many eyes on us nowadays, and we are constantly being scrutinized – be a good steward. But also be giving – to whatever organization or cause you believe is worthy. If you are a Christian, prayerful consideration is a must.

For my part, I will not be participating in the challenge nor giving money. I’ve been nominated, but I’ve also been doing “my part” and sharing videos (like those above) about real people really fighting this disease. My money is already earmarked, but I can definitely join my voice with others to spread the word about this and other worthy causes.

My prayer is that anything you are doing (or not doing) is decided while you have two feet firmly on the ground and with a sound mind.

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One thought on “Philanthropy Under Ice

  1. Good points. Even with my dad being diagnosed with a sudden onset of ALS this past October, I was very weary about this whole Ice Bucket Challenge thing at first. If you want to make sure I do NOT share something on social media (or e-mail), the best way is to form it as some sort of challenge to show I care about the subject. I’m sure many people are doing it because it is the current fad and would do it if it was framed as trying to raise money to give snow to Eskimos. As I started seeing more and more of them, from people directly affected by ALS or from those who know me or my dad and were doing it for him, I started to be more touched by it. I take any opportunity I can to use these videos to share a link to my dad’s Walk to Defeat ALS fundraiser page to solicit for contributions or for folks to join us on the walk in DC November 1. I’m actually getting to the point where I feel I should do it this week.

    I do hope folks take the opportunity to learn a little about ALS, though. Perhaps even some of the more pointed videos like the ones you shared above an others will help with that. I also agree that giving should be planned and deliberate, even if part of the planning is a budget that allows you to give to things like this that come to your attention through the year.

    We do live in world where folks think they are doing good by sharing links and forwarding e-mails. There is a word for that, but it’s not coming to me right now. One thing I do like about the Ice Bucket Challenge is that it requires folks to do something. Something silly, for the most part, but still they need to make a decision to leave the computer think a little about what they’re doing.

    Lastly, as a follower of Christ, I do believe that his admonition in Matthew 6 is important, but that it is also important why you’re doing it. It can be good for others to see you “doing good” as an example. Jesus, himself, pointed out the woman who have her last 2 mites for His Disciples to notice. When I pray in public (such as saying grace in a restaurant), I don’t go out of my way to do it in a way that no one will notice, but I don’t do it overly loudly or dramatically, either. It’s all about motive and that is something each of us must deal with on out own.

    Thanks for helping to spread awareness!

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