Almost from infancy, our parents teach us to share. If we have two cookies and our friend has none, we’re instructed to give one away. This idea is reinforced in classrooms, on sports teams, and especially in church, where we learn that a faith that fails to actively care for those in need is no faith at all.

Since this lesson has been drilled into us since childhood, it’s understandable (and admirable) that when a video of a hungry-looking, barefoot child appears in our news feed, our immediate impulse is to send them the food and shoes that we perceive them to be lacking. After all, sharing’s a good thing, right?

TOMS shoesIn 2006, TOMS almost single-handedly created the easiest way for us to “share” with those in need around the world. Taking the concept of “buy one, get one,” and turning it on its head, they invented a totally new paradigm: “buy one, give one.”

Suddenly, we had a way to use our purchasing power not only to buy a pair of shoes for ourselves, but to create a ripple effect of good around the world by also providing a pair for someone else. We experienced firsthand how interconnected the global economy is and how our actions as consumers in the U.S. can impact people around the world.

TOMS taught us something important: Our purchases matter.

But as the new critically-acclaimed film Poverty, Inc., reveals, for all the good that buy one, give one  accomplished on the consumer end, it had consequences on the receivers.

The film highlights how some sometimes good intentions unintentionally deepen dependency, impact local markets, and paint an inaccurate picture of poverty. Intuitively, we know that aid has never offered the lasting or dignified pathway out of poverty.

In the film, Michael Fairbanks describes this disparity between doing good and unintended negative impact, stating, “Having a heart for the poor isn’t hard, we all have that, but having a mind for the poor—that’s the challenge.”

Poverty, Inc., highlights the significant transformation that’s underway in the “industry of charity”, as it seeks to exchange aid for enterprise, paternalism for partnership.

Looking through the enterprise lens of TOMS, I wonder if the emphasis on the free shoes they give away has caused us to miss the seemingly hidden benefit of creating a thriving company. Perhaps it’s time to stop just focusing on the free boxes of shoes and broaden our understanding of impact, and celebrate other aspects of TOMS. Primarily, they are a thriving company providing jobs, delivering an excellent product, modeling corporate generosity, and constantly seeking to expand in their global impact.

1. Job Creation

TOMS seeks to create jobs, establishing over 700 manufacturing and sourcing jobs in 6 different countries and effectively empowering parents to purchase shoes for their own children. No parent wants to stand in line for charity for the rest of their lives—just like us, parents want the dignity of providing for themselves and their families. The jobs that TOMS creates are most likely far more effective at alleviating poverty than a box of free shoes could ever be.

2. Excellent Products

I love my TOMS. Even without the BOGO model, they’re a great shoe. TOMS doesn’t use their social mission as an excuse to peddle inferior products, but remains committed to offering excellent, high quality, and desirable merchandise.

3. Skills Training

TOMS has invested in the futures of thousands of men and women by offering job skills training. They’ve also initiated health training, including skilled birth attendant training. A company that cares about training and long-term empowerment of those it employs is to be celebrated.

4. Greater Generosity

While the buy one, give one model has been replicated across products and innovations, the greater impact might be on organizations that have looked to TOMS and discovered that they, too, can actively unlock both talent and funds to have a global impact. It’s both intrinsically good and good business to be known as a company that cares about responding to need, and there has been a recent resurgence of creative corporate generosity. They key is to continue to ask tough questions about what models accomplish the most positive outcomes—for all involved.

TOMS has captured the hearts of a generation well aware of the needs of the world and itching to share. Disproportionately, we’ve celebrated the free shoes and missed the positive impact of the core business.

As Poverty, Inc., shows through over 200 interviews in 20 countries, there is movement underway to shift from aid to enterprise.

At their core, both Poverty, Inc., and TOMS Shoes prove one thing: Our parents were right that sharing is good—but nobody wants to be a charity case for life.

Poverty, Inc.

 

Poverty, Inc., released this month.

Watch the trailer, preorder the film, or learn about hosting a screening event at povertyinc.org.

Around this time last year, I celebrated another birthday—and not just any birthday. This was the big one. The 4-Ohhhhnoooo. I went to bed a sprightly 39-year-old and woke up looking like the guy who can’t sleep in a cold medicine commercial.

40th birthday candles

I was finally 40—statistically, my life’s halftime.

I’ve played enough soccer to know the importance of halftime; it’s a moment to pause, reflect on your performance, determine what changes need to be made, and then step back onto the field to finish the game. Because of this, I thought a lot more about turning 40 than I have about any other birthday. (So much, in fact, that I wrote a whole book about it!)

I want to remember some of dominant themes that captured my thinking during my “halftime year.” Here are the things that will stick with me as I live into my second half:

1. Write your eulogy.

Writing your eulogy sounds like a horribly depressing thing to do. Seriously, who does that? Well, I did. And I’d suggest you do it, too.

The benefit is that it forces you to remember that one day, people will gather together, lower you into a hole in the ground, say a few nice words about you, and cover you with dirt. Then they’ll eat mediocre potato salad and go about the business of living until it’s their turn.

None of us can escape death. The question is, in light of that day, how will you live this day? That’s something we can influence. And when we think today through the lens of tomorrow, I believe it makes a difference in how we live today.

Writing your eulogy brings into sharp clarity what matters most, and might just change the way you live your life.

2. Love those you’re closest to well.

When we count our days, we have the opportunity to recalibrate, focusing less on achievements and more on people, especially those closest to us.

We think less about accolades and more about relationships. We obsess less about our full inboxes and more about planning coffee with our parents. We think about saying “no” to the next business trip so that we can be there to read to the kids at bedtime and kiss them on the forehead as they drift off to sleep.

We think about how we can help our friends and family grow in grace, so that together, we can more clearly see and experience a God who is at work in the midst of life’s brokenness.

It has always been easier for me to think more about trying to be successful at work than trying to be successful at home. One of my halftime reflections is that I never want to fail in letting the people closest to me to know how much I love them.

3. Keep your friends.

Research shows that by age 36, most men have made their closest friends. Recently I heard that a shockingly small number report having any close friends at all. Statistically, women tend to do a better job of maintaining their relationships, but by midlife, many of us find friendships to be in dwindling supply—precisely when we most desperately need them.

Life isn’t meant to be lived in isolation. Because of this, I want to prioritize time with friends. In college, I used to run with my roommate as we were preparing for soccer season. Today, we go for power walks. It’s old and lame, but deeply important. (And sometimes, I’m convinced that I can still hear the strains of the soundtrack from Chariots of Fire lilting in the background.)

In a rare moment of hopefulness, the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Though this verse is often quoted during weddings, its original context is actually more suited to refer to friendships in general. Without time and attention, our friendships will drift. Yet we need our friends. Let’s make sure our ropes are strong as we enter the second half.

4. Make peace with your finances.

When it comes to money, few people ever feel as though they’ve “arrived.” There is always more to be had but midlife is a moment to discover contentment.

A few years ago, a friend introduced me to the idea of setting a “lifestyle cap” early on in life. Even if earnings increase, income remains the same, and any additional funds are automatically shared, rather than spent on personal consumption.

As a family, we are working to make peace with our financial finish line. We have enough. And that is a wonderfully freeing place to be.

Halftime is over. It’s time to get back in the game. And I think I’m going to play the second half differently than I did the first half. How about you—how will your second half compare to your first?


40/40 Vision

Learn more about rediscovering who God has called you to be:

40/40 Vision:
Clarifying Your Mission for Midlife

by Peter Greer and Greg Lafferty
from Intervarsity Press

ORDER NOW

Fail ImageAfter weeks of application questions and initial interviews, the time for my final interview with HOPE International’s board of directors had finally arrived. Things seemed to be going smoothly—that is, until Tom, one of the board members, asked a question that I was completely unprepared to answer.

“Do you have any experience fundraising?”

Fundraising? Even though I was applying for a position with a nonprofit, I had somehow failed to understand that ensuring there were adequate resources to implement the mission was going to be an important part of my job.

I am incredibly grateful that, despite my complete lack of knowledge or experience in this aspect of my role, the board still offered me a position at HOPE. The 11 years since then have been a steep learning process, including some unforgettable lessons on the do’s and don’ts of fundraising.

Knowing that I’ve learned more through the times of failure, here are my Top 10 Fundraising Fails—lessons that I hope you don’t have to repeat!

1. I verbally vomited on people.

Early on, I would charge into meetings and nervously gush HOPE’s mission, key objectives, and plans for the future, without having any idea if the person on the other side of the table even had any interest! Since then, I’ve learned that even more important than what I want to communicate is taking the time to get to know who I’m taking to—their calling, mission, and special areas of passion. I’ve tried to adopt the 70/30 rule: Listen for 70 percent of the time and talk for 30 percent.

2. I didn’t follow up.

There were times when I would promise to send a person additional information, but then get inundated by the avalanche in my inbox and forget the specific details of what I’d promised. I’ve learned I can’t trust my memory, so today, I have a stronger system in place to immediately capture all items right after a meeting, while the conversation is still fresh in my mind.

3. I focused too much on new relationships.

At times, I have focused more on seeking out new donors than caring for existing supporters. I’ve realized that attrition is a crucial indicator of long-term success. In fact, I consider that statistic as even more important than the amount of funds raised on an annual basis.

4. I failed to give sacrificially first.

How can I ask others to do what I’m not willing to do myself? Early on, I was asking others to join HOPE’s mission but was not personally contributing toward it in a deep and sacrificial way.

5. I focused on short-term goals not long-term relationships.

I put immense pressure on meeting quarterly fundraising goals—even if it meant sabotaging long-term relationships with potential partners. Impatience is a killer of every relationship.

6. I failed to move on.

I put inordinate amounts of energy into several relationships that simply were not a fit in terms of mission and passions. I’ve learned that it’s important to give yourself the freedom to move on.

7. I jumped when I should have waited.

Every time I’ve made an “ask” without being asked for one, it hasn’t gone well. My friend Terry says that a good ask is like a marriage proposal—the person ought to know it’s coming, and you ought to have a pretty good idea of what the answer will be!

8. I failed to honor others.

There have been times when I’ve shared stories about the families HOPE serves in a way that might have generated a donation but did not honor them. Each time I talk about HOPE’s clients, I’m committed to doing so in a way that celebrates their incredible gifts and dignity.

9. I failed to talk about failure.

I believed that in order for donors to offer their support, I had to pretend that everything was going perfectly well. But actually, the opposite is true. If there isn’t honesty in the times when HOPE doesn’t meet our goals or has operational failures, it’s not a real partnership. In the corporate world, you get put in prison for not divulging key information to your stakeholders, and yet somehow in the nonprofit world it’s become standard practice! Honesty and transparency are crucial to any successful partnership.

10. I said “yes” to every invitation.

By accepting every invitation to meet with donors, churches, and organizations, I was actually saying “no” to the ministry and joy of loving my family at home. I also wasn’t empowering other members of my team to rise up, gain practice, and expand HOPE’s impact through their gifts.


giver gift cover

Learn more about how fundraising can be a life-giving, generous partnership between both the giver and the recipient:

The Giver and the Gift:
Principles of Kingdom Fundraising

by Peter Greer and David Weekley

Order now: Givington’s | Amazon

The Gift of a Day

February 17, 2016 — Leave a comment

Busyness is a hallmark of our modern lives. It’s proudly paraded in our culture as though a busy life is equivalent to a meaningful one. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the boast beneath people’s busyness. A calendar full of commitments is our adult version of a Girl Scout’s sash full of merit badges. It makes us feel important. If I weren’t so necessary, I wouldn’t be stretched so thin.

Most of us don’t need to be convinced that we’re addicted to busyness. We know it. We feel it. We’re exhausted from running frantically from moment to moment, while never being fully present in the moment.

So we rise long before the sun, log in, caffeinate, and multitask all day long. Sometime near the end of the endless cycle, we feel exhausted, but our restless minds refuse to rest. Maddeningly, no matter how busy we make ourselves, there will never be enough time.

But 2016 is a Leap Year, which means that you and I are about to receive a cosmic gift.

We are about to receive the gift of an entire day.

February 29th is fast approaching. Happy Leap Year to each of us. The question is, How are we going to use it?

Without attention, my guess is that the day will pass in a blur just like every other. But don’t let that happen! This is an extra-special day that deserves to be spent in an extra-special way.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Road trip!

Fill up your tank, buy that giant Slushy, crank up your favorite 80s band, and drive like you’re in college again. Gas prices are as low as they were then, so seize the day and go visit that friend or family member you haven’t seen in far too long. For a bonus, make it surprise and show up on their doorstep unannounced.

2. Rest.

If you’ve been running so hard that you know you’re on empty, give yourself the gift of deleting everything on your calendar. It’s an extra day, after all. Sleep in. Fry a heaping plate of bacon. Spend extra time in Scripture. Go for the extra-long run. [Maybe do that before the bacon.] Read. Use this day to recharge.

3. Play.

If the only quality time you’ve had with family has been chauffeuring your kids to and from soccer practice, use this day to reconnect with the people closest to you.

4. Give a day’s wages.

HOPE International is inviting our friends to offer one day’s wages and invest in families around the world, so that they can leap forward on the path out of poverty. If you’re interested in helping, watch this video, calculate the value of your day on the Leap Forward website, and donate your Leap Forward gift.

In 2016, we’re gifted an extra day—let’s make February 29 a gift and take a leap!

Portions of this post were adapted from 40/40 Vision.