By Doug Morrow, BFI Executive Director
If you find yourself a bit distracted, you’re not alone. The way we use digital devices, an increased amount of daily screen time, and certainly the interruptions of texts and social media, have all conspired to leave our lives more complicated and struggling to stay focused. In fact, as I write this blog entry, it’s first being composed in “longhand” and when I wish to read something that requires great attention, I find myself printing it out to aid in my concentration!
It’s also possible for our giving to get “distracted,” meaning that our impact can get diffused and watered down. Many requests, special offerings and sometimes dozens of emails and direct mail appeals can leave a generous person exhausted by the sheer number of needs. So how can we set priorities and how can we maximize our impact when God encourages us to give (see January 2021 blog, “A God Who Gives”)?
From Jesus’s teaching on investments we’ll learn about how we prioritize our giving, and from his story of the Good Samaritan we’ll examine how we should give. Lastly, we’ll offer a couple of tools, provided by BFI, that can help you do both.
In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus encourages us to invest in places where value is increasing, not decreasing, using the lens of eternity. In other words, when He says “Don’t store up treasures here on Earth,” but rather “store your treasure in Heaven,” the Lord is clearly saying that having an eternal perspective is essential to making a choice about where we invest. Using such a lens, you can easily see that people should be preferred to buildings and timeless transformation versus temporary things. In other words, invest (and giving is the ultimate investment) for the long view, not the short term.
But it’s in Luke 10:30-37 that Jesus tells a story that suggests how we are to give. In His relating of the Good Samaritan story, the Good Samaritan intentionally takes the time to get involved with the victim. Unlike the religious leaders that had previously passed by and ignored his plight, the Samaritan spent time, bound up his wounds, took him to an inn and even vowed to return to take care of any additional cost that was incurred. He (the Samaritan) went deep, he focused, and got involved. How often are we tempted to respond to a need with an impulsive check rather than thoughtful, meaningful involvement. For maximum impact, give deeply and selectively, rather than broadly and shallowly.
BFI offers two tools that help you focus by prioritizing your giving and by deepening your gift’s impact. First, a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) helps you think and respond to needs with a greater sense of prioritization. A DAF allows a donor to pool their charitable giving money, can be funded with different assets as they become available, and provides a giving fund from which all (or a majority) of giving can occur. It’s free to use and each year BFI gives away many tens of thousands of dollars to causes by donors who are using DAFs to help prioritize. Contact us to see if this tool would be helpful for your situation.
Secondly, if a DAF helps prioritize giving, a charitable endowment helps deepen your giving’s impact. By selecting a few causes (i.e. local church, missions, etc.) gifts can be given on a constant and growing basis, allowing much greater impact over time. These endowments are often established during one’s lifetime, but often receive their greatest funding through a gift such as the remainder of a retirement account or some other asset after one passes on to Heaven.
Let me give just one example: about 30 years ago, Paul and Bernice Gore (friends of mine from Marion) left about $160,000 to their family endowment when they passed away. Since that time, more than $240,000 has been distributed from their fund* to their church (Third Marion), IBSA, Lottie Moon, and Annie Armstrong! That’s an extreme impact as each of these organizations have worked to further the Gospel faithfully over all these years. You may have more or less to give – that’s not the point. The point is that this tool can help deepen your giving, maximizing impact over time.
In a distracted world, prioritization and impact are the antidotes for distracted giving. Jesus reminded us to think eternally, and his Good Samaritan story suggests we would do well to take the time and expend the energy to focus and go “deep” rather than give impulsively or shallowly. I hope the tools that we introduced, the Donor Advised Fund and the Charitable Endowment help you do both.
*BFI Endowments have historically distributed 4.75% to 5% earnings each year.