Archive for November, 2015

Any one of us cannot really save the world, even though we may try.

As the dad of a certain almost-15-year-old, I tend to act as though the world and all outcomes therein depend on me. I know, I know – pretty arrogant and pretty silly. Somehow I guess I am not quite that important.

I do have – we all have – a part to play in this world, however, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant. There was a pretty famous guy who said, “The poor will always be here” and that’s true. The needs will always need to be met; the hurts will always hurt somewhere and be felt by too many. And so there is always something each of us can do.


I was prompted to write this after reading a helpful article from Charles Schwab. I’ll share the link at the bottom of my diatribe.

There is a personal finance maxim for building wealth: It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you save. I believe that.

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Thanks to Charity Vault, you can click here to see a collection of Indiana charities. Click on the jar, right, to visit Feed My Lambs Ministry.


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And there’s a philanthropic corollary to that: You don’t have to give the biggest gift to be helpful. Maybe it’s poorly stated, but you’ve got the idea.

Let’s just figure this: If you’re able to read this on a computer, if you’re reading this through LinkedIn or some website, demographically – statistically, you’re probably in the group that can afford to do something charitable. Something. Anything. Maybe. Probably. Something.

Religious beliefs and convictions and motivations aside (or none at all; maybe just social consciousness), I think we can all agree there is always great need. (All? Well, probably . . .)

So, as many of us tend to do toward the Christmas or Hanukkah or Festivus or otherwise Holiday Season or just pragmatically toward the end of the present tax year, here are a few things to consider assuming you have decided to help.

(By the way: The E’s are P, B, C and G. The A is K. . .)


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Pick your charity

From an other-centered perspective, it’s wonderful to understand that others might need help and we can do something to help. Charities, like needs, are everywhere. They are local and national in scope. You may have a personal tie or some unique knowledge of or reason for feeling strongly about an organization. There’s your best test. Whatever it is, wherever it is, whomever it is, for whatever the reason it is, Go to it.


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Know your charity

Spend some time getting to know them. And fundamentally important, make sure it’s a legitimate organization and they are responsible. Make sure they have legal charitable tax status as a 501(c)(3) organization. If you’re just starting out on this adventure of contributing to a good cause, check out charitywatch.org or charitywatch.org and charitynavigator.org. They are both unbiased, non-sectarian and objective groups that are sort of the BBB – Better Business Bureau for charities (and by the way, some are also BBB members; Samaritan’s Purse as one example).

Many Christian charities are members of the ECFA – Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability® – a widely known and respected and otherwise unaffiliated organization that essentially evaluates then vouches for the legitimacy, and in particular, the financial responsibility of a member group. You can look for their logo on a charity’s website or just ask if they are a member.

Everybody and their brother has a website now, so it’s easy to read and learn. Look for their annual report to be posted on their website. Look for their endorsements, certifications, memberships and affiliations. Ask someone you trust. Read about their Board of Directors and professional staff. Call them directly. You get the picture.

And by the way, they are not all religiously-based, as we know. There are thousands of foundations, large and small, private and corporate off-shoots, that do wonderful stuff. If there is a company you hold stock in or simply like, look. They may have a foundation that does great work you can support. There are family and community foundations in virtually every locale in America, all ready to accept assistance in making your own community better. They may even have a specific project you can take part in or volunteer for. They may even need yard work or painting in the office done . . . .


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Believe in your charity

This follows with the “pick” part, above. It makes sense that you believe in the purpose and mission the charity exists for. If you can’t find this – or the list of other things noted in the previous paragraph – find a different organization. Don’t be a hypocrite – be a believer. They’ll tell on their website what they believe and why they do what they do. You need to buy into their purpose and how they do their good work. If you don’t, they are simply not for you. Besides, it makes a huge difference to be able to say, I believe in what they do. And how you feel about it – Good – is important.


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Plan your charity

The Schwab article reminds us that charitable organizations need help of various kinds year–round. They don’t need just end-of-the-year money; they are open all the year ’round.

If you want to give a bazillion dollars, but don’t have it on-hand all at once, you’re normal. Spread it out in manageable monthly payments. And if you commit to $5 a month or quarterly, you can be assured it will be appreciated.

Automatic payment through your bank account is an easy way to do it. Most banks provide this capability, and many if not most charities on-line nowadays provide this feature directly as well. Take advantage of how they make it easy to be helpful.

And by the way: regular, predictable, steady, cashflow that a charity can reasonably expect is probably what we all want in our finances.


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Communicate with your charity

Don’t be afraid to call or write to the folks you support. Build a relationship. It is meaningful to them to know you’re not just an impersonal monthly or annual check; you’re invested in the good they do. Tell them and thank them. Let them know you’re a real person with real cares.

Just like everybody else, those guys need encouragement. Remember, the full-timers there are not there to get rich. They are there on a mission. They appreciate being told they are appreciated. Everybody does.

By the same token, if you have a concern, let them know. You can be assured they want to fix things that are broken, whether philosophically or operationally. We ought to feel a sense of ownership in – and responsibility for – the things we put our blood, sweat, tears and funds into.


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Get involved with your charity

Again, as you’ll read in the Schwab article, it’s not just cash. It takes more than cash to do the things a charity is meant to do. Volunteering is like cash to a charity. Assemble bikes at Goodwill. Ring a Salvation Army bell outside a local store. Wrap presents or assemble beds or do laundry at a homeless shelter. Serve meals on an evening you’d rather be watching football. Package medical supplies being shipped overseas.

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I fondly remember an incredible man – a great influence on my life – a Jew-turned-Christian musician who issued forth this challenge during a concert:
“. . .God can’t cash out of state checks in Heaven . . . He needs you.”

Keith Green, who wrote, sang and played piano like nobody’s business, was speaking of supporting missions – Christian missionary work – in Africa and elsewhere. He said that next time you are tempted just to simply write a check, which may be easy by comparison to the other things that we can do – next time, instead – go.

Click and check this out:


One of the most rewarding Christmases I have ever had was when my older sister and I went to serve meals at the local homeless shelter in our hometown. (Thank you, Kathi, for asking me to do this with you.) By the way, I also recall acutely how naturally uncomfortable and out of my element I was. Pitiful. I was far out of my comfort zone, and as I remember that time, I realize it would be well for me to live that way more. No doubt we grow the most when we are outside our comfort zones.

I also vividly remember the sad but thankful face of a destitute mother and that of her very small child when my wife and I delivered a couple of boxes of food to their “home” – a corner room in a dump of a motel in the inner-city. These too many years later, I still feel the mixture of hopelessness and hope as she opened her door to us and quietly, gratefully accepted the gift the folks at our church had for them.

And the image I saw in those few stark moments still haunts me. Maybe there is a question remaining: What do I do about it?

Was it self-serving, selfish for my own feelings to be good about helping in that way? I don’t know, but my feelings aside, the one thing I do know for sure: it needed to be done. If I can say so humbly, I guess I see it as a privilege to be part of it.

I am not declaring we all must or should go and volunteer. I am admitting, uneasily, how hard it is in my own experience. I feel a sense of getting off a bit easy by simply sending a check or making a donation on-line. That’s ok, and it’s good, but we know that people – going and actually doing – are the ones who truly make the world go ’round. I am thankful for them. And regardless of anything else, it needs to be done.

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Promote your charity

Gee Whiz. With Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat and free blogs and personal websites and LinkedIn, we can be our own little (or not-so-little) marketing machines. If you like them, then brag about them. If the old saying goes, “Put your money where your mouth is”, then the corollary to that is, “Put your mouth where your money is.” This too, will help.

Here are just a few [more] we’re interested in, including some recommended by friends and colleagues:

Simon Youth Foundation

Christian Alliance for Orphans

Wabash Valley Foundation

The Lighthouse Mission

Christel House

Sisters of Providence Food Pantry

Compassion International

American Red Cross

Children’s HopeChest

Goodwill Industries

Boy Scouts of America

Wounded Warrior Project

Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana

March of Dimes

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

For more – and actual – good advice and the inspiration for this long speech, have a look at Schwab’s Moneywise article, here.

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Michael E Conner writes on life, society, work, religion and career, politics, sport, and of course, lots of things-Indiana – at AskAHoosier.com. He has also just begun his second blog, irunsome.com, for the runner – or at least sort of evolving runner – in all – or most – or some – of us.

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After finding these Hoosier businesses, we just had to add. Truly Unique Indiana at its best. You can also find them on our “We Like” page, along with many other Indiana’s finest and funnest.

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Butt Drugs, Corydon, IN

Butt Drugs, Corydon
An Indiana treasure . . .
. . . And whatever you do, you gotta watch their video . . .

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Claeys Candies, South Bend
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Zachary Confections, Frankfort
(My favorite is the candy corn)

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