A number of years ago, I was photographing on location, and over heard a conversation with the business owner on the phone. Unintentionally eavesdropping, I did get an idea of the fellow’s character. The caller was asking for some kind of charitable donation. Not an unusual call for a business to receive, but I thought his response was unusual. After listening to the caller’s script and asking some appropriate questions, he told the caller he was indeed interested in the charity. Unfortunately, his business decides at the first of each calendar year what they plan to give for the next 12 months and this charity hadn’t been considered. “However,” he said, “could you send me some information and then give me a call in 2 weeks and we can consider this opportunity?” I didn’t follow up on how this actually worked out but I believe the man was sincere and intended to be involved.
From time to time, I have thought of this situation. Usually during a phone call from someone soliciting for some charity. I always try to be gracious. I am always honest. usually I respond that I have already decided on my charitable giving for the year. In addition, I do have some criteria for the organizations I want to be involved with. Some of the criteria:
- Is the group reputable? Can I check up on how they use the money I give?
- Is this something I am truly interested in propagating? Do I want my name attached to this group?
- What will my involvement (or lack of) mean to the recipients of this charity?
- Is this something I can “just” give money to or is my involvement going to include my time and energy and professional skills?
Anne (my wife) and I have charities we “just” donate money to. We have longterm connections to friends in the organizations and are knowledgable how the money is being spent. I wouldn’t mind if my name was published by these folks. These charities are making a difference in the world. Several of them provide ongoing international relief work. They would be missed if they were not there, and our participation would be too.
We also have some local charities we give time and energy to. The Rough N’ Ready Rodeo is one of those. This event is on a Friday in September each year during the River City Rodeo and Stock Show. (www.rivercityrodeo.com) Children with special needs are paired up with Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association Cowboy and Cowgirls. Then they participate in “rodeo events” : stick horse races, roping hay bale steers, bucking horse teeter-totters, and of course, riding a real horse. I round up a few volunteer photographers to make portraits of the kids and the cowboys. Then, we make prints and deliver them to the kids and their parents at the end of the morning! The time goes way too fast. The kids have a great time and the funds that are raised are divided between four local charities that work with the participants during the rest of the year. Is the world changed by my work here? May-be not, but the kids with special needs have fun and feel loved and accepted and that is worth my time.
So what is my point? I want to lead by example. Are you participating in charitable giving? Have you thought about it so when the South American Swamp Rat Association calls looking “for your $50 donation again this year” you already know you won’t be giving to them? More important, have you found a place to give your time, energy, expertise, name, and money to? A charity or non-profit that is making a difference in someone’s life? There are many worthy causes out there. The first of the year is a good time to think about these things.