Along one of the hallways in my mother’s home, among the many pictures of my parents’ early lives together, one can find their wedding and honeymoon budget hanging on the wall. A brief review of the items and amounts suggests how little they had, and how frugal they had to be. Yet, with assets of $431, after having spent $48 on both of their wedding outfits and $90 to furnish their tiny apartment’s living room, there was still something left for those less fortunate in the Jewish community.
Fast forward 40 years and a combination of hard work, integrity, excellence and good fortune dramatically increased my parents’ charitable budget. And as community leaders, along with many others of their generation, they stepped forward to invest not only money, but also major amounts of time and energy, to build our community and make Canada and Israel better places.
They never pushed charity on their four sons. But through osmosis, a belief in community and the importance of charity became part of who we became as adults. We learned that the Federation was the one charity that, as a Jewish community charity, needed to be prioritized, as did United Way for the broader community. We also learned not to forget other key institutions like Baycrest and Sunnybrook, and smaller charities like Save a Child’s Heart, which our late father launched in Toronto 20 years ago.
We were fortunate to have our parents as examples, because giving is an important piece of the positive fabric of life for those lucky enough to be able to engage in it. And while major donors are often honoured in noticeable ways with plaques and signage, most of us are happy just to receive the positive feelings that one gets from being charitable. We should also not underestimate the value of those who give mostly of their time. Without those volunteers, the wheels of many charitable initiatives would stop turning.
What motivates people to give of their time and money varies. For some, philanthropy is a moral imperative, and for those who are more religious, it is a commandment. For most, investing their time or money in charitable pursuits is simply immensely rewarding. In business terms, charity offers a return on your investment – you feel good about it.
You also have the opportunity to associate or interact with other like-minded people on boards and committees. The people you meet expand your network and can offer new business and social options. And being on a well run board or committee can be very enjoyable.
For those who enjoy events, it is about being at, and being seen at, high-profile functions that raise money for various causes. While many of these events are enjoyable and provide profile for the charity, donations to events are often based more on who has invited you, as opposed to the value of the charity in question.
Regardless of the form of investment, there is also the subtle joy of knowing that you have done something good, that you’ve helped someone, or some thing, and have assisted in making the world a better place. Every cheque we write, every credit card form we complete, provides some level of satisfaction that justifies the act.
Being directly involved in a charitable organization often provides an enormous amount of satisfaction. But even if you just provide necessary funds, so long as you know how those funds are being used, you will feel the joy of knowing that something you have given up has made a difference to someone else in the world. For those of us who give, imagine how empty life would be without that giving and the involvement that goes with it. For those who do not, you might want to try doing so, as experience has proven that your life will be enhanced as a result.