Build social capital through giving

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You can never give unless you are able to define what true wealth means and how much money is enough for you. Giving is a virtue we should all possess but it’s not easy to come by. It’s easy to believe that having more money is the key to a better life – but it’s not. The key to a better life is increased happiness and fulfillment. And nothing brings more happiness than sharing what you have with others. You need to focus on developing a healthy relationship with money to improve your financial situation and by improving your finances; you are in a better position to help others. While wealth and happiness are not mutually exclusive, there is no denying that financial stability improves your well being in many ways.

If you have money, you don’t have to worry about it. You get a degree of financial control – even if you are not rich – and you feel a responsibility to share what you have with others. Money can give you the freedom to pursue your passions, including that of helping others. When you don’t have to worry about money, you are able to sort out things you want to pursue to give you a sense of purpose in your life. Taking care of other people’s needs and not being obsessed with self is a higher calling that one should aim to achieve, and if money can help you do it, then grab the opportunity. Also remember that true wealth comes from relationships not fat bank balances and multiple investments. In other words, social capital is worth more than financial capital.

To have a sense of money and its worth you need to look at it as a tool. And as with any tool, a skilled craftsman can use it to build something amazing – a meaningful life filled with family and friends, and community involvement. But if you are not careful and don’t have a plan, the life you build with your money can be fragile – even dangerous, especially if it’s based entirely on ‘me, myself and I’.

Some people claim they are not able to give because they don’t have enough. There is only one way to ever be satisfied with the money you have – knowing how much is enough for you. True happiness comes when you learn to be content with what you have. If you never take the time to figure out what enough means to you, you will always be unhappy with your financial situation and you will never give, not even to the needy, because you will always argue you don’t have enough for yourself.

Enough is different for each one of us. It’s not just different amounts of money, but the different types of wealth. To find what enough means to you, you have got to set goals and look inside yourself to find your core values. It can take months or years to get clear on what makes life meaningful for you, but once you have done this, you can make choices that reflect your priorities. This way, you will find room for giving because you will find what God has blessed you with is enough for yourself and to share with others, especially the needy.

You should build wealth not bathe in buckets of money, but you should do so as not to worry about money. When you have no money worries, you are able to pursue your passions, spend time with your family and friends, and make a difference in your community by sharing your wealth and your time. Remember, true wealth is not about money – it’s about good relationships (with your family, friends, neighbours and community), good health, and ongoing self-improvement. True wealth is about happiness.

Ultimately, it’s more important to be happy than to be rich. And you can’t find happiness if you don’t have good relationships or good health. You will also find your money will bring you absolutely no happiness if your intention is to share it with only one person – yourself. You will die and leave all your millions behind, and not a single legacy because you didn’t use your wealth to make your name live beyond the grave.

After defining what true wealth means to you and how much money is enough for you, you need to focus on how you can share it with others. If you feel called to give there are many ways of giving but the most rewarding are always community-based programmes that help more than one person. If you don’t have money or other material things to give, you can still give your time. This way you will create social capital. Here are four suggested ways of giving that will bring you great satisfaction and also help those in need and improve your community.

There is a lot of need out there. You witness it every day – street families, hungry neighbours, children out of school for lack of school fees, people dying for lack of medical help – the list is endless. If you are concerned about child abuse, domestic violence, hunger, homelessness, diseases, disasters and so on, one way to help others is by contributing to charities that assist the victims and prevent problems. When you give money to organisations such as the Kenya Red Cross Society or Africa Medical Research Foundation (AMREF), your money does real good to this country. Look around you to see the many health progammes AMREF is involved in rural areas and urban slums, or the work Kenya Red Cross does when disaster strikes, and you will have a heart to give.

Even if you can’t afford (or don’t want) to give money, there are other ways to help. Many people contribute used clothing and other household goods to charities that sell the items in thrift stores or give them directly to those in need. And don’t forget you can always donate your time – charities are always desperate for people to lend brains and brawn to help their causes.

CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR COMMUNITY. If you worry about giving money to charities because you don’t know how it will be used, then help people you know. If your friend has a fund-raising event to support a school or an individual who needs urgent medical treatment, make a pledge. If you hear a co-worker is struggling with medical bills for herself or her family member, make a contribution. If a local group of women are collecting money, clothes and food to give to the homeless, give whatever you have. If your neighbour’s child can’t join high school because of lack of school fees, pay for the child. Helping people you are connected with and seeing their situations change can feel awesome. You could also donate anonymously if you don’t want people to know.

TITHE. Many religions including Christianity, Judaism and Islam, encourage believers to donate a portion of their income to the church or mosque. The bible spells out 10 per cent of income as what Christians should tithe. This money is generally used to support the local ministry and congregation. It is also used to expand the church’s community work such as building of schools, hospitals and helping the poor. Tithing can be a great way to use your money to back your religious beliefs. It also gives spiritual satisfaction.

CREATE SOCIAL CAPITAL. You create social capital or mutual goodwill when you volunteer in a charity; your community, church or even help in your neighbourhood clean up exercise. Any time you participate in community work you get social capital, both for yourself and other people involved. People with lots of social capital can find help with ease when they need it – you can tell who they are by observing how friends, family and neighbours respond when a need that requires comforting arises, such as death or illness in the family. Those with little social capital can spend a lot of time frustrated and alone, with no one to comfort them when they need comforting.

You don’t have to sacrifice your own interests to create social capital. You can often create win-win situations where everyone profits – you gain psychologically and the community is improved. But the best way to build social capital is to help others without expecting anything in return. There is more to wealth than just money. Social capital is just as real as financial capital – and often more valuable.

If your budget does not include giving, or helping others is not in your money blueprint, it can be tough to get started. And even if you want to give, you may not know where to start. Try taking some baby steps. Starting small with giving, works the same way as starting small with savings. If you give a few shillings a month, as you are able to, the amount won’t really affect your budget, but it will teach you the habit and mechanics of contributing. Once you see that you can give to charity, begin to increase the amount and include it in your budget.

Some people can be sanctimonious about charitable giving; ignore them. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for not giving or tell you where to direct your money. Create your own personalised giving policy based on your goals and values, and your ability to give. Think about the kind of world you want to live in and act accordingly. Your actions may not give you any direct financial benefit, but they will generate social capital and make life better for everyone.

Shape Your FINANCES…Shape your LIFE

Sharing is a value that adults should not only teach their children, but should also practice. You never have too little to share. Sharing is the act of giving money or whatever else you have to affirm and enhance your sense of unity and shared value, with wealth itself, and ultimately with something greater – your community, country and the world.

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