Relief or Development?

It seems that one of the greatest questions in generosity is discerning whether to give someone a fish or teach them to fish?

Jimmy, Donn and Paul are avid fisherman friends of mine.  Hot, cold, rain, sleet, snow or ice does not keep them away from the beautiful lakes and rivers of Michigan and beyond.  Although I appreciate their generous offers to teach me to fish, I would much prefer heading over to Holiday Market and pick up a filet of Walleye or Tilapia to cook with some fresh veggies on my grill. 

It seems that one of the greatest questions in generosity is discerning whether to give someone a fish (relief) or teach them to fish (development).  As a philanthropist (someone who looks out for the welfare of others) it is important to determine when to provide relief and when providing relief may become harmful.  At that point it may be better to teach them to fish.

For example, the city of Flint recently went through a clean water crisis.  Lead contaminated water did not allow the residents to drink from their faucets.  Typical of the American way, millions of bottles of water were contributed by thousands of volunteers from across the country providing much needed relief.

In a different approach, many people love to provide funds for scholarships for students.  One reason may be that they believe the funds are helping the students to develop through education.  It is the donors’ way of teaching the students how to fish so that they can be positive contributors to society. 

Charitable organizations too, must know when to give relief and when to provide development.

One charitable organization that has struck an excellent balance in discerning when to provide relief versus development is Central Detroit Christian (CDC).  Founded by Lisa Johanon, CDC has created one of the most effective community development models in the city of Detroit last year being named “Community Development Corporation of the Year” by several local funding groups.    

For nearly 20 years, CDC has been developing a targeted geographic community through education, job training, employment and economic development.  In addition to assisting residents with relief (such as providing produce to the head of a family who recently lost a job), CDC has created a number of businesses which they use to serve the needs of the community providing jobs and job training for its residents.  Many go on to secure positions in other companies as a result of their skill development. 

Being generous as an individual donor or as a charitable organization can be challenging in deciding when to give someone a fish or teach them to fish. 

There is a time and place for both.  Generosity and education are a powerful combination. The challenge is to determine which is better in a given situation.

In many ways its more difficult and time consuming to teach someone to fish.  But like my fisherman friends, I know they really love and care for me by offering me fishing lessons.  I appreciate their thoughtful generosity in desiring to help me develop my fishing expertise.

In your generosity have you ever considered when it is best to teach someone to fish or to simply hand them a fish?     

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the enjoyable book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.