Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.” Paul of Tarsus

Leaders go first, give first, and give sacrificially.

Recently, I was coaching Danielle, a brave young woman who works as program coordinator for Shaping Destiny, a charitable organization based in Austin.  She knows an amazing local Cameroonian man who has a huge heart for orphans. Princewill spends his time visiting orphans, coaching and counseling them, trying to help them stay in school and succeed in life. Danielle wanted to help raise $1200 to help Princewill buy a motorcycle that will help him go to distant villages to visit orphans and care for them. However, Danielle didn’t know what to do. She sent an e-newsletter to Shaping Destiny’s current sponsors–there aren’t that many–and no one volunteered to help with the motorcycle. She was stuck, she didn’t know what to do.

That’s when I started talking with her. I shared with her the story of how I first started the orphanage. I was beginning medical school and didn’t have any money. In fact, I was borrowing money from the government to pay my way through medical school. When I decided to serve orphans, used some of that borrowed money to sponsor three children. It was a hard thing for me to do giving that I was cash strapped. Before long, the heavens began to notice my sacrifice. When I asked others to financially support orphans, my heart was filled with the passion, and I was asking them to join me in giving sacrificially to help orphans. Before long, many of my cash-strapped classmates were committing themselves to sponsor a child. To them, if I could do it, they too could. That’s how the orphanage grew to help thousands of children. I gave first.

In 2009, when we wanted to build a huge 180,000 dollar building to serve as the home for the orphans, my newly wedded wife, Ellen and I made our most sacrificial donation yet. With me being about $150,000 in medical school debt, with no savings and a new baby on the way, we pledged to give $10,000 in 6 months toward the costs of the orphanage. To be sure, giving first isn’t easy at all. To pay our pledge, there was a time when my cell phone was disconnected because I couldn’t afford the bill. I had a new baby, my wife wasn’t working at the time, and my income wasn’t much. I was earning a resident’s salary in Texas. There were times when our fridge was empty.

After we made our pledge, the next person I spoke with decided to match it with a $10,000 pledge of his own. Other team members were challenged and made sacrificial donations of their own toward the orphanage. Yet, almost one year into the fundraising, we had only raised $80,000. When we saw that things weren’t moving forward as anticipated, we donated another $5,000 even though we were still struggling financially. This was in addition to tremendous sacrifice in time and all sorts stress involved in trying to organize the fundraisers and direct the organization in general. In the end, when I was completely burned out, discouraged, about to give up, without a job and no source of income, a dear friend of ours, Dr. Christen LeBlanc, came to our help. He organized the last fundraiser for the building that brought in $100,000 in one night to complete the project. For that fundraiser, I was too burned out to even help much with it. All I did was show up and talk.

These are just two examples from many in my personal experience. I can tell you many more stories from my life and the lives of others that illustrate clearly that effective leaders always give first. Effective leaders give first. When they do that with all their heart, the rest becomes miraculous. It’s amazing how people are moved to follow a leader that they know is giving sacrificially and going sacrificially. Note that the keyword is giving sacrificially. When I give out of my abundance, it isn’t sacrificial giving. My $15,000 put into that building is nothing to a wealthy person. In fact, later in my life when I start earning more, it won’t be as much a sacrifice as it was at the time.

Why is it so important for leaders to give first, and give sacrificially?

An article on Bridgespan.org gives some good reasons why board member giving is very important and, in fact,  is a requirement for leadership in many organizations. They write:

“Board member giving is natural and necessary. Here are some rationales: 1) Board members of most charitable organizations are expected to participate in fundraising. An appeal is particularly convincing if a board member uses him or herself as an exemplary donor. 2) The board is responsible for providing a sound financial basis for the organization. By personally contributing, a board member recognizes this responsibility and demonstrates a commitment. 3) Nearly 90 percent of American households contribute to charities. A board member should designate his or her own organization as one of the main recipients of his or her generosity. 4) Many foundations only contribute to organizations where every board member is a contributor.”

The simple truth is that when leaders go first, give first, and give sacrificially, it inspires and motivates everybody else to do the same. When a leader does that out of a genuinely humble heart, his sacrificial giving unleashes passion in him for the cause that is both infectious, inspiring, and empowering.

In what ways should a leader give sacrificially?

There are three ways that leaders should give sacrificially: Time, Talents, and Treasures. Leaders should give sacrificially of their time. Talents refer to investing one’s gifts and creativity. Leaders shouldn’t simply be there, but they should use their gifts sacrificially and spare nothing. Treasure refers to financial and material gifts. I recommend that a leader should give sacrificially in all three areas.

The beauty of giving or going sacrificially is that it’s not based on the amount alone but how much it costs you to give that amount. For example, a free will donation was being collected at a school to help homeless people. The kids were asked to collect change from their parents over a two week period and bring to put in the collection box. All the kids did. Several kids brought over twenty dollars. But there was one little girl whose parents were poor and she didn’t bring any coins because her parents don’t have spare coins. Instead, she went up and put two one dollar bills in the basket. Her amount what the lowest in the class. However, later that day, the teacher discovered that she had put into that basket her lunch money and was willing to go hungry all day to help homeless people. None of the other children did that. Who do you think gave most sacrificially? The kids whose parents gave them their spare change or this little girl who gave all the money she had to help the poor?

Sacrificial giving gives until it hurts and then it continues to give.

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