I seriously doubt there are very many people in the United States that have not heard something, be it a sermon, a telethon, or some nonprofit event, about how we should all give of our time, our talents and gifts, and our treasures or about the evils of withholding them. In fact I will even admit that it is this kind of sermon that convinced me on my first year of unemployment that I needed to go out and volunteer. And that led to the vision of Dirt ‘N’ Nails while working in a community garden.
Since that day in the garden back in 2009, however, DNN has only floundered. Our average annual donations ran $1000 up until 2014, in 2014 we raised $3000, and so far in 2015 we have raised nothing in the way of cash donations. What’s more, we have had very few volunteers, the third board member slot being filled and emptied multiple times and calls for volunteers for specific functions falling on deaf ears.
So allow me to talk to you a little about how I see the lessons of time, talent, and treasure.
Tithe – 10%
The meaning of the word “tithe” is literally “10%”. The idea is to give “10%” of yourself. This is a nice round number. In the “become rich” financial classes, 10% represents the ideal place to start in putting aside money, always putting aside at least 10% as your retirement fund or your “get rich” funds. So imagine what 10% could do for a nonprofit. But that isn’t really what a nonprofit asks for in the end. 10% for a nonprofit means a combination of things, 10% of your time and your talent and your treasure. 10% of talent is difficult to calculate, but time and treasure should be somewhat easy. And still the nonprofit is not talking about 10% of each, only 10% of all of the above.
So what does that look like?
Time and Talent
Time is a compressed commodity these days. We compress it by staying connected on our cellphones even as we go shopping or drive to and from work. We try to think of ourselves as multitaskers, making our time all the more valuable. The next generation seems adamant that their time is incredibly valuable to the point of trying very hard to not do anything. Of course this is not true, at least not the way they use time, but this is what they have learned, somehow, from us.
Time and talent combined means one thing: Volunteering. Even if you gave 5% of your “treasure”, what would 5% volunteering look like? It depends on if you are looking at it from your eyes or God’s eyes. If we looked at it from our own eyes, we might think our talent alone is more valuable than most other people’s and, therefore, the time is very valuable. Would a chef volunteer his time in the kitchen of a shelter on the premise of minimum wage or the wage he currently makes in his profession, for example? This is why finding a grant writer is difficult. It is a lot of hard work, is not for everyone, and is quite valuable in the nonprofit world, therefore the grant writer could and maybe even should be able to write her own check.
But God sees it differently. As I was recently reminded in a sermon, since Jesus says “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5), should not our focus be on him, the “vine” that keeps us going, keeps us alive, and not the “fruit” that is produced only by His grace? God does not measure our time and talent based on what we believe our talent to be and how much time we think it is worth, but based on what He believes our talents truly are, the gifts He has given us, and time is irrelevant to Him.
Therefore what I see as the piece of the puzzle known as “Time and Talent” is the time to do something voluntarily, no matter what the talent is that is being used, until that something is done. For me doing things like graphic design or grant writing research, that means I take a lot of time because I have no talent for either.
Treasure should be obvious, though most people consider this to be “10% of income”. But consider this: If you were to break down your net worth based on everything you own as well as your income, what would 10% of it look like? To you this may sound ridiculous, but it does not to God. After all, if it wasn’t for His providence, you would not own any of those things that make up a majority of your net worth. Consider what Jesus taught us about those that so carefully measure out 10% of their harvesting to be even more certain that they gave no more than 10% as less. What was wrong with giving less, a sin against God, was by far more important than what was “wrong” about giving more, human greed and lack of faith in God.
This is a hard lesson to learn because we tend to be a society that lives on the financial edge with huge debts that are rotated over and over. We created the problem. The solution is to get back out of debt and quickly and as efficiently as possible and to teach the next generation not to get into debt, but most people do not even try. So the problem with the 10% of everything we see today is not the painful reality of what we can afford based on our needs but the falsehood of us believing that it has to do with only affording our needs when in fact it has to do with owning our wants.
Where DNN Goes From Here
I have spent the last few years trying to get more people interested in more than just “Liking” our Facebook page. In the meantime, God has seen fit to let me remain unemployed despite my own bills, I have done well over 90% of the volunteering despite calls for more board members and technical help, and I have put much of what I have managed to make over the years into keeping DNN going. The worldly side of me would love to tell you that such sacrifice will end today, but that is just unreasonable. First, I am the only full-time volunteer and the second to only part-time volunteer in DNN, my wife being the other volunteer when she has time away from her practice. Other volunteers have come and gone, never lasting very long and disappearing as fast as they appeared.
Second, while it is God’s company, it is, on state record, my company. I am responsible for it, even if it doesn’t do much.
This does put me in an interesting spot, however. I can no longer afford to remain unemployed despite not being given a chance at a job, so my wife and I have taken over an empty office within her practice to start a counseling office. I will be spending a majority of my time doing that, and everyone who had once considered me “free to help” at practically any time of day and any day of the week will find I am no longer as available.
So here is what I can promise you and what I hope you will take to heart:
1) I will always give 10% of my income to the Lord’s work, focusing primarily on DNN despite wanting to also help our church.
2) I will make not one penny off of DNN in any way for any reason other than becoming a counselor for one of the farms once those get started.
3) I will drop all other fundraisers for any other charitable cause until the first farm is started.
For your part, I’m going to be once again asking for volunteers, we do need donations, and we always gratefully accept prayers for God’s will in pushing this forward.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for the list of needed volunteers and donations. These lists will not be wants but needs to move Dirt ‘N’ Nails forward.
And thank you for your continued interest in our cause. God bless.