What Is Your Generosity Currency?
About the Guest
John Stanley, author of the book, Connected for Good: A Gameplan For a Generous Life, tells about one of his most generous moments when he blessed his daughter and her friends. Stanley reminds us we all need to be generous with the three currencies we possess: relational currency, our strengths and talents, and our resources.
John Stanley reminds us we all need to be generous with the three currencies we possess: relational currency, our strengths and talents, and our resources.
What Is Your Generosity Currency?
Bob: Any time disaster strikes, the American people demonstrate that we are, indeed, generous people; but author John Stanley says we still have a-ways to go.
John: We are the most generous nation on the planet, and we give 2-percent of GDP away in our charitable giving every year. In 2015, it was 2.1. In 2014, it was 1.9. But it has kind of levels off at that 2-point GDP rating for five decades—five decades we’ve been stuck at 2-percent of GDP. We’re not digging deeper as a nation.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 13th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Do you think of yourself as a generous person? Are there ways you could excel still more? We’ll spend time talking about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’ve heard you talk many times about how your dad marked you with a responsibility to be a generous person. You saw him being faithfully generous, and that had an impact on your life; didn’t it?
Dennis: Yes. I still remember over the holidays of riding with him in his pickup truck. It wasn’t very warm. It was cold in that pickup truck, and I could remember kind of scratching the frost off the window watching him walk into a home that was pretty sparsely decorated with a ham or a turkey, with some folks who couldn’t afford much. And I don’t know that my dad could afford to give the turkey or the ham away; but he marked my life. He was a generous man. He thought of others.
We’ve got a guest on the broadcast today who—
—is a generous man. He has written a book called Connected for Good: A Game Plan for a Generous Life. John Stanley joins us again on FamilyLife Today. John, welcome back.
Dennis: He’s been married to Jaime since 1981, two adult children, and gives leadership to the Legacy Group. I’m going to ask you a tough question, John. If you could only keep one memory of one generous moment when you have given someone something, what memory would you keep and why?
John: What first comes to my mind is the moment that my daughter, Karen, and four of her friends—they were all 22 or 23—and they came to me, and they said, “We’ve got this idea.” They had all grown up together at Camp Manito-wish up in Northern Wisconsin doing high adventure travel. They said, “We’ve got this idea. Before we start our lives, we’d like to do a big expedition.”
“Here is our idea—we’d like to get two canoes and take the five of us and spend 90 days and paddle for 1,200 miles in Northern Saskatchewan in the Arctic Ocean. Do you think we can do it?”
So, I didn’t see it as generous then; but as I look back, the blessing that I gave them of confidence was just totally generous to them. And they did. So, that was just a—it was a blessing, and it was a relational gift. This was a story that kind of illustrates that we’ve got lots of different currencies which we can be generous and not just cutting checks and volunteering time.
Dennis: John, you’ve rubbed shoulders with a lot of people, and you challenge them to a generosity game plan. You talk about three categories. We talked about one earlier which is using our relational equity with others as a way to be generous.
Dennis: If you would, explain what you mean by that one; but then, I’d like you to go to the other two that you talk about and unpack both of those.
John: Yes. My friends and clients have taught me that there are three currencies with which we can be generous. The first currency, as you say, is our relational equity. When we build bridges between other people for their benefit—not our own—that’s an act of generosity. And we can solve a lot of problems in our world if we will spend that before we ever volunteer our time or cut a check.
So, just think about people in your life who have something in common that would benefit from a connection; and if you create an opportunity for them to connect, that’s an act of generosity.
Dennis: I’ll give you an illustration of that. As I was reading your book and thinking through that, I couldn’t help but reflect back on my own life; and I thought, “Now, how has God given me the opportunity to do the very thing John’s talking about?” Bob, you’re familiar with this. You were a part of this.
We invited a man who—
—this is not his full-time, vocational work. He, I think, works in computers or software down in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area. His name is Dwayne Washington. We invited him to come into the studio and tell his story of how he was mentoring African American boys in the inner city in Ft. Worth. We just told the story, and we invited listeners who would like to do something similar in their communities to give Dwayne a call.
So, about—I don’t know—a couple weeks after he’d been on the broadcast, something—maybe, it was God—kind of said, “Well, give Dwayne a call and see if anybody has called.” So, I called him, and he said, “Has anybody called?! People all over the country—we weren’t ready for this.” Now, I have no idea what ended up happening out of that; but I think he got a couple of hundred phone calls of people who wanted to begin tackling a problem in their community—
—with a positive solution.
And I’ve got to tell you that was extremely gratifying.
John: Yes, that was a great act of generosity. Did you think of it as generosity?
Dennis: I really didn’t. I wish I could claim credit for it. It just happened because we used FamilyLife Today to tell a story. Yet, it got me thinking about—“What is this broadcast?” We’re setting you up to tell your story to encourage other people to be generous.
Dennis: So, it doesn’t have to begin thinking that—“I’m doing this generous thing.” It just may be that you are doing the thing that is very clearly the right thing to do next.
John: The right thing to do—that’s right—yes, yes. Yes, so, that’s the first currencies with which I think we should be generous.
The second currency is to be giving away and spending what we’re best at—our strengths. So, I like to start out by saying, “You know just stop volunteering—just stop.” If you’re trading time for obligation at your local YMCA or the local school—
—or the church, don’t do that anymore. Only spend what you are best at. Discover what you are really good at—your strengths—and volunteer with that.
Why is that? Because when you do that, you’ll have just tremendously gratifying volunteering experiences, and chances are you’ll do more of it; right? And the people that you’re serving will value it and get more out of it.
So, this is born out of something that Eric Swanson taught me about the state of liminality. Liminality means—
Bob: Limited—is that?
John: Liminality means that which has always worked is not working quite so well anymore; and that which will work is not yet fully known—the state of liminality. So, in the context of generosity, that’s the state in which we are living right now.
We’re the most generous nation on the planet, and we give 2-percent of GDP away in our charitable giving every year. In 2015, it was 2.1.
In 2014, it was 1.9. But it has kind of levels off at that 2-point GDP rating for five decades—five decades we’ve been stuck at 2-percent of GDP. Now, GDP changes, of course; but we’re not digging deeper as a nation if that’s the only currency we’re measuring.
The second currency is our volunteer time.
Dennis: Wait. Before you move off of that—
Dennis: —you ran across a guy who wants to increase the 2-percent.
John: Yes. Adam Meyerson at Philanthropy Roundtable said, “Let’s go to three. What would it take to increase by 1-percent?” And that was a big challenge to a lot of donors sitting in the room and—“What would it take?” We’re not making much progress on that, I must say.
Dennis: But the point that we’re making here is that if that could occur, that 1-percent could do so much good in so many needy places around our nation—
John: It could.
Dennis: —and around the world.
John: I would go a step farther, and I would say that extra 1-percent could do so much for the generous person.
John: See, how the recipient wins; but the first person that wins is the person who gives. So, the second proof point—back to proof points—is that one in four of us volunteer. That means three out of four of us don’t even give away an hour a year. We’ve been stuck there for four decades. So, we’re stuck in this state of liminality where all we’re measuring is our charitable giving and where we’re volunteering.
So, that is why I’m challenging folks to start with this relational equity and then volunteer with only your strengths because, maybe, we can get that one in four to two in four volunteers if we’re giving away what we’re best at.
Bob: Well, here’s the thing—the things we are good at, we typically enjoy doing.
Bob: That’s your point; right?
John: Yes, yes, yes.
Dennis: So, give us an illustration from your life. What’s a strength that you have that you just absolutely grin from ear-to-ear?
John: Yes, when I help my church, for example, do a strategic planning exercise—or they ask me to facilitate a meeting—it’s just heaven to me. When they ask me to—
—chair an endowment committee—“Please!” Right? Or chair a building campaign—“Oh, please!” Right? But ask me to facilitate a meeting or lead a strategic planning—“Wow! Now, you’ve got me.” Anyway, so, yes, those are giving away your strengths is the second currency with which we can be generous.
Dennis: And the third?
John: The third currency is our resources. So, this is—people who are listening—“Well, finally, we’re talking about money.” Yes, we’re talking about money, but we’ve got so much stuff as Americans. We’ve got boats, and we’ve got second homes.
And I’ve got a good friend in Kentucky, mid-30’s. He and his wife have three young children. He’s a very successful business guy. They have a nice home, but their second floor—the second story of their home was completely empty. And they have a heart for college students. So, they had been volunteering at the campus ministry program, and they built out their second floor of their home.
That’s what they call the bonus room. And three years later, five nights a week, it’s filled with college students.
And what these college students are seeing is a young adult couple with three kids just doing life together; and many of these college students have never seen that. They come from broken homes, and they’ve never seen people do conflict and resolve it. They’ve never seen a family work together. You know he tells me—he says, “You know we clean house on Tuesday. If kids get there on Friday, it’s not clean.” [Laughter] Right?
So, there are just seeing life, but they are just totally sold out to college students. And they are spending a resource that they have which is their second floor—lots of examples of that.
Dennis: Talk to the person who is afraid to step out and start giving either their relational equity, their strengths, or their financial resources—and maybe, focus about the financial because I do think it does keep a lot of people from venturing out—
—to experiencing a blessing.
John: Well, I would say—I would challenge them to stop cutting checks until you have discerned and prayed through your heart’s desire. What is God putting on your heart to create some change? So many of us are tired of making a difference. We want to create some change. We want to win some of these problems that need solving. So, if God has put a desire on your heart to create some change and not just tip and make a difference—so, first of all, figure out what this heart’s desire is. Then—
Dennis: You talk about clipping out the headlines of the newspaper.
John: What stirs you?
John: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Dennis: I talk about—“What do you pound the table about”—saying—“Something has to be done about this.”
John: Exactly. Yes. This is a heart’s desire that you are pounding the table about. This is—that’s a heart’s desire for change.
Dennis: So, nail that before you begin thinking about what you’re going to give.
John: Nail that. Then, find the organization, the leader, in whom you can trust; and back the—
—jockey not the horse; right? Don’t go for the largest institutions necessarily. Find the person that’s matching your heart’s desire and back that person. That’s so very important.
So, there are three kinds of qualities of a great recipient of our charitable gifts that can never be compromised. And those three are leadership, leadership, leadership. You know a beautiful building, a great strategic plan, a big endowment—none of those things matter. It really all comes down to leadership. So, back the jockey not the horse with your charitable gifts, for sure; but have them based on your heart’s desire.
Dennis: You talk about, in your book, how people who are effective at generosity have a sense of urgency about them.
John: Yes, there is a sense of urgency because there is a big problem they are trying to solve. And if there is not a sense of urgency to solve the problem, then, the acts of generosity are going to be tips not investments. They are going to be tipping and not making any—
—major, major plays with their relational equity, with their volunteer time, or with their resources.
Bob: It’s interesting that you’d make that differentiation because I think back—Dennis has shared a story many times—and you’re probably unaware of this—but back when you and Barbara were first married, one of the first acts in your marriage kind of set the bar that you weren’t going to be about tipping; you were kind of all-in on what God had called you to. Was it the first Christmas that you spent together?
Dennis: Boulder, Colorado.
Bob: Tell John what you did.
Dennis: Well, we had heard another man who had signed over the title deed of his life—he and his wife early in their marriage after they came to faith in Christ. They were not Christians when they started their marriage, but they formalized that. And you know, I looked at that guy’s life and I thought, “God has used him in a great way. Maybe, God would choose to use us in a small way if we just take God for what”—
—“He challenges us to do which is to die to self and sign it all over.”
Bob: And you did this, not just in your heads.
Dennis: Oh, we did it on two pieces of paper. We didn’t even have furniture. We didn’t have much money. We were making 560 bucks a month living in Boulder, Colorado at the time. Barbara got in the kitchen, and I got in the living room. We sat down on the two pieces of furniture that we had and on a piece of paper signed over the title deed—I think it was December 1972, and it was all these things that we valued, then, which were laughable now—just signed them over.
We said, “We give them all to You, God, and whatever else we hope to have. Our lives are Yours. Use us for Your purposes.” And we signed our title deeds—both of us. Barbara signed hers. I signed mine, folded them together, and put them in an envelope that remained sealed until 1990—18 years later.
And we were on sabbatical in Northern Minnesota, and—
—we opened those envelopes up and looked at what we’d signed over. And it really was almost a joke. What we had given God—what we had thought was important then and what God had given us now—we had six kids. We were hoping for a couple.
Dennis: I don’t want to keep going on and on, but the point was—I think we just don’t know what God’s up to in our lives if we can somehow, not settle at once and for all, because it sounds like we settled at once and for all when we signed it over. No, we had to keep going back and resettling that issue of ownership multiple times in our lifetime; but I’m convinced that became the bedrock of our marriage and later on our family.
Bob: And one of those times you had to go back and revisit that was the first time the issue of book royalties came up; right? You had to decide, “What are we going to do with the royalties from these books?”
Dennis: Yes, much to our kids’ grumbling, they didn’t care much for it because they saw a check that was pretty good sized; and they thought, “That could buy us a car, Dad.”
But we gave it back to FamilyLife. We invested 100-percent of all royalties back to FamilyLife—haven’t ever accepted a penny. So, you know that was just a choice we made, deciding to do that on the front end and never dreamed in our lives we’d be able to give away what we’ve given away—let alone be paid to write. If you met my English teacher, you’d understand why. [Laughter] She’s probably rolling over in her grave, too, right now.
John: I’ve got an English teacher who did the same way—yes. [Laughter]
Dennis: If you had an exhortation to give people who are listening right now around generosity, what one or two things would you challenge them with as they think about being a generous person, a generous couple, a generous family?
John: Yes, I would really challenge them to pray through this notion of being transactional versus being transformational. Most of the time we measure generosity, it’s a transaction that we’ve had.
And if an individual, couple, or family can begin with this relational currency first and not worry about the resources—starts with the heart’s desire, focus on relationships and then acts of service and then finally resources—you’ll discover that you will always have enough—if you start with the heart’s desire.
Dennis: And in training their children to be generous?
John: Kids do have the currency of what they’re best at; and that’s where I would start with children—is starting with them giving away what they’re best at. Make it just as simple as you possible can. Then, go with the resources and back up under relationships. And a relationship, you know, with a young person is about being a good friend. That’s where it begins. It’s the same currencies for a child.
Dennis: 2 Corinthians 9, Paul says, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully”—
—“will also reap bountifully.” I think the question is—“What kind of person do you want to be?” You want to be a reaper. Then, you’ve got to sow.
Bob: And we’ve seen, over the years, people who have been generous with our ministry—we’ve seen, not only how our ministry has benefited, but we’ve watched how those people have grown and how those people have—God’s worked in their lives in response to their generosity. It really is fascinating to watch.
Dennis: It is. In fact, this radio ministry started because one couple came in here to Little Rock and said, “What do you got?” So, we showed them what we had, and they said, “Well, what else you got?” We said, “Well, we’ve got this radio program we’d like to start.” “And how much is that?” It had a lot of zeros behind it. They said, “Okay, we’ll pray about it.”
It’s a long story, but it’s one of the God stories of FamilyLife—
—of how God clearly put an exclamation point and His signature on a check for us to be able to do this broadcast. And every month, we’re able to do what we do because Legacy Partners give monthly and other donors give and give generously. And I just want to say, “Thank you. Thanks for standing with us and thanks for being one who sows bountifully.”
John: You know, Dennis, you have helped with that heart’s desire with the radio program. You’ve helped those donors fulfill their generosity game plans.
Dennis: Never thought about it that way, but—yes.
John: Yes. This is a generosity game plan that they have in their heart that you’ve helped them create.
Bob: Well, and if a listener to this program would say, “You know, we like what you guys do; but honestly, the real passion of our heart is over here”—
Bob: —then, we’d say, “Okay”—
Dennis: Give generously over there.
Bob: —“give there”—right.
John: Bless it. That’s so important. Oh, yes, yes.
Bob: And I think this is where your book can be really helpful because it helps people identify—“What are the things that matter most to me, and how can I invest there and be generous there and get involved in whatever the group is doing? How can I be a catalyst to see this work expand—whatever the work is?”
Again, I’d encourage listeners—get a copy of John Stanley’s book, Connected for Good. You can order it from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order your copy. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Ask about the book, Connected for Good, by John Stanley when you get in touch with us.
And let me just say—if your passion, your interest does happen to be what FamilyLife Today is all about, this is a—
—great time for you to be generous with this ministry. Our goal at FamilyLife is to provide practical, biblical help and hope for marriages and families. We want to effectively develop godly marriages, godly families because we believe godly marriages and families can change the world one home at a time.
If you hear that and you think, “That’s important. It’s been important in our life. God’s used this ministry in our life. We want to see FamilyLife be able to do more with more people,” you can help us right now by making a yearend contribution in support of this ministry. In fact, the donations that come in over the next three weeks are going to determine for us just how effective we can be as a ministry in 2017.
We have some friends who have recognized that importance. They’ve come together and agreed they’re going to match donations we receive this month, not just dollar for dollar;—
—but when you give a donation of 100 dollars, they are going to give 200 dollars out of the matching gift fund. If you give 500, they’ll give 1000. Whatever it is, the gift you make will eventually be tripled.
And our friend, Michelle Hill, has been paying attention to what’s going on with this matching gift opportunity this month; and Michelle, give us an update.
Michelle: Well Bob, we do have a lot of generous listeners who tune into FamilyLife Today! So far this month we’ve received over four hundred thirty two thousand dollars, from two thousand six hundred thirty four listeners, folks like Jeffery from Louisiana, who said he was excited to triple his gift because FamilyLife Today benefits his wife and daughter…so thanks to Jeffery! And for other folks? Remember we still have a ways to go to that total of one and quarter million dollars.
Bob: And it’s easy to make a donation just go online to FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—
—to make a donation over the phone; or write a check and mail it to FamilyLife Today at Box 7111, Little Rock, Arkansas; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about what it is that good dads do. What makes a dad a good dad? Are there some common characteristics? Rick Johnson thinks there are, and we’re going to explore those with him tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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