If God loves a cheerful giver, shouldn’t we?

There’s a lot about the responsible giving movement that I’m ready to applaud. For example, I’m all for encouraging donors to ask questions about the impact, outcomes, and ethics of the organizations they support. And I’m a champion of matching personal passions to organizational missions.

Yet too much talk about planning our philanthropy can sap the very joy out of giving. Being told to track down 990s, calculate overhead, and fact-check organizational claims turns doing good into drudgery.  To paraphrase an old rhyme, all responsibility and no fun makes Jack or Jill a dull donor.

Every once in a while it’s fun simply to have fun with our giving.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not encouraging silly or careless gift making. But playful is nice at least some of the time, or so has been my experience over the past six month. Here’s my story.

Rebekah's Retro

For much of 2013, several of us at the Grantham Brethren in Christ Church, my home congregation, talked about taking over the coffee stand at the annual Pennsylvania Relief Sale. Because proceeds from the sale benefit Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), the relief and development arm of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches in the US and Canada, we wanted to generate as much profit during the two-day event as possible. That led me to take up the challenge of paying for coffee and other supplies .

My grandson making his list in advance of the Friday evening auction.

My grandson making his list in advance of the Friday evening auction.

In early November, I found a way to do just that and have fun in the process. I opened a store on Etsy, the web-based shopping mall featuring millions of homemade and vintage items, and notified potential customers that profits from Rebekah’s Retro (the name I gave my shop) go to MCC.

I’m a long-time lover of all things vintage, having purchased my first antique when I was 13 years-old. And as readers of Generous Matters know, I’m an evangelist for generous giving – a passion that also traces back to my childhood. So it’s no surprise that an online store devoted to retro items and with profits designated to charity would be my idea of fun.

Rebekah’s Retro is stocked with “treasures” picked up at Haar’s Auction, our local low-brow version of Christie’s. You’ll find me there most Friday evenings, along with my husband and our 7-year old grandson. The guys take the room where better stuff (relatively speaking) is auctioned by the piece, while I scour the box-lots for bargains. It’s amazing what a few dollars will buy.

In four months’ time, stuff for which I paid less than $100 sold for $600 on Etsy – more than enough to cover costs associated with my church’s Relief Sale coffee stand. In turn, the $600 brewed up $2,100 for Mennonite Central Committee. Not exactly a mega-gift, I know, but a remarkable return on investment nonetheless.

In the weeks since the March relief sale date, my Etsy store has generated another $500 in profits for MCC, and the buying and selling continues. With Rebekah’s Retro as the go-between, one person’s junk is someone else’s aid and relief. As the shop’s proprietor and chief giving officer, I’m having fun – responsibly.

For more about joyful generosity and its benefits, see:

Yes Virginia, there is a generosity gene

Is generosity the new sexy?

Thumbs up to optimism

Comments

  1. Mimi Copp Johnson says:

    Hi Rebekah, my name is Mimi and I work for Mennonite Central Committee in Pennsylvania in donor relations. Thanks so much for your efforts with the PA relief sale and raising funds for MCC! And glad you’re having fun with it!

    • It’s great to hear from you, Mimi. I gift is headed MCC’s way today from funds raised through Rebekah’s Retro. It was a busy weekend.
      Please tell your friends about the shop. More shoppers means more money for MCC (and more fun for me).

  2. Thank you, Rebekah as this is a wonderful idea. Your posts are always timely filled with great inspiration.

    • Thank you, Pam. It’s great to know you are reading. If you haven’t checked out Rebekah’s Retro, I hope you will soon. And then tell your friends about the shop and the good cause it supports.

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