The flow of money is a principle talked about by even the most dogged entrepreneurs. Many top business gurus (like Dan Kennedy and Robert Kiyosaki) advise their clients and readers to donate a percentage of their profits no matter what their financial situation is. Robert Kiyosaki – many of you will recognize him as the best-selling author of Rich Dad Poor Dad – talks about when he and his wife were so poor they couldn’t even afford an apartment and were living out of their car, and they still gave 10% to charity of whatever they made. Today, of course, they are extremely wealthy.

The flow of money principle can be simply described as: You get back what you put out. Therefore, if you are freely and gladly giving money away, then the Universe can bring money to you – because you are keeping the flow of money fluid and open. If you are hoarding and clutching your money – always making excuses for why you can’t give – then you have shut down the flow of money in your life. You have entered a contracted, limiting state where you have made your world smaller.

Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money writes:

“I am moved by the struggle we all have with money. I now see that this arena in which we brush up against the hard realities of life can be the place where we develop a kind of a spiritual practice in which we use the money that comes to us as an instrument of our intention and integrity.

Money is like water. Money flows through all our lives, sometimes like a rushing river, and sometimes like a trickle. When it is flowing, it can purify, cleanse, create growth and nourish. But when it is blocked or held too long, it can grow stagnant and toxic to those withholding or hoarding it.”

So take this opportunity to examine your attitudes and practice with your money – no matter how much, or how little you have and decide on a percentage that you want to give out to world. Some people give 5%, some give 10%. I don’t think it’s the percentage that matters, it’s the intention and energy and commitment behind the giving that’s important.

Many people’s excuse for not giving is that, “Those charity organizations are a waste of time, most of them spend half of every dollar on administration and their own salaries and very little actually gets to the people in need.” For some large (especially government-based organizations) this may be true. However, there are also many grass-roots organizations where either most or 100% of your donation actually goes to the people in need – and their administrative costs are covered in other ways.

In my own charitable giving, I like to take a two-pronged approach: I believe that small business ownership is key to defeating poverty. It’s the old adage about: If you give someone a fish, you feed them for a day. But if you teach them to fish (and fund them to buy the boat, the fishing line, net, etc.) you feed them and their extended family for a lifetime. Then they can also teach others to fish, and the web of respect and self-sufficiency grows. Also, I have seen firsthand the difference in self-respect and motivation between giving someone help vs. supporting them to pull themselves out of poverty. The latter is much more powerful and produces long-term results.

However, if someone does not have access to clean drinking water, or doesn’t even get one good meal a day – it’s going to be pretty hard for them to start and run a successful business. Therefore, I like to support both aims simultaneously. And I specifically look for charities that hire and use local people to develop and implement their objectives – rather than flying in Westerners who know very little about how the local people live, what’s meaningful to them, what motivates them, what they can handle, etc. This too greatly increases the self-respect and self-sufficiency of the village being helped and helps to ensure long-term success.

How’s your financial situation? What do your actions say about the flow of money in your life? What financial reality are your actions and energy/intent creating for you in your life?

Here are a few of my favorite ways to give effectively and help make a difference:

Akshaya Patra is an organization dedicated to providing a daily unprocessed, cooked-from-scratch, nutritious school lunch to underprivileged children. This meal is crucial in providing children (and their parents) with an incentive to come to school, stay in school and receive the nutrients necessary to improve their brain functioning, so they can do well in school. For many of these children, this is the only meal they receive each day. They also have a long list of North American employers who will match your donation if you work for that company: www.foodforeducation.org

A Glimmer Of Hope Foundation provides a variety of services to Ethiopian communities mired in poverty; clean drinking water, healthcare, education and micro-financing. The charity was founded by an endowment from Philip Berber when he sold his online trading company in a multi-million dollar deal. Hence, when you donate, 100% of your donation goes directly to the people in need as the organization’s operating costs are all paid for by Berber’s endowment fund: www.aglimmerofhope.org

Water Aid works with local partners to provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene education. Local people are supported to plan, construct, manage and maintain their own projects – self-sufficiency is a key part of their objective. Only 14 cents of every dollar goes to the organization running costs and 86 cents goes straight to the community projects: www.wateraid.org

Village Enterprise Fund founder Brian Lehnen studied several models of international development. Most of them provided temporary relief with relatively little long-term benefit. Many failed to reach rural areas. Brian envisioned a program that would have a profound impact on extreme poverty – not just for a day, or even for a year, but for a lifetime. Over the past 20 years, VEF has developed and refined a successful program that combines training, seed capital grants and ongoing mentorship to help villagers launch small businesses. Proper training, seed capital and mentorship transform desolate villages into vibrant centers of commerce. Through June 2008, they have helped start 16,430 small businesses. Eighty-eighty percent continue beyond one year and 75% are still going after four years – compare that to new business statistics in the US where 90% fail in their first year! This is an example of your money being well-spent and really making a difference. A third of their entrepreneurs go on to start additional businesses: www.villageef.org

The Flow of Money
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