4 Questions for #GIVINGTUESDAY

It’s #GIVINGTUESDAY and we don’t have school today so the munchkins said, “Teacha, we’re going out”.  Watch out world.

Before we get out and about, I wanted to share my full responses to these 4 questions I was asked by HuffPost last week for this article.  I had to sit down and really think about how my experiences have changed my thoughts surrounding charity and giving these past five years.

It was very personally moving to me to look back in the knowledge that if I hadn’t changed my life and my relationship to giving, I wouldn’t be having this conversation with anyone (let alone HuffPost) because I wouldn’t have anything valuable to say about it.  More than that, I wouldn’t have the experiences that made me know for certain that I can and should give without being rich, having “enough”, or “being ready”.  I didn’t always believe that.  Thank God that we can all change our minds and change the world.


Many people in their 20s feel they “don’t have enough disposable income” to give to charities like Make Our Day, but they want to. What would you say to them, or what advice do you have for them?

First off, I can relate. Prior to moving to Thailand in my mid twenties, I rarely gave to charity despite the fact that my annual income was more than four times what it is today.  I wanted to get involved but I didn’t really put much thought into what that would look like.  I’d periodically start and stop monthly donations to Kiva, World Vision, and the Humane Society but I didn’t really know why I was doing it. I didn’t value these interactions despite the fact that these organizations do great work.  I remember thinking, maybe this is just something that I’ll enjoy more when I’m older, when I make more and can give more.  Maybe when my student loans are paid off I won’t feel this sense of financial scarcity.  

Fast forward to age 30 and here is how that played out. I did get older, but I didn’t make more money (I make significantly less in fact). I didn’t pay off my student loans and even at the minimum payment, those bills still monopolize 28% of my monthly income. I did start making small donations to charity regularly.  I do feel radically different about it than I did five years ago and here’s why:

  1. I met hundreds of people around the world doing the type of work I care about on every size of budget and I realized how true the cliche is – it’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it.  
  2. I realized that imaginary point in the future when I’d have lots of disposable income and no student loan debt wasn’t coming…..at least not for me and at least not anytime soon, and I stopped waiting for it.
  3. I started my own non profit and found out first hand how scary and awkward it is to ask for donations. As a result I started to notice and listen more carefully to fundraising campaigns from every sector.

 

Let’s say I only have room in my budget for a $10 donation. Is that still of use to your organization? Should I still give, and if so, why?

Right off the bat, just let me say YES! Give us $10. I can go on for hours about the ways in which I have and could use $10 and I will, but first I’d like to say that I don’t think it’s a lack of belief that $10 can make a difference that stops potential donors from giving $10.  In preparation for answering this question, I put a Yes / No poll on my instagram story that asked “Do you believe a $10 donation can make a difference?” 100% of respondents said yes.  Granted the number of responses was low and my followers are apt to be like minded or respond in the way they think I would want them to, but stick with me……

I think most of us believe that a $10 donation can make a difference yet don’t make a point of giving because we simultaneously hold an opposing belief that $10 is not a lot and we can’t give every month.  This is a case of cognitive dissonance that is not unique to charitable giving.  When something is purely a choice, many people struggle to do something that they themselves believe they can and want to do.

To that I would say, the more you can align your actions with your beliefs, the happier you will start to become in every area of your life.  For myself I can say that in my early twenties I wasn’t happy spending most of my income on high rent and a car payment but it’s what everyone else around me my age was doing.  

I had to change my life and start doing the things I really wanted to do and working with and giving to charity regularly was one of those things.  It not only became easier to give the more often I did it, it actually started to expand my perspective on what it possible for me to achieve in my lifetime.

But Katie, what if it’s only a small donation AND it’s only one time or only once a year? That’s the only kind of financial contributions I make so if that’s the wrong way to donate then I’m donating wrong too.  We all want to give more, but please remember that $10 is more than zero dollars. So if you want to give something but give nothing you are actually moving further away from aligning yourself with your beliefs.

I honestly believe the small amounts I contribute, make a difference to the organizations that receive them.  I know that giving regularly and thoughtfully has made a difference in my own journey towards finding my place in the world.  

If you still feel like pulling the trigger on that small donation isn’t going to make a difference, please go take a look at Together Rising whose campaigns have raised over $8 million dollars with a donation cap of $25. Scroll through sites like Patreon and Kickstarter where people are taking gifts as small as $1 and creating amazing art, dialogue, and socially conscious businesses.  

If you’ve spent any time these past few months feeling fearful or helpless about our shared future on this planet, then give $10 for the sole fact that you want to feel better.  I believe one of the easiest and best things you can do to alleviate some of that dread over the state of the world is to take your $10 and put it with someone who is doing the work you want to do in the world.  Because guess what….then you are doing it too.  

If you know you are doing something instead of nothing, you’re going to wake up a little less fearful, a little more hopeful.  How do I know this?  Because the people I know doing the hard work are not only hopeful, but excited about the future.  

We all know and recognize the phenomenal power of an individual to do harm but the other side of that is the untapped potential of the collective to have an amazingly positive impact and change the path we’re on.  If we say as a society; we are going towards a world with better access to clean water, widespread, affordable education, and greater social and economic equality, then we can go there $10 at a time. But we can’t go zero dollars at a time, so let’s not wait.

Most recent example of how $10 has made a big difference in the lives of one of my very favorite students ever:

One of my third-grade students used to cry inconsolably through his morning classes. This was happening frequently (two or three days a week which is a very abnormal amount of crying for a nine year old) and he wouldn’t tell any students or teachers why.  Things started to make sense when I checked his English workbook and saw that he’d written “no” next to the question “what did you have for breakfast?” I started to ask him each morning if he was hungry and he said yes. For weeks I brought him food but he wouldn’t take it.  As we got to know each other, he began to trust me more. Now I bring him fresh fruit and granola for breakfast every school day and make sure he has food or money for the weekend. $10 a week is what I spend of fruit and granola for his breakfast and seeing a huge smile on his face in the morning instead of tears is incredible.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you that absolutely everything about his school performance started to improve after this.  He is finishing his work, he’s getting along much better with his classmates, he helps me with all of my grading and attendance sheets.  His homeroom teacher is blown away by the change in him.

Is it preferable for donors make recurring donations or donate in one big sum all at once for the year?

I’m going to go ahead and say that small recurring donations are the way to go and here’s why.

  1. There are very few people who take a year long view of their finances.  Most people live paycheck to paycheck.  If that’s you, then you need to acknowledge that your donation is going to have to come out of your paycheck or it’s not going to be there at the end of the year.
  2. Recurring donations to nonprofits come in on different days of the month, which is great for nonprofits like mine who have daily needs. Because these come in on different days, I almost always have $200 to $300 in the account, which means if a need comes up, I can leave school at lunch, take the Make Our Day debit card to the ATM, get 20 bucks, get the munchkin what they need without having to ask for an additional donation and still do my planned activities on the weekends.
  3. Recurring donations are a great way to tell the voice in your head that says you aren’t giving enough to take a hike, because these add up over time.  Every year you’re going to get a statement of how much you donated that year and that adds up to one big donation.
  4. Company matching. If you work for a large company, please look into this because some companies will match dollar for dollar monthly or yearly contributions. That right there will double the amount of your donation without having to actually double the amount of your donation. Win-win.

Any other “best practices” for young people who are starting to budget for giving?

Fitness trainers will often tell you, if it hurts you aren’t doing it right.  I think that statement can be applied to small donations as well.  If a request feels intrusive or you feel like you’re giving begrudgingly or without intention, the way I was in my early twenties, try to figure out why you feel that way.  

If you can articulate what’s wrong about your relationship to charity, the opposite will also start to become true.  You’ll be able to clearly articulate why you do give.  For the life of me, I can’t tell you why I made the donations I did in my early twenties other than charity is good, you should give to charities, I give to these charities because they are big and I see people on TV giving to them in massive amounts.

Today I can tell you that last month I donated $5 to Brand New Congress, my first ever political campaign contribution because I heard on Rob Bell’s podcast that Zach Exely created a platform for regular people to run for congress.  Rob Ryerse is running, he’s not taking any corporate donations and on the podcast, he asked for $5.  Last time I checked his campaign was 85% funded by small donations.

This month I contributed $12 to a successful kickstarter campaign that wants to publish children’s books about climate change.  I love this because I also need climate change explained to me with pretty pictures at the level of a 4th grader.  

Next month I’m planning on doing Together Rising’s Holiday Hands which will be announced on Glennon Doyle and Momastary’s social media.

I don’t normally plan out the date, amount, or organization for my monthly donations in advance but that is just on account of my personality, which I also think is an important factor to consider if you want to feel truly satisfied with your contributions.

Do you like clean predictable order? Maybe you’re a monthly giver and you are going to love getting that end of year statement that has the dates and amount of your donations with a clean pretty total of how much you can deduct from your taxes.  Are you impulsive? Keep your gifts small so you can respond more frequently or have more to give when something really moves you and you want to become more seriously involved with it.

If you have a monthly donation, don’t beat yourself up if you have to cancel, reduce the amount or put it on hold for a couple of months.  Just figure out how to reframe it in a way that fits with your life right now.

Acknowledge that you can do anything but you can’t do everything.  Don’t let the times that you didn’t help cloud your mind and take away from your sense of accomplishment over the times and ways that you did respond to a need in the world.


Thank you so much to everyone who read, shared, donated, or reached out to say hi when the article came out last week.  If you can send us $10 for #GIVINGTUESDAY or consider making a year end donation for Christmas it would Make Our Day

HuffPost Interviews Make Our Day

I was interviewed by HuffPost this week about the difference small donations can make to organizations like Make Our Day.  I found it very appropriate that they chose this story to use in their article.

For this particular kiddo, $10, time, and attention has made a huge difference.  The munchkins have their next big day out on November 28th.  If you’d like to donate to this playdate or make a small one time or recurring monthly donation it would really Make Our Day!

Consider Dillman’s anecdote from the tutoring center she runs in Thailand: “One of my third-grade students used to cry inconsolably through his morning classes … He wouldn’t tell any students or teachers what was wrong. Things started to make sense when I checked his English workbook and saw that he’d written ‘no’ next to the question ‘What did you have for breakfast?’… Now I bring him fresh fruit and granola for breakfast every school day and make sure he has food or money for the weekend. Ten dollars a week is what I spend for his breakfast, and … I am not exaggerating when I tell you that absolutely everything about his school performance started to improve after we established this morning routine.”read full article here

Why the Hell Not

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Let’s start with full disclosure on how this article came to life. I didn’t know if was International Women’s Day yesterday until I saw the hash tag on Instagram and even then my only thought was, oh great, we get a day on social media…….so does fro-yo (a sensitive subject with me at the moment). As is the basic design of Instagram, I consumed it and forgot it seconds later. Hash tag something about being bold.

Then I went on a 5 hour coffee and beer tasting tour in New Zealand because as a woman not under the oppression of a government, religion, or institution, I could do pretty much whatever I wanted yesterday. At the last stop on the tour, the bartender told me there was a sign around the corner with my name on it. “I’m not in Danger, I am the Danger.” No doubt a gimmick she pulls on all the customers, but it was still great for so many reasons, and it pulled me back into thinking about International Women’s Day.

Not being enough as a woman hasn’t played a big role in my life because men and women alike have always told me that I’m “too much”. A few other words I hear a lot are “crazy, bold, on another level, assertive, aggressive, confrontational……” you see how these words are devolving. It’s because #bebold isn’t the finish line, it’s the starting point. People can turn #bebold around on you and do.

The positives of what the world has been telling you to be and do can easily get twisted into negatives once you start to use them. And you know what? That’s unfortunate not to mention confusing, but to quote Elizabeth Gilbert (whose magic lessons podcast I have on repeat at the moment), “when you compare THAT to what it would feel like to be whispering in a corner….it’s on a whole different see saw”.

Some of you may be hesitant to stand up for women because you feel like the type of woman represented is too narrow or the issues are not specific enough and you don’t want to get lumped into something you’re not sure you understand. I get that.

But if that’s you, let’s take a step back for perspective. First, being able to voice the fact that you don’t agree or being able to ask a question makes you more lucky than it does misrepresented (myself included). Second, if you do have a voice, don’t use it to discredit another woman’s voice who is just at the starting line because I promise you, the women who need this day on social media are the ones who think that the hash tag #bebold does not now and never will apply to them.

Women’s empowerment? That’s for western women, that’s for crazy women, that’s for angry women, no one will ever marry those women. YES! And NOOOO! This isn’t a movement to tell you to #bebold like me. I know I’m crazy. It’s meant to give you permission to #bebold like YOU whatever that may look like in your life today.

As I’m writing this I keep thinking back to a beautiful example of what this looks like in real life. A couple years ago some high school girls in Thailand were helping me run an Instagram shop fundraiser for my non-profit Make Our Day. We ran out of clothes and they said I’d have to go to Bangkok to find what I needed. To them, this instantly meant the project was over but I said, Bangkok? Let’s go! They laughed hysterically at how crazy my idea was and said not only that they couldn’t, but I couldn’t. I said, I understand why you can’t go…….but I can. (full story here)

Everything about this trip blew their minds; from the fact that I went alone, down to the bus I took and the clothes I wore. They watched it happen through selfie updates and got to pick clothes from the pictures I sent them. By the time trip was over, it was still completely crazy to them, but it was done. It was no longer up for debate whether it was or wasn’t possible, because I had just done it for all of us.

So as I sat at the bar yesterday under that sign, I felt a tug of responsibility from the knowledge that there were girls and women who wanted to post something yesterday but didn’t. For them, that would have been too bold.

Maybe you’re not afraid to post but you didn’t because you are just tired of arguing about what women’s empowerment means, or you’re tired of arguing about why, as a woman of privilege, you should even be allowed to argue, or you think you can’t write, or that no one is listening, or because of all the #bebold things you were willing to do yesterday, putting yourself out there for internet backlash wasn’t one of them.

If that’s you, I understand it. All of it. And still, none of it matters if using your voice will get even one teenage girl to the starting line. So Happy Belated International Women’s Day. #bebold and go have some Fro-Yo…….just don’t invite me until you’ve read my rules.

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Guest Post on Forbes

This old dog learned some new tricks this year.  Thanks to Goodlinks and Influence&CO, Teacha got a crash course in guestposting and getting your articles published online.

Seeing this one turn up on Forbes was a pretty good Christmas gift.

Why Budgeting a Little For Charity Really Pays by Kathryn Dillman

We’ve got big plans for 2017, and a small donation can go a long way. If you are able to make a one time Christmas donation or commit to a monthly donation, there are 3 ways to do so.

1. PayPal- if you have a PayPal account, select “send funds” and put the recipient as: info@makeourday.org

2. Use the DONATE button to donate securely through donorbox.
Donate
3. Mail a check payable to: Make a Munchkins Day to the address: 516 S. Carnation Dr. Aurora, MO 65605

Make Our Day is a 501(c)3 corp. Donations are tax deductible

Also 2016 newsletters are going out via the good old fashioned snail mail after Christmas, so if your address has changed since last year or you want added to the mailing list, send me a message or email or enter your address here.

If you are already on my Christmas card list; I know you and you will physically have to move to unsubscribe………and even then I’m still likely to find you so Chok Dee (good luck).

Merry Christmas and Love From Munchkinland,

Teacha Katie

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Ream, Cambodia December 21, 2016

 

Thinkers, Dreamers, Doers

My latest guest post to Elephant Journal. An article for my thinkers (Jang) dreamers (Nong) and doers (Milk) in Munchkinland and to a few feisty Thai women who are all 3.  Give a read, give it a share, and if you don’t want to read it……….just send us a donation for the triplet’s birthday and we’ll call it even.

The Gift No One Else Can Give

by Kathryn Dillman

“We more often find ourselves giving without knowing the impact. We have to realize that the results we do see are gifts, not guarantees. It’s our nature to evaluate our investments, but people are not an absolute unit of measure. When we invest in people, we need to believe in the value of impact we may never see.” Full Article on Elephant Journal

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Preaw, Friday Class

Oh, you’re a Teacher!

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Some very nice people have made a very nice offer to help me publish some articles on “the net” about Make Our Day.  Two of which can be found on BlogHer and Elephant Journal.

The topics for the articles mainly center on teaching abroad and it’s got me thinking about a smalltalk hurdle I’m constantly running into.  Aside from “Why Thailand” the most frequently asked question I get is “What do you teach?”

I normally respond with “love”.  People have a real aversion to this, which I will admit probably has as much to do with my demeanor as with the response, but let’s address the response for starters.

If you are an American living abroad and someone asks you this question, there are only two acceptable answers.  You are either an English Teacher or you are a Missionary. So the two “correct” answers are english or the bible.

I, essentially teach neither of these things.  And because I am painfully stubborn (but more importantly because I believe in the value of what I do teach) I will not say that I do because it’s limiting and unnecessary.  These two subjects are the same as love to a child in my program.

People want to be assured that children are understanding words when I want to ensure that they are understanding loving actions.  Actions that they can easily and immediately act on without translation of language and without any forced or imagined conversion to Christianity as a prerequisite.

I feel that we as westerners want to make this more complicated than it is for one reason…..because most of us are pretty damn lucky.  No one has to “teach” us love because we’ve been shown it our whole lives. (Thanks Mark and Deb:-))

You know what’s weird though (or not weird at all)….if the kids ask what we are doing today and I say “love, love, love”.  They say “YAYYYYY” and run upstairs to bring me this obnoxiously large stuffed heart.

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Just last Monday Pair said, “Teacha, remember smell chocolate?” and we both started laughing.  She is right and I completely forgot.  This stuffed heart we got for the Valentines Day photo booth had a “special extra special great bonus” where it smelled like chocolate.

It smelled awful and we were laughing and throwing it each-other, then of course taking it way to far and tackling the boys to the ground to make them smell it.  The smell faded and we still use it daily but the bigger picture is not lost on me.

The bigger picture is that Pair and I have memories together and they are important ones.

I remember the first day I met Pair in her 4th grade classroom.  I remember she braided my hair so tight I felt a pulsing in my temples for three days.  I remember how proud she was of that braid because it looked exactly like Elsa.

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I remember the day it was OFFICIAL that I was unwelcome at her school because it was her 11th birthday and I brought noisemakers.

I remember when her best friend Ar-Muay moved away and how we both cried because no one would tell us where she went.

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I remember her first crush and how she was so heartbroken over him on her 12th birthday that she didn’t said she didn’t even want the pizza she’d been begging me for for months.  And I remember the biggest hug and the biggest smile when her crush and I showed up with Pizza after school anyway.

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Sure, the majority of our time together has been spent in the classroom learning English but she doesn’t come for vocabulary and it’s not what comes first.  We can’t learn until after love and hugs and some days require more love than others.  Those are the days we both remember.  Those are the days we laugh about.  Those are the days she points to over and over again in the photo album.

So what do I teach?  I’m sticking with my answer.  Does that mean awkward silences in my future.  Sure….but not from the kiddos.

Pair and Laila are in 6th grade now.  We’re hoping that they’ll follow in Bung and Jang’s footsteps and go to school in town next year.  If you’d like to sponsor their tutoring or make a donation for Laila’s birthday next week (she wants 29 donuts for her class) use the donorbox link here or email me at: info@makeourday.org

Love, love, love from Munchkinland,

Teacha Katie

 

 

Not all noodles and bubble tea

I have a problem, but I also have a solution.  I have all kinds of updates from Munchkinland that I would like to bring to your attention….but not so much to the attention of the world wide web.

Definitely not to the attention of the world wide web.  That’s the problem.

Here’s the solution.  If you’d be willing to pray for some of my kiddos as they continue to struggle with family situations, sign up for our private newsletter HERE

Please share everything else constantly except this letter…like quit your job, create social media accounts for your pets, commit to living the rest of your life in elephant pants taking selfies and hash tagging Make Our Day .  Superfan levels of sharing are highly encouraged for everything else.

If you just want the sunshine and rainbows or are taking a hard moral stand against receiving yet another email…we ain’t mad at you.  You can still get the cliffs notes version here.

In fact, here is a little October update right now.  Would you look at that.  Originally intended for my PIKE boys but a cause for sharing and celebration none the less.  We’re moving in the right direction over here and feel extremely encouraged and grateful for all the support from back home.

Now wake your pet up and ask them to share this. CLICK HERE TO SPONSOR A PLAYDATE

To my frat boys who are frat boys but not in the way that people cock their head to the left, half roll their eyes and scoff “frat boys”…unless of course that’ s the connotation you were aiming for, in which case stop:

MakeOurDay
I’ve just finished my first full week of fall tutoring and it’s been nothing short of a miracle. 
 
When I met the new Director at the beginning of October to discuss private tutoring and group classes she agreed but as the conversation progressed I realized how unsure she was any of the kids actually wanted to study after school and was evasive about setting a date.
 
During the month of October, I continued to visit for playdates and ask the Director for a start date for tutoring. As we’re on “Thai time” I figured this would take until after new years BUT She had so many requests from the kids to study with me that she gave me permission to stay until 5:30, every day except Sunday and enrolled 55 students with a waiting list of 30 more.  
 
She is so happy and encouraged after watching classes this week and seeing how many munchkins kept sneaking up to peek through the cracks in the classroom doors because they want in. I told her we will open more spots in January and the adult staff are even asking to be included as well.
 
From her perspective this is all sudden and random.  But it isn’t and you all are a big part of that.
 
My first volunteer, my first intern, my first group sponsorship, and (come January) my first college grads to hop a plane.  All from Missouri State and all part of putting a missing piece into a community that’s struggling to love and educate its youth.
 
I frequently go back to a commencement address from Toni Morrison in which she said, 
 

“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”

 
Regardless of where life takes each of you after PIKE, you will always be in a position to help and empower someone and I pray you never grow complacent with that.  I sincerely thank you for helping me and Make Our Day and welcome any and all opportunities to collaborate in the future.
Love from Munchkinland,
Teacha Katie