Seek out Needs
One of the most amazing aspects of relational distribution is that it changes the way we react to other peoples’ needs. Instead of ignoring or shying away from needs for lack of resources, we get to proactively look for and respond to the needs around us, because we know that we have resources to meet them. Here are a couple helpful hints on finding needs and meeting them well:
- Focus on people that someone in your group has a personal relationship with. We call this the principle “One Degree of Separation.”
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions that feel uncomfortable. Often we shy away from questions about money, but remember that people are probably more afraid to ask you for help than you are to ask them if they need it, so if you don’t ask, you might never know.
- Be intentionally forming relationships with folk who are different from you, not with the idea of “helping” them in mind, but towards enriching the depth of your life, your faith or your connections and encouraging you to understand more personally some of the causes of poverty and injustice. It’s been said that “It’s not that the rich and the poor don’t care about each other; it’s that they don’t know each other”. If you don’t know anyone who has need, then get to know some folk who do and be intentional about forming deep friendships.
- Relationships should not be pursued with the aim of “meeting a need” but with the understanding that the relationship will continue well past meeting the need. This model seeks to pull people away from traditional ideas of charity and into the pursuit of authentic and honest relationships. Meeting needs is part of the model, but living and loving well is the core of this model of redistribution.
- When exploring a potential need, ask very specific questions about the need. Meeting general needs that are large and vague seem to overwhelm the group and the process. When a person posts with very specific information about a specific need it helps the group to function better.
As your group starts out be wary of being paralyzed into doing nothing just because you may not be able to do everything. At first you may not be able to support someone by paying their $1000 hospital bill, but you may be able to walk alongside them by sending flowers and messages of support for $25. Be creative in solutions and know that no help is too small. We take Mother Theresa’s words to heart in our giving: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
Expand your Understanding of “Need”
As your group grows you will have significant moments of transformation in how you think about what constitutes a need. These conversations can be difficult but highly beneficial for a group. As the Charter community we have often supported “traditional” emergency or crisis needs of health, basic living, food and shelter. We have met needs that have fallen outside this “basic sustenance” rubric – we have paid for 6 months of marital counselling for folk, given Christmas gifts to a struggling family, paid for babysitting services, and provided a cooler box of sandwich foods for a husband sitting with his wife in hospital. Sometimes folk will need physical resources, and sometimes they will need prayers, a letter of encouragement, time, network connections, and skills you can provide.
Meet needs and share the story.
This is where it all pays off, when you and your group get to do something unexpectedly benevolent for someone you know. Here are some helpful tips.
- Before simply giving financial resources towards a particular need a person has, look for alternate solutions; invest not just your funds, but your time and effort in meeting someone’s need. Often there are solutions that don’t require you to spend money, so your group fund can go further.