Because I Have Been Given Much

by | Nov. 05, 2007

Self Improvement

LDS Philanthropies, which serves as the central coordinating agency for all donations to the Church or its institutions, enables Church members to follow that teaching and experience the joy that comes from helping people in need. At LDS Business College, Mark Drennen, who grew up in rural Appalachia and dropped out of school at age sixteen to help support his family, is now fulfilling his dream of getting a college education using desperately needed scholarship money. Last spring, a student choir from BYU--Hawaii was able to perform their first concert in China. And in Cambodia, a disabled man now enjoys freedom and mobility thanks to a brand-new wheelchair. All of these opportunities were funded through contributions, large and small, from people who have realized the blessings of giving beyond tithes and offerings. "Tithing and fast offerings are commandments, but the invitation to give otherwise is of our own free will," says Brad Olsen, a senior communications specialist at LDS Philanthropies. "We're invited to give and care for the poor and needy, but how we do that is something we have to learn for ourselves." LDS Philanthropies employees are deployed to various Church institutions and departments, staffing fund-raising efforts at institutions like Brigham Young University, Humanitarian Services, and the Polynesian Cultural Center. "We tend to work quietly in the background," says McClain Bybee, managing director of LDS Philanthropies. "However, as the mission of the Church expands throughout the world, you will probably hear more about us as we strive to accelerate the work of the kingdom by assisting members and friends of the Church as they provide additional financial resources." McClain was one of the organization's first employees, and he listened as President N. Eldon Tanner spoke to the new department in 1974, setting forth and illustrating its mission and purpose with scriptures that called on the Saints to remember the poor, needy, sick, and afflicted. President Tanner said the Lord would bless the Saints, and that they would use their wealth to bless the house of Israel. In 2005 the First Presidency changed the department's name from LDS Foundation to LDS Philanthropies to better depict the organization's charge to encourage donations--those beyond tithing and fast offerings--to bless and change lives and to accelerate Church sponsored programs and projects. h3. Above and Beyond For LDS Philanthropies, encouraging people to give is about blessing the giver as well as the recipient. Their full-time professionals, known as donor liaisons, work in a confidential way with those who choose to give. Donor liaisons help givers understand various ways to donate, as well as understand the favorable tax options that are available to them. And each individual who gives to the Church has the assurance that every cent of the donation goes directly to the purpose for which it was specified. Nothing is taken out for administrative costs. "The work we do is about blessing people in need and helping the schools, but it's also about helping people become more charitable," says Brad. h3. Humanitarian Aid While tithes and fast offerings primarily help those who are members of the Church, funds donated in addition to those go toward a number of projects, often beyond the Church. The priorities for philanthropic contributions are established by the First Presidency, and they span the world, reaching mankind in situations of famine and disaster, and building quality of life through employment and job training, health and health education, training for medical staff, and shelter for the homeless. "After the tsunami of 2004, we experienced a tsunami of our own," recalls Brad. "On the LDS Philanthropies website, we received a flood of donations during the weeks that followed the disaster and steadily thereafter. People's generosity is amazing." With those donations, the Church concentrated on recovery efforts and long-term needs in Indonesia. Church relief workers have helped reconstruct a thousand homes, build schools and health clinics, and install water and sanitation systems. They have also helped people acquire tools such as weaving machines, fishing boats, and fishing nets so individuals can return to their livelihood. h3. Education In addition to humanitarian aid projects such as these, donated funds can be earmarked for Church priorities including scholarships for students attending one of the Church-sponsored schools. For Natasha Ball, a scholarship she received while attending BYU changed her life. With no financial support from her family, Natasha was struggling to work and attend school. In 2006 she received a scholarship that made it possible for her to do her student teaching. Expressing her thanks to donors, she said, "Like me, there are real students with real needs that benefit from your generosity. Without my scholarship I would not have been able to attend BYU. I am grateful that good people believed in me and that I could attain my goals. Please don't stop giving; your gifts often go far beyond what you will ever see." Natasha graduated in the spring of 2007 with a bachelor's degree in secondary education. She hopes to one day teach at the university level. h3. Ways to Give There are several ways to give to Church programs and projects. Cash gifts are the most common and least complicated. Giving a cash gift enables the funds to be used immediately, and the donor has the income tax deduction option. People can also donate assets such as property, art, securities, life insurance policies with cash value, and even equipment. One couple spent more than sixty years farming their sixty acres in Wyoming. After deciding it was time to sell their land and retire, they discovered their land was worth more than $50,000 an acre. With the help of LDS Philanthropies, the couple has figured out a way to live comfortably while helping numerous students at BYU-Idaho. There are also a number of ways to plan ahead to give. Donor liaisons can help people use charitable trusts and various charitable annuity methods in which you retain an income that is administrated by Deseret Trust Company. (Deseret Trust Company, incorporated in 1972, manages trusts and other funds established for the benefit of the Church and its affiliated charities.) You can also donate to create an endowed fund. Each year only a portion of the fund's interest income is used by the charity; the original amount remains in the fund. In this way, you bless lives today and in the future. Also, you can designate Church-approved programs and projects in your will or trust. By making the Church aware of planned gifts, administrators can plan ahead and better allocate resources to priorities. Donating Time and Talents Wonderful gifts often stem not just from funds, but from skills you already possess. King and Diane Husein have used their talents and assets to give in thanks to the school that gave them what matters most in their lives. King and Diane met at BYU the way a lot of other couples do: in the Wilkinson Center cafeteria. King was from the University of Bombay. He enrolled at BYU for his master's degree. Diane was from Wyoming. After King had been working for two years, they married and moved to Boston, then to California. Five years later, King joined the Church, and the two have been generous friends to BYU ever since. When the school needed to cut costs for a new athletic complex, administrators approached King to ask his advice. King is the principal contractor over all the Costco stores in the United States and is known for meeting their tight construction schedule. He had more to offer than advice; he offered to oversee the construction at no cost to the university. Furthermore, with his company's tally of projects and consequent pricing leverage, King was able to work with suppliers to significantly lower the costs. Supporting BYU is a natural fit for the Huseins because of the gratitude they have to their alma mater--not only for their education, but also because it is where they found each other, and for King, where he found the Church. King says, "I could have received my engineering degree from any one of many great institutions in this country, but what I received besides my degree was the gospel and my wife. How do I repay that?" Donating Money Rex and Ruth Maughan regularly support charitable efforts around the world. Some of their donations have helped provide clean water for communities in Samoa (where Rex served a mission), bring wheelchairs to people in Japan, and fund catering trucks for hurricane-ravaged cities in the Gulf of Mexico. At BYU, the Maughans are generous supporters of BYU Television. They believe in the importance of providing values-based television for a worldwide audience, so they have funded BYU Television's expansion into additional countries, as well as the cost of creating new programming. Rex, who is the founder, president, and chairman of one of Arizona's largest privately owned companies, says his success is a combination of hard work and good luck. "We give because we've been given so much," he says. h3. The Widow's Mite We frequently hear examples of substantial gifts, and while these acts are not publicized to draw attention to the donor's generosity, they are acknowledged as a way to shed light on the opportunities for service in which others can become involved. And the widow's mite, the few dollars from the heart of a selfless soul, means just as much. When eleven-year-old Melody's family received a letter inviting their support for the Hinckley Center last year, she took the challenge to heart. She sent $152.47 of her own money to contribute toward the construction of the building. She wrote: "For the past few years my parents have helped me save pennies, dimes, nickels, and quarters in hopes of someday using it for a special purpose. In learning about the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center, I have chosen to use my savings to help in the construction of the building. I love the prophet." Another donation, a check for one hundred dollars, was sent to BYU with a short, handwritten note. It read, "Thank you for including me in your BYU [invitation to give]. I am eighty-four years old and on a limited income. However, I did receive a Christmas gift, and so I can then share with you in this important project." The note, written by Vera Rice, was followed by a single-line postscript: "I decided to send the entire check." Every donation helps. "Donations like Sister Rice's really are the widow's mite," says Linda Palmer, former director of annual giving for BYU. "Those of us who are just ordinary people, who don't have a lot of assets, rarely feel that we can ever be philanthropists, but I really think that we can--it all adds up." "It's about the money, but it's not really about the money," says Brad. "It's about blessing the donors and inviting people to give on their own. Giving is central to the gospel, but it can't be forced. If you tell someone they have to give, you've cut them out of the blessings of freewill gifts." The blessings that come when you give are based on your desire to help the world around you. "Helping each other is an expression of Christ-like love," says McClain. And whether you sponsor a student, provide means for others to attend the temple to receive life-changing ordinances, or feed a hungry family a world away, you will be easing the burdens of others as the Lord has invited each of us to do.
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