I think about money a lot. I run an organization in Dehradun for children with special needs and thinking about money comes with the job description: where it will come from; where it will be spent. How much we need; how little we have. What it can buy; what it cannot replace. Who’s holding on to it; who’s willing to give it away.
Like all my colleagues in the voluntary sector, I think about money. Like many of them, I used to worry about it too.
I don’t do that any more.
Not worrying is a challenge. It takes discipline, faith and a good memory.
Discipline, because everything in our culture and upbringing tells us just the opposite: Constant anxiety about what you do or don’t have is normal. You are supposed to feel on edge. Nothing is secure, nothing is certain. Life itself is worrying.
Keep the faith: Money worries have a way of solving themselves.
Faith, because if you aren’t worrying, it means you are placing your trust somewhere else—in god, or people or the universe—and admitting you aren’t always (or ever) in control.
A good memory, because we’ve been here before. And we will be here again. It’s important to remember that we’ve been rescued in the past. Every time, in fact.
Sometimes, to the exact penny we require. I remember once sitting with our accountant trying to figure out how we could give our entire staff a 10% raise and how much I would need to raise for the year to make it happen. We were a small group in those days and the amount I needed to find was Rs 1.2 lakh. “Go ahead,” I told her bravely, signing the memo announcing the decision. “I’ll find the money.”
The next day, a cheque arrived for Rs 1.2 lakh. Unsolicited, out of the blue.
I take these things as signs. Had the cheque been for less, I would have reduced the increment. Had it been for more, I would have hired another special educator. The last thing you want to do in such situations is to get cocky.
A few weeks ago, a friend whose organization was in dire need of funds asked if I could help her find some money. Our foundation was in the exact same situation (there’s a pattern here, I know), but I took her story to a woman who is wealthy and generous and she donated Rs 12 lakh to my friend’s cause.
When I came back to the office to share the great news, my colleagues were aghast: What about our funding crisis? they asked. Didn’t you think of that?
Of course, I did. And I’m not pretending that I wasn’t disappointed when that wealthy, generous woman didn’t offer to bail us out as well. But I was not worried. Because if I’ve learned anything at all about generosity in my nearly 20 years of raising funds, it is this: It doesn’t matter who gets the money. Today it’s her turn, tomorrow it’s his. Next week, if we’re lucky, it will be ours.
The important thing is the generosity, the giving. It’s like a river. The moment you dam it up, saying “That water is mine”, or “Don’t tell anyone about this source”, the river dies.
Keep it flowing. The more you give, the more you receive. Everyone has something to give. Everyone needs something that someone else has. Pass it on.
Jo Chopra is executive director and co-founder of the Latika Roy Foundation (Latikaroy.org) in Dehradun. The foundation works with children and adults with multiple disabilities and takes a rights-based approach to inclusion.
Write to email@example.com