This article was originally published in 2009 as “Your Time is a Real Treasure or Volunteering 101″.
When I first published this article in 2009, maybe I was a little too nice, because it is not just snakes that will manipulate and co-opt and lie. It seems to be a rampant disease in our society. It has come to my attention that there are some people and organizations still trying to abuse the grassroots (i.e. middle America, the silent majority, the real people). They are doing it in some very manipulative ways and I want to be sure that you are properly informed and warned. We need to vet the organizations that are seeking to solicit our help.
Now as you read this you are going to think you know the organizations and the people I am referring to. And you very well may. But I assure you the guidelines that I am going to spell out for you make sense even if you think you know the people and know them well. Trust is an interesting commodity. Once lost it is difficult to regain. So proceed with caution. You are about to have your eyes opened wide and may well learn to vet before you trust and even then proceed with caution!
So let’s lay some proper groundwork in our relationships. Set reasonable goalposts. Checkpoint with people about track records and compare notes.
Why? Because you are salt and light. Really? Yes!
Salt and Light
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)
You are called to be salt and light. You are a light upon a hill. You are a treasure in the kingdom of the Lord. You are called with purpose. You know this is true! It resonates within your being. How could it not be so? Thus, you have a purpose and a calling and anything that takes you away from your purpose to do what someone else wants you to do – no matter how right it seems, should be evaluated in the light of your own calling. It really needs to be a constant question of whether it is indeed something that you are called by the one who made you to go and do.
A Double Minded Man is Unstable in all his Ways
What does that have to do with the matter at hand? There are lots of people and groups trying to get you to do something for them. Does what they want have anything at all to do with your purpose and calling? If so then proceed. If not stop right there and learn to say NO! Say it nicely or not now or let me think about it, but go no further until your purpose lines up with theirs!
If your calling is in one direction and you are giving your time to a group or person walking in another direction, then you are actually working against yourself and your calling to please a group or a man in conflict with your own purpose. Do you see the instability here? You become a person at war with your own self by virtue of bringing your time and talents under someone else’s agenda. What if you don’t know they have a different direction and agenda than your purpose and calling? Doesn’t make any difference in the result – only in your awareness of the result and the abuse. They say ignorance is bliss, but I don’t find much bliss in being used and/or abused and I rather suspect that you don’t either.
Thus it makes sense to spend some time investigating the people that you are connecting with and pondering giving time and money to help. I wish this were easy and that I could make it easy for you, but it is a bit of a dance through life and you will find that no matter how good you think you are at the process, you still have something to learn. I will say that there is some gifting of discernment and some are more gifted than others about these matters. So if you are not so gifted, find a friend who is and prayerfully ponder how you proceed. Here are some very concrete practical ideas, but they should be surrounded with prayer and the wise counsel that you are privy too:
1) Know the history of the person or group.
2) Know who is on the inner circle or advisory team for the group.
3) Know who is on the board of directors.
4) Know how the group is chartered (501c3, 501c4, 527, Nonprofit, Corporation, Business, Association)
5) Know the written policy about money, lists, and information flow. Find out if reports are filed routinely and properly if donations are collected and find out what percentage of costs are used to raise money.
6) Find out if information flow is two-way and if you have appropriate and timely access to leadership.
7) Find out if the goals of the group both stated and when put into action line up.
8) Find out what people/group(s) have been endorsed or supported in the past and/or whom/what groups have been given money, assistance and list access.
9) Find out what authority the leadership is under and if you agree with both the jurisdiction and the calling of the group. (Note: one must be under authority in order to have authority)
10) Is the group top down or bottom up? If it is bottom up name local leaders in your area.
12) Contact information (national/state/local in your area)
A delightful blog post on Fruit Inspectors in Scripture
Be Fruit Inspectors
Many people will tell you not to judge people. Well I just say that I am a fruit inspector. By their fruits you shall know them.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (Matthew 7:15-18).
Words are cheap unless backed up by actions and repetitively as well! You will find that good fruit is properly connected to the vine and planted in good soil and living quiet and respectable lives too. Does the person asking for your help in politics have his or her own household in good order? This is not rocket science, this is really practical biblical wise counsel!
A good friend of mine Shelli Dawdy (@stubborn_facts) recently wrote an article about Ducks that comes to mind here. If it waddles, has a bill, and quacks, guess what, it’s a duck! So determine who you are dealing with and make wise decisions up front in the relationship.
Be instant in season
(or why put off until tomorrow what you can do today!) We have much work to be done to take back our country and minister to the needs of a hurting community, so don’t procrastinate! Be instant in season and don’t put off what you can do today. What if tomorrow never comes! If you don’t know what needs to be done, take a look at this for some ideas—–> Easy Volunteer Ideas for Everyone
Grassroots all the way! Top Down vs Bottom Up
The pyramid has been inverted in our system for way too long. Grassroots are beginning to wake up and understand that the pyramid balanced on the point is upside down and top heavy. It will topple over. Our system of a constitutional republic was structured to reserve rights (freedom and liberty) to the people with very limited government (both federal and state). Let’s be sure that our organizations and relationships work the same way. You simply can’t build a house from the top down. You must lay a firm foundation. It requires an ongoing dialogue about why we are doing what we are doing and who will own the work product when we are done. We must control our own groups and decide who our leaders are. If we let it, the cream will rise to the top in our midst. Work with people that you have access to and can look in the eye and hold accountable.
Note to self: The media and the power people will not move aside willingly, but they will become irrelevant as soon as we look behind the curtain and discover how few of them there really are. They only report the story to the masses. We are the story and we must insist that they report ‘the story’ properly.
Now let’s get to work and take our country back winning hearts and minds as we go in our own neighborhoods.
For Life and Liberty,
@scrosnoe on twitter
Originally published in 2009 and re-released 2010 here