Do students need to be generous?

We asked a couple members of the We Are Tearfund community to share their thoughts on generosity. Find out Lorna and Sam’s top tips for being generous as a student.

What does generosity mean to you and why is it important?

Lorna: I think generosity is about giving wholeheartedly and unreservedly, not just financially, but in any way that helps another person or brings them joy! I think to give generously is to go beyond the easy, expected level and to really put someone else before your own reservations or considerations. True generosity doesn’t hold back even if you might be personally disadvantaged by your giving.

I think generosity is so important because it’s the only way we can really show a heart for those less fortunate than ourselves and for those in need. The world is full of real injustices and real inequalities that won’t be solved or aided if our giving is reserved or self-serving. I think generosity is at the heart of genuinely building a fairer, more equal society.

Sam: To me generosity is the act of giving freely. I believe that often this is associated solely with money but there are so many different ways to be generous. You could be generous with your time, with your resources and of course with your money too. I believe it is important because it is an attribute associated with love, and therefore is associated with Christ. As we are called to be liked Jesus was, we would therefore be called to be generous too. 

Do you find it difficult to be generous as a student?

Lorna: I guess it can be difficult to be generous for everyone sometimes, but I think especially as a student being financially generous can be particularly difficult when you’re on a budget! I have found that often I think ‘if I didn’t give to that cause I could save more money for the summer’ or similar thoughts. But a wise guy I know once told me that if you don’t begin a pattern of giving when you don’t have much money, you won’t begin giving when you have more money.

I think he’s right that as you become more financially affluent you start to just spend more in all areas, and if giving isn’t already one of those areas then there’s little chance you’ll make it one, as the same thought patterns of ‘I could spend that elsewhere’ will still persist no matter your financial situation.

Sam: At times I feel that as a student there are often a lot of things on our mind when it comes to money: How do we budget our finances to pay for rent, bills, the weekly shop and just having fun with friends. Often it can be hard to know what to prioritize, and tithes or helping someone out on the street can be at the bottom of our list because there’s so much else we have to pay for first. This does indeed make it hard to believe we can be generous because we are so reliant on our loans if we don’t have a job to give us that extra little bit that we could use for these things.

Fundraising is important, but there’s often feelings of guilt associated – how can we better frame the conversation away from guilt?

Lorna: It’s so important to make it clear that any tiny donation is helpful! Whenever I fundraise I always try and stress this because it really is true! I think sometimes when websites set the standard donation at £10 or whatever sometimes people feel guilty if they can’t quite manage that much. I’m sure there are so many people who are put off donating by that guilt, but if we can remove that pressure then many more people would be able to donate £1 or £2, which would make up a much larger total!

I think also that the conversation should also centre around support and action rather than just giving. The most important outcome of a fast-fashion campaign will not be the £5 donation someone makes to a fundraiser, but the boycotting of companies that don’t treat their employees properly. Don’t get me wrong, donations are a wonderful way of partnering with a cause and they are so valued! But I think if we want to remove the guilt around donating then we need to stop centering the conversation on financial contribution and show people that they can partner with that cause in so many other ways, even if that’s just supporting someone with words of affirmation as they undertake a fundraiser!

Sam: I believe this often comes from where our heart is, and if we give because we feel guilty I would strongly suggest that we change that mindset. It can be a barrier to ‘freely giving’ if we hold back from giving what we actually could because we feel guilty. The situation the world is in today doesn’t help, there is so much need for fundraising, for donations in so many places and we can feel guilty that we give to one and not the other. When we fundraise we can clearly lay down where money donated is going, ensure that any amount of money is welcome and can make a difference.

What tips do you have for being financially generous as a student?

Lorna: For me it’s all about budgeting – planning generous giving into my finances as I would food shopping or bills – then it doesn’t feel stressful or worrying to give during months when the budget is more stretched! I think also just remaining really connected to the causes to which you donate keeps the motivation there because you can see how valuable your donation is and all the great work it helps the organisation do.

I like to sign up to the email listings and follow Instagram pages of charities and organisations I donate to because it keeps me in touch with what they’re up to! Whilst showing me all the great things that can be done with my donations, keeping in touch with these issues also means my heart continues to remain sensitive to these injustices and I am continually reminded of why giving is a far better use of my money than takeaways and depop clothing!

Sam: I would suggest carefully budgeting the money you have. Put aside the money you need for rent/bills, set up a section to spend on socialising and then you can see how much you do have left. Also, you could also donate the money you would spend on a coffee, or takeaway to a charity! One of the biggest things to remember is that any amount can make a difference.

There is an app called Share the Meal which is part of the World Food Programme. For example, for only £4.55 you can provide 7 meals for families in Palestine. Plus this app will also tell you where your money goes (you can find many different countries to donate to on the app). This amount is just a bit more than the price of a coffee, and cheaper than most meals out. It can make a potential life saving difference to someone without much cost to us. If this is too steep, you can donate more or less and still make a difference.

Lastly, we can put our trust in God, I remember always being told in Sunday school ‘God loves a cheerful giver!’ These words are so true and God promises us that the more we give, the more we will receive! Put your trust in God, and if he calls you to give, then do so because he has you in his arms!

What about tips for being generous without having to rely on money?

Lorna: Being generous with your time is definitely a top-tier way to practice generosity without having to rely on money. Anything from giving time to friends and family to volunteering for local charities is such good stuff! I try to be the friend people can rely on and call whenever they need to, no matter the inconvenience. I’m sure I fail at this regularly, but I try my best to give myself to others totally and to make people feel the love and appreciation they deserve!

I also LOVE volunteering, I have met so many inspirational and wonderful people in my time at various different organisations and charities. I have made great friends and learnt so much from both the people using the services I help with and the other volunteers and staff. So yeah, I think giving your time and your energy and enthusiasm to others is a cool way to be generous, and it’s loads of fun!

Sam: As I mentioned earlier, you can easily be generous without money. With your time you could volunteer, there are hundreds of NGOs, charities, food banks that need the extra hands. Giving a few hours a week or a month is still very much needed and will still make a difference in the lives of so many. Even if you don’t have time to spare, you can donate your resources.

There are sometimes charities that need old shoe boxes so they can fill them up with essentials and give them out. If you have a quick look online you can see what else you can donate as well. If you are in uni, you can get involved in your Just Love/CU groups, or find NGO societies to get involved with. These are just a few of the many ways you could be generous without having to spend money you might not have, it’s just a small step to take but can make a world of a difference.

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