The Karmic Capitalist: Should I Wait Until I'm Rich to Give Back? (Plus: Auction and Tim Q&A via phone)

Should I wait until I’m rich to give back?

This is a question I have fought with a lot over the years.

Spending time with the upwardly mobile in places like NYC and LA, one can’t help but believe the consensus: It is better to wait until you have made a lot of money before trying to change the world. The idea (excuse?) is that you can then have a greater impact. But is it really true?

I no longer think so. There are a few reasons I have decided to commit at least $100,000 of my own money to education in the next 12 months:

1. Giving back is like investing with compound interest.

Less money earlier often beats more money later.

$1,000 invested now may very well have a much greater impact — due to growth and ripple effect — than $10,000 invested in ten years. How many world leaders and innovators could you create or save if you acted now instead of at an undefined “someday”?

Here’s an extreme example of how time changes value: Manhattan was bought for $27 in 1626. Invested at 7.5% then, compounded yearly, that $27 would be worth $22,224,711,000,000 now. Or compounded quarterly: 4.73442004 × 10^13 ($47.3 trillion). To put that in perspective, the entire yearly GDP for the USA these days is around 7 trillion. (Thanks to Ryan for this example).

Act now and very little can do a hell of a lot.

2. Prevention costs much less than cure and is ultimately more powerful.

For example: to educate a girl for 10 years in the developing world, ultimately producing an economically self-sufficient family and ending the cycle of poverty, costs a total of $2,500 with Room to Read. How much does it cost to provide aid or welfare to an entire family for decades on end, not to mention treating the famine, disease, and violence generated from this collective poverty? Look at Africa and the $50 billion+ that has been given as aid.

Charity doesn’t work — empowerment does. The good news is that the latter depends on acting early and precisely, not lots of money.

3. Giving is an investment in yourself.

Giving shouldn’t be viewed as losing anything.

Based on previous polls on this blog, 32.2% of you make $51-100K per year and more than 20% make $100-200K per year. Regardless of income, could you afford to empower 100s or 1,000s of others with 5-10% of it, especially if it permanently increased your feeling of self-worth and contribution? Of course.

In fact, this self-perception boost is one of the greatest bargains, and performance enhancers, on the planet.

4. Changing the world is cheap.

Changing the world doesn’t require much money. Again, think in terms of empowerment and not charity. How much were Gandhi’s teachers paid? How much did it cost to give Dr. Martin Luther King the books that catalyzed his mind and actions?

Just imagine that you and your friends make $40,000 per year. Imagine that you convince just 5 of them to join you in building a children’s school in Nepal dedicated to your parents (or your lifelong friendship). The total cost? 5 people x $3,000 each= $15,000. I know that most people, myself included, will put $3,000 of crap on credit cards in the next few months that could instead create a miracle… a miracle that you can visit.

You and your friends could plan the trip of a lifetime in 6-18 months to visit the completed school, teeming with dozens or hundreds of students who greet you with smiles and thank you letters. You’ll know it’s your school because your names will be on the door.

If that seems like too much, you can finance a girl’s education for 10 years ($2,500) and effectively guarantee a future without poverty to an entire family. How would you feel about yourself if you just did it and pulled the trigger now?

I can tell you — it’s amazing. It changes your life almost as much as it changes theirs, and you won’t miss the $2,500. I guarantee it.

If you haven’t given before, I encourage you to do it now. Just do it. Take it for a test drive and see how it changes you. On the personal side, you’ll feel great about yourself for a long, long time. On the results side, especially with the groups I’ve researched and selected, you’ll measurably improve the world, something few people do, and possibly win some amazing prizes I and others are offering to people who donate this month.

To whet your appetite, check out some of the projects to pick from here. From there, it’s as simple as checking out the next step.

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[Note: If you want to find my responses to comments/questions below, just search (Ctrl + F) “###”, which I put before each of my responses in all posts.]

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120 Replies to “The Karmic Capitalist: Should I Wait Until I'm Rich to Give Back? (Plus: Auction and Tim Q&A via phone)”

  1. Hi,

    Nice post. I like the competitive fund raising idea but I don’t know how to justify raising money to win prizes to people.

    For example if I ask my friends to donate, they ask me why, I tell them it’s to build a school, then they check out the litliberation website and see that there are also great prizes available, it makes me look like I’m just interested in the prizes and not the fund raising.

    I would say a lot of people have the sponsor mindset, where the fun raiser has to do something challenging or out of character to really open people’s wallets. I’m not saying that’s the right mind set, I’m just not sure how to explain that I won a trip round the world because you gave $100 to my charity.

    Not that I could win the litliberation prizes anyway (yes, except the recognition!), being a British citizen living in Japan.

    Hmm typing all this out made me realise the answer. Don’t just ask for donations, do something worth sponsoring then!




    Hi Richard,

    This is a great question and another one I wrestled with. In the end, I need to prizes to get some of the PR exposure for the campaign, and many people are motivated to take that first step by prizes. I just want it to be their “gateway drug” into a lifetime of giving.

    Also, some people are creating donation pages and giving away their prizes, if they win them, to the biggest donors to the page, etc. Others are simply informing their friends that they will be passing the prizes on to the next competitor if they win.

    Hope that helps!


  2. I’m excited about the web 2.0 marketing and PR seminar. However, I want to be sure that I’m available on the specific time and date before I send my payment. I hope we’ll learn the details soon?


    Hi Kathryn,

    The date won’t be determined for a bit, but if you (or anyone else) who pays can’t make it, I’ll refund the amount, so no worries. Best to sign up and then just get the refund if you can’t make it.



  3. You’re a natural-born fundraiser…have you considered a career-change? You could help change the image of working in the nonprofit sector.

    Count me in for the teleclass.



    Sweet Talk PR

  4. Tim, I appreciate your good intentions, but consider: in their zeal to give, givers often forget the extent to which they reinforce existing institutions responsible for the lack and limitation already extant. Giving is so often an excuse not to take the kind of action that would pull and replace the roots of said lack and limitation.

    Honestly now, how much long-term damage is done by those whose hearts are in the right place but whose actions lead to the perpetuation of impoverishment in so many of its forms? So many have been brainwashed in equating virtue with giving that they can no longer see that the reality is far different and much less forgiving.


    Hi S!

    Thanks for the note. I do agree that giving blindly to the wrong institutions is not a good approach. That’s why I’ve interviewed the CEOs of the groups involved with LitLiberation, and I’ve gone over their financials and results to date. These two groups, unlike many, correct impoverishment instead of perpetuating it.

    Few solutions are perfect, but one of the big questions is: how much is the chosen action better than doing nothing? It’s a good question to ask, as criticism about action can also become an excuse for inaction.

    Thanks for contributing!


  5. You should also consider that “giving back” isn’t just about being able to right a check. I’m very involved with a non-profit organization that works with underserved teens, amongst other programs.

    At this point in life, I don’t have any money to give. What I do have, however, is equally valuable: Time. I am on the membership committee working to improve member outreach and retention; I make calls to solicit product donations for program that interest me.

    The organization tends to see higher levels of volunteerism in their younger members and bigger donations from less active older members. There are of course some exceptions.

    I give back in kind, with my skill sets. At the end of the dya, it’s probably more satisfying that writing a check. I’ll be able to draw my own conclusions in a few years.

  6. I like the philosophy of this post a lot, especially the point that prevention is cheaper and better than cure.

    What I am wondering–how do you feel about “giving back” through actual work rather than money donations? why not volunteer on a project to help build a school rather than pay for someone else to do it.

    Maybe this is irrelevant, as the ultimate point of the post is to convince people to participate in this fundraiser, but I still think its interesting.

  7. These are great points. If we are following Tim’s advice, we should all have a lot more time as well as money. Don’t forget that you don’t need to pull out $2500 to help build a school or make a positive impact. Why not go to Nepal and help build a school, volunteer you time teaching, etc?

    Tim I think the program is great. The more you can show people the impact of the program, the more you will inspire people. Images and videos of the actual people and places that you’re working to help might push a few people across the line. Take your VIP’s to the “Ferriss school for children who can’t read good.”

  8. Great question! I think giving back monetarily and in other ways is crucial to maintaining an attitude of gratitude. Not to mention if everyone waited until they “made it” which is subjective at best and never attainable in many ways (who “makes it”? What does that really mean?) — no one would ever give back in any way.

    It doesn’t take big bucks to make an impact on others. Giving with a joyful heart…and giving to the degree that serves you personally given your financial picture — is a very satisfying and attractive thing to do.

  9. Hi All!

    Thanks for the comments. To answer a few questions:

    -Money is definitely not the only way to give back! Let me clear up a misconception about LitLiberation: you DO NOT need to donate any of you own money. The competition rewards the best fundraiser — the person who can influence the most people to develop the habit of giving — not necessarily the person with the biggest bank account. Providing your time and effort is definitely as valid, often more valid, than simply writing a check. Remember: giving back the right way is the same as empowering others. Empowering others takes action, not lots of money.

    -The date for the call won’t be determined for a bit, but if you pay for it and can’t make the date, I’ll refund the amount, so no worries. Best to sign up and then just get the refund if you can’t make it.

    -Jesse, I’m a fan of Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute, but I called and emailed them to be involved with LitLiberation, and no one ever returned the inquiries. I take response time as a good gauge of how quickly non-profits can capitalize on good opportunities, so they are not included in this campaign. I’m nervous about giving my money to any group that won’t return my calls for weeks on end. Perhaps in the future, as I am a fan of what they’re doing in Afghanistan.

    Thanks to all!


    1. I’m sure glad giving money to charity reminds me that I am involved in something good. Working only 4 hours a week while others do my bitch work for slave wages in India leaves me feeling guilty and empty.


      I am only teasing. I think its better to give than to do nothing at all. But you’ve only been able to give by capitalizing on other people’s lesser positions in the world. You promote taking advantage of these people in your books and paint it in a positive light. You are only helping further liberate the elite.

  10. Great insight Tim!

    I’m in no way affiliated with this organization (other than a fan), but they offer some really practical ways to give both your money and your TIME back to the community. It’s called “Cool People Care”:

    These guys are basically just a matchmaking service where they post opportunities to get involved in your community or a cause you care about, and show you how to get involved.

    It’s a nice easy way to give something back. I think we are all responsible for contributing to the greater good of our world and there are lots of opportunities out there for doing so.

    I’ve even really enjoyed giving (micro-lending) to third-world entrepreneurs using (started by former PayPal founders). Here you can give as little as $25 to a business owner you can vet out right on the site. So as you said above, “Changing the world doesn’t require much money. Again, think in terms of empowerment and not charity.” This is a great way to do that.

    Sorry if it seems I’m pimping these sites, but I have really enjoyed using them as a tool to get involved in things bigger than me, and thought you (or your readers) might like them too.

    Keep up the good work!


    Hi Marc! is great, and their president, Premal Shah, is a supporter of LitLiberation. There is a page for LitLib here: Thanks for the comment!



  11. When I launched my new website last February, I publicly committed 5% of my profits to an amazing non-profit that gives free medical care to the poorest of the poor. ( I decided not to wait until I felt like I had a surplus to give, and instead decided just to go for it right up front. I have a page on my website called “Difference” that explains what we’re doing to my potential clients.

    When I was a freelance photojournalist covering human rights issues, I never felt that I could do enough–give something concrete back. And I couldn’t! I was broke! Now, ironically, as an entrepreneuer, I can do much more. Go for it! Tim’s right. It makes you feel GOOD! –Jenn


    Hi Jenn!

    I couldn’t agree more about not waiting. I still haven’t received my first royalty check for my book, and I decided not to wait on giving the 10%+. I’m frontloading it, and while it makes me a bit nervous, I feel great. The moment to act is now, to be sure. I couldn’t be happier.

    All the best,


  12. I’d like to add to Tim’s point about not delaying giving with this quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

    “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

    Working in the nonprofit sector, I can say with all certainty that $5 or 1 hour really can make a difference. It can feed a cold and hungry person, or give a book to a child that has nothing. Don’t wait to be generous.

  13. I have a suggestion for improving the front page: add links from the step-by-step instructions to the pages where you can actually execute those steps. Right now, the first link is for the unreal prizes. You could add links from the “US public schools” to the donorschoose page (currently only a small link on the right hand side), and a link from “developing countries” to the room2read page. The verb “Create” calls out for a link to the firstgiving page.

    Great idea!


    Emil, great suggestions. I missed that. I’ve made the changes, and this should improve participation. Thanks!

    All the best,


  14. Tim,

    You should consider on writing a creativity fundraising manual for entities.

    It will be awesome to have pocket of techinques, procedures, ideas, and step-by-step. Lot of non-profit organization struggled to raise capital.

    Consider this a way to give back by sharing your expertise and portion of profits can go to charities.



  15. Tim,

    Great post! Rich and I have been discussing this topic on our blog under the title of “The Gospel Of Wealth”. There’s this school of thought out there that as we become more wealthy, we are somehow obligated to give back to less fortunate citizens. Rich and I have been discussing whether that “obligation” really exists – or is it just something that the majority of wealthy people do to appease their sense of guilt for having so much money?

    Sure, there are plenty of wealthy people who are sincere in their wish to make the world better (Bill Gates and Warren Buffett come to mind immediately), and they see their money as nothing but a tool to achieve their goals.

    But, there are also plenty of people who do it as sort of a Public Relations move… make money selling something to people who really can’t afford it, then contribute $100K to Aids awareness in Africa for example.

    The question really is – is this obligation? Or can somebody just become wealthy and KEEP their wealth for their own enjoyment?

    We’ve linked to your posting here in hopes of getting some more discussion going on this topic.

    You and your readers can read our posts on this subject at

    Awesome job as always,

    Bill Richardson

  16. Hi Tim and others,

    I totally agree with all you say.

    Many years I ago I got involved with this “charity” school in South India at

    It has been the most fulfilling and rewarding thing I have ever done. Through my involvement and that of others, we have empowered 1,000s of children and their families. All for very little in relative terms of time and money.

    My first ever visit to Nirvana school was a major life changing experience as you can read here:-

    So I urge every one to get involved in empowerment contributions – it will be a life changing experience for both the recepients and YOU.

    And Tim, from now onwards I shall no longer refer to Nirvana school as a charity school, but as an EMPOWERMENT school.

    Thank you


  17. hey tim, typo in the sentence below. much peace and love, e

    “Line space is very limited, as we will taking questions at the end,”

  18. Hey Tim-

    Great blog post. I’d like to sponsor some books specifically for your library (when ready). How can we facilitate this?


    Hi Drew,

    Thank you for wanting to help me with my own personal library. However, I spoke with the folks from Room to Read and, unfortunately, guaranteeing book donations toward a specific library is out of the organization’s scope. They’ve got an amazing staff in Vietnam whose top priorities are focused on the programs and deserving communities. Asking them to focus on the logistics that this type of donation would require is just too time intensive. That being said, there are still ways to support Room to Read by donating books. You can sponsor a local language publishing title, for example, for Vietnam. More details here:

    Thank you for your willingness to help!


  19. Great post!

    I want to give Andrea from the comments above a nod for her comment. I agree that it’s not all about money, not that I think your post is saying that at all, Tim.

    I too am active in multiple organizations and spend hours a week on charity work. In my time I’ve seen some very large checks come in. Unfortunately I then watched the people behind the scenes waste it, sit on it, fumble around with it and/or spend it on things that have no benefit to the organization whatsoever. Not from ill will, but just general lack of know-how.

    It’s definitely not about the money. In fact, I think if everyone “helping” were doing their best, knuckling down and really trying to be effective towards known goals, charities would get more done with less money. I donate a small fortune every year, and will continue to do so, but I’ll also keep a close eye to make sure it’s not just churning around in the bureaucracy.

    Thanks, Tim, thanks for hitting a tough subject!

  20. Tim, giving back NOW is exactly what is all about. Rather than the average Joe attempting to be a philanthropist working at his J.O.B. then making charitable donations, we teach how “YOU CAN GET PAID TO SAVE THE WORLD”.

    This is a monthly series of webcam interviews I have started (final edits done this Monday!) with:

    -people who created greenery to cover the entire sides of city buildings

    -a spokesperson from (Richard Branson, Peter Gabriel, Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel)

    -leaders in the development of web social networking tools like Ning and the new Flock social browser

    -Herbert Harris author of “12 Universal Laws of Success”

    A strong argument can be made for “SAVE YOURSELF FIRST before you try to save the world”, but why not create a business you love, based on a niche you are passionate about, and save the world along the way.

    The interview series will be distributed to high schools across North America for free starting in November (and available on, which is how I get paid!). Additionally $7 from each DVD goes to an Entrepreneurship Micro-loan charity.

    p.s. I’ll set my goal for the “Most students impacted” award. The recognition by Yahoo will go a long way to further promote this project!

    p.p.s. I just sent payment for the PR teleseminar! Really looking forward to finally speaking in person!


    ~is October 31 the contest deadline?

  21. Wonderful, wonderful post. It put such a big smile on my face. I’m feeling pretty burnt out on the “10 Ways to Make an Extra Few Cents With Adsense” stuff.

    Wealth is relative, anyway. I don’t think we realize that if we are sitting here in front of a computer, we are already rich, especially to those folks in Nepal.

    Perhaps you should write a book on fund-raising. I am trying to get some of my colleagues to help pitch in to buy a bike for one of our students who had his stolen (it is his sole transportation to school) and it is like pulling teeth.

  22. Wonderful, wonderful post. It put such a big smile on my face. I’m feeling pretty burnt out on the “10 Ways to Make an Extra Few Cents With Adsense” stuff.

    As you know, wealth is relative, anyway. If we are sitting here in front of a computer, we are already rich.

    Perhaps you should write a book on fund-raising. I am trying to get some of my colleagues to help pitch in to buy a bike for one of our students who had his stolen (it is his sole transportation to school) and it is like pulling teeth.

  23. I think you need to start giving back early, as it sets up a pattern for you when you do have the “big bucks”. I give a lot of speeches, and I donate a certain percentage off the top line directly to my local Children’s Hospital (to an endowment we set up in my daughter’s name to help fund research for a rare condition she had at birth. She is fine now, but it just seemed like the right cause!). It is not a lot of money…YET, but with every check I get for presenting at a conference or a law firm retreat, I immediately send the money to the charity endowment. As my checks get bigger, so will theirs.

  24. I walked into Borders last night, killing time while waiting for my train, saw your book and read the first 30 pages.

    Your account of your martial arts contest win left me thinking that this guy really doesn’t get it.

    This troubled me, because it was quite clear that if you did you could really make a difference.

    Then, this morning I found your blog with your take on charitable work, and came away with a very different take. You are an enigma wrapped in a riddle.

    You have inspired me to write a check to a non-profit that I know to be doing good work, and I know the founder’s integrity to be above reproach, and make a commitment to do that every quarter, and lend a hand when they do work in NYC. Shame on me for taking too long, and thank you for pointing it out.

    Best wishes.

    Rik Longenecker

  25. Awesome post, Tim. You really are changing the world!

    I’m delighted to see you support ‘Room to Read’. John Wood is one of my favorite social entrepreneurs, and “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World” is an inspirational read that’s helped guide my own non-profit work.

    All success


  26. Tim – Why is this even an discussion (rhetorical question)? I’ve read your book (and obviously your blog) and have been inspired by your thoughts on living life more for the now versus wasting some of your best years putting in 60 weeks. But this post surprises me from knowing you from your writing. Is it better to wait to give back when you are rich? No!

    The best answer I could give to this question is think of the people that have given the MOST to those in need. Many of them have been the uber-wealthy or even upper-middle class, but ones I think of are Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Ghandi, etc. Those that have given something more valuable than money. Time!

    This response is not a call to give up everything and serve those in need, though it is a noble calling. The people that have answered that calling need our money now as do those that have no opportunity currently to achieve any level of financial comfort.

    I would encourage you to read “The End of Poverty” by Jeffrey Sachs. With your current fame you could probably even meet him, which I would recommend.

    Oh, and by even Western standards you are already rich.

  27. Preventative Maintenance (prevent vice cure) is such a splendid and often overlooked practice!

    It would be like buying your $500 mountain bike and not taking 5 minutes a weeks to oil the moving parts, or an extra two minutes to clean it at the end of the ride. …7 mos. later, your chain disintegrated and the wheels are barely turning!

    Or putting your visit to the dentist off for 3 years. (…and then expressing surprise at the results of that crawling black thing embedded in your incisor!)

    Early money, quick action, will save truck loads of woes!


    Being Poor Sucks!

  28. Tim is right again, there is no reason we cannot be philanthropists right now.

    This is why I have spent the summer developing this idea:

    with the aim to switch kids on to reading – and it works. I was looking for somewhere to send the money I raise, ‘Room to Read’ looks like the perfect organisation…

    Hope you enjoyed the rugby!

  29. In response to Chad, I’d say that some people are called to serve with time and some are called to serve with money. It would be useless if every person that wanted to serve took a vow of poverty. without money, not much can happen. I plan to be the financier of a number of organizations, but right now, I give 10% of what I make and give out of savings when I see a need I can meet.

    So, I think it is a balance of giving now and giving later. because if I were to give Everything now, I would not be able to make more to give later…just my two cents.

  30. Hi Tim – Fantastic post. I think many of us give now, with the hope of giving more later. But it would be great if we were able to give more time and money to help others now, s later may never come.

    I have been thinking about that a lot since reading your book. And some of these mini-retirements could actually be used to go and help others.

    Thank you for all the links and info on charities. I also hate when they offer prizes, but I suppose if that’s what it takes to motivate people towards giving it is worth it.

  31. Hi Tim.

    I think the commenters have already expressed the thoughts that I have, multiple times, but yes, many people think that they should wait before giving something back to the community. The problem is, most of us think that we can help the world by just donating money. We can do many things to help people without having enough money to give. For instance, in the developed world so many things are consumed needlessly. If there is less consumption, the world becomes a bit better.

    Similarly, one can help NGOs have websites, provide them free consultancy and other skills or help them raise awareness. Even if pollute less and grow a tree and make sure it grows up you are giving back to the world.

  32. Hi Tim,

    An additional bonus of starting to give right now is the training effect. If you exercise every day, your body will let you know if you miss an exercise session. We tend to keep on doing the things that we train ourselves to do. If we train ourselves to give, giving becomes part of who we are. It may start with money or time, but it spreads throughout your being. A trained giver is more likely to notice opportunities to give and to take advantage of those opportunities. So giving benefits and changes the beneficiaries of your giving, but it also benefits and changes you:-).

    I enjoy your blog, keep up the thought-provoking posts.


  33. Hey Tim,

    I read your post about litliberation in conjunction with reading wikinomics. I thought it would be cool to start a facebook group which had the premise that the members belonging to it each contribute one dollar to the firstgiving donation page. With some of these facebook groups having 500,000 , I thought the goal of 17,000 members far-fetched, yet still obtainable. Any thoughts on getting this charity (or facebook group) past its “tipping point”?



    The group can be viewed through this link:

  34. The fact is… if you have 100k of free floating cash you can spend in a year… you are rich compared to the vast majority of people. Most people never make 100k a year in their life. I grew up in an area where everyone considered themselves more or a less lower-middle class… they made 25-50k/year sometimes doubled because of both parents working. The families who had parents who made in excess of 75k a year were considered pretty well off. I think there is a pretty massive disconnect between the people in nyc and la and such and the average person in ohio or idaho in regards to what would be considered a “good” income and how much money “wealthy” would entail.

  35. Fantastic post Tim. I got out of the mental trap of thinking you should “wait for wealth to give it away” but then a few years ago when I had a banner income year and did start to give more money I realized that giving to global poverty projects gave me more satisfaction than anything else I was doing, so even with cash flow tighter now I’m still giving, and it still feels great.

    As you very correctly note – giving to great causes is so rewarding it is almost a selfish act, and I hope efforts like your schools project bring that great feeling to more people.

    FYI – hoping to join you in VietNam visiting the school *we* helped to build with contributions.

  36. Hi Tim. Just last Saturday I had a get together with Rune Lind, Orin Kurtz, Zoe(Mott)Rawson, Melissa Daniell and Kelly (Morris) Mattmuller. Oliver Peterson didn’t show. Your name came up and it was suggested that I check out your website. Holy crap, you’ve been busy! My mother also has seen your father recently. She’s a real estate agent (Agnes Bristel) and a dance teacher. She’s quite impressed with your Tango moves. Congratulations on all your accomplishments!

    Best Wishes,


  37. Hi Tim,

    It is great to read that you consider “giving back” an important part of one’s lifestyle. I also agree we shouldn’t wait. It is amazing what even a small donation can accomplish. Great post.

  38. GivingUSA actually reported that people wth lower incomes give disproportionally MORE than those of higher incomes. Individual giving also closely follows the 80/20 rule with 80 percent of dollars-raised coming from 20 percent of the available funding sources.

    As a fundraiser, I’ve been told, and believe, that fundraising is really matchmaking. Find an organization that you want to invest your money in and watch it grow.

  39. Oh how I admire your site! I am in the process of starting a site that addresses a spin off of your topic giving back. It is soo important to give when you have it to give. Life is not just about you and what you can do for “you” but what you can do for others. I applaud you for embracing this idea and letting others know the importance of doing so.

  40. Hey Tim!

    Just an update for this post and some proof that you do NOT have to wait until you are rich to give back. I am a 3rd yr student at UVIC (synonymous with Broke 😀 ) But since reading your post on LitLib and this one, my firstgiving page ( has raised nearly $6000 to date!!

    Thank you again for continued inspiration!!


  41. Thanks for the great post, Tim. I’ve talked with a bunch of my friends who all say the same thing – that they don’t make enough money to donate and that they will when they do make enough money. I think it’s fair to say that it’s not easy being young and living in expensive places like California and New York because of high living cost; but I also believe that you’re not any likely to do something tomorrow if you don’t do it (at least in part) today. I prefer monthly donations that I just have deducted on my credit card, $10 month for instance gives one mosquito to a family in Africa through Malaria No More. That mosquito net is likely to save a life. Easy decision for me, a drink at the bar or saving a life. As you pointed out there are countless other charities. Microloans are another great way to give for very little. I use

  42. Thanks for this post Tim,

    I don’t know if you can even read all the comments you get, but just in case you do, I wanted to let you know that you have had a big impact on me. I didn’t know who you were or even that you existed until 3 days ago. But you have managed to decrypt what I have been trying to do blind for most of my life. The clarity of your perception and ability to transmit it is truly a Godsent.

    I managed to sneak in my donation at the last minute since the page closes tomorrow (my life has always had this pattern it seems!) so I look forward to the meet up when I can then thank you in person in Nepal.



    Hi G,

    Thanks so much for the kind words and donation! I do read these comments on occasion, to be sure 🙂

    Best of luck to you and yours,


  43. Hello Tim. I believe that the greatest gift of giving is providing the opportunity to empower others to help themselves + others. I’ve added your audio book to my library +I am thoroughly enjoying the self analysis to make changes in my life and to compound and automate my efforts to salvage + recycle millions of dead trees in Colorado into beautiful wood products:from log homes to flooring to trim and siding. You and your readers may be interested in Jed Emersons teachings @ convergence of economic, social, and environmental values collectively bringing the greatest value to an organization. I have attempted to practice this principle for years but have not yet achieved the level of success + impact I have always thought that I was capable of, thus the self-analysis of why + what to do about it.I am passionate about bringing awareness of this epidemic and it’s probable impact of devastation on our nation-from unprecedented fires, to carbon impacts, to water and wildlife changes that may likely cost hundreds of millions. Riding the wave of the needed green movement and making money doing the ‘right thing’ in a blended value aspect seems like a smart thing to do but I too am a slave of the 80-100 hour work week, and that must change or I will not achieve my goals. Thank you Tim for sharing your learnings. I will become a student + teacher but it will take learning disciplines + learning to say no a lot more people + situations. Going from an endless list of “to-do’s” and overcoming the ‘guilt’ of not getting everything I ‘should’ do done is going to be a most difficult task.

    Sincerely and best wishes to all of you embarking on this common need.


    PS- I would appreciate direction + advice in seeking ‘green’investors as I have received coast to coast media attention for our efforts but need capital to proceed in meeting the demand of the market. Thanks again.

  44. Just a pet peeve of mine…I prefer just calling it ‘giving’ as opposed to ‘giving back’. In America we live in a free enterprise, open market economy where wealth accumulated is the result of a voluntary exchange.

    To say ‘giving back’ implies that something was taken or borrowed and you are obligated to one day return it.

    I prefer the term ‘giving’ because better emphasizes the fact that you are helping someone not because of an obligation but because you want to.

    I know this is picky, but I can’t help myself!!

    Love the blog, love the book, LOVE THE DIET!!! 40lbs so far and still going!!


  45. Just a pet peeve of mine…I prefer just calling it ‘giving’ as opposed to ‘giving back’. In America we live in a free enterprise, open market economy where wealth accumulated is the result of a voluntary exchange.

    To say ‘giving back’ implies that something was taken or borrowed and you are obligated to one day return it. It also implies that no social benefit can occur when a profit is being made.

    I prefer the term ‘giving’ because better emphasizes the fact that you are helping someone not because of an obligation but because you want to.

    I know this is picky, but I can’t help myself!!

    Love the blog, love the book, LOVE THE DIET!!! 40lbs so far and still going!!


  46. Hello Tim,

    My name is Braden Loader. I’m currently a commerce student at the University of Manitoba, and to be frank, I’m tired of being 21 and not sailing my own boat off the coast of Costa Rica!

    I have a prospective business idea in the form of a self-guided adventure travel company, yet feel my business plan and concept are loose and undeveloped. I believe some serious strategic aid is to be sought if I’m not to be one of the several thousand internet sites that bite the dirt immediately. Realizing this may be an atypical request, I can only hope you’d humour me, as a newcomer such as myself could learn a lot from your business savvy. Where and when may we meet?

    As urgency is a matter of opinion, I’ll leave it up to you!

    Regards (I just can’t do the “cheers” thing),

    Braden Loader

    P.S. Apologies to those with intellectually stimulating comments, all I can do is try!

  47. I liked this post. I am not that much for giving to other countries, but I am really in love with the small city I live in (a city I have spent half of my life living in, by the way).

    I am actually, right now (and have been for at least 1 week today), planning to have a local architect draw up new plans for my city’s big pride: the green and lovely park (located besides our almost as lovely lake running by the city). I want to make the park more alive. Not just green, but a place where people can really interact with each other more than they do today.

    So what I am doing is getting numbers from the architect. Numbers covering the cost of doing the drawings, the required work etc and then I will see if I could donate money from my own account so that this will happen. Though, I approach the whole donating thing a bit different from others. Look at this:

    1) Donate a lump sum payment into a high paying savings account (4,45% is fully possible to get in Sweden. Inflation over here is 3,3% approximately at this time) and then let the interest from that savings account pay of a loan I will take out to get things running right now.

    2) Tell the lenders that the first year needs to be all “interest only” (annuity loan). The next year and all the years thereafter (until the loan is paid of) will be paid directly from interest income on savings. This requires doing the numbers correctly, but we learned math in school:).

    This way of financing things works equally fine with purchases of stuff and experiences too. Just do the numbers and it will work out pretty fine in the end. This way of financing things makes most sense if the income is automatic as Tim describes in his book.

    Would love Tim’s response to this approach. Thanks in advance. Take care.

  48. Thanks Tim,

    Very good post. Giving is also an important example of community service involvement and care for our world for those around us.

  49. Dear Tim.

    You may not be, as far as I know, an evangelical Christian, but what you have affirmed sounds a lot like our doctrine of the tithe: giving is for everyone, not just the few and the rich. We evangelicals have had a lot of trouble with a “second half” idea that you can do whatever it takes to make a killing in the first half of your life so that you can go and give to, or volunteer for, “ministries” in the second half. Ken Lay taught Bible class in Sunday School till he got clapped in irons. And this first half-second half mentality is probably part of how he justified it all. I say, and you’d probably go along with this way of putting it, live on both sides of your mid-life crisis from age 20 till you’re in the nursing home!

    To frighten you further, a lot of your stuff overlaps with the Christian and Jewish doctrine of the Sabbath. What that is about is, God can run the universe without me one day a week. (Actually, He can do it without me altogether; He has stuff for me to do, but I’m not indispensable.) And the world won’t collapse into dust and ashes if I get off the cell phone for a while (one of the real reasons we grumble at people bellowing into their cell phones at all times and places, as if the universe wouldn’t exist without them for a little while) or not look at my e-mail for a few hours, or this, or that. And that sounds a lot like the things you are saying!

    Peace, Howard

  50. I’m glad to see that you’re participating in some nonprofit fundraising and I was intrigued by the new model you used to raise funds for your LitLiberation experiment last year. I’m currently starting up my own nonprofit, Local Problems Global Solutions and would like to ask you and the readers of this blog, for creative ideas to raise my initial seed money. The basic premise is that I think large aid organizations suffer from white man’s burden and often solve problems that may not be the most pressing one. In other words, here’s your field of corn…oh we really needed a school. ASK the locals what the problem is…I’d like to create a nonprofit with a website to connect people in poor countries with the best solutions from all over the world. I have a solution to the obvious question: internet access in the third world. Also, I have a solution for a community base of global problem solvers. Additionally, I’ll probably use virtual assistants and a virtual office, to reduce operating costs. Especially because at least initially, I would be the one in the field collecting the data (problem set). If you or anyone reading this blog is interested in this idea for a nonprofit, please let me know.

  51. Hello Tim,

    It wasn’t until I had a stroke that I started to look at my life closer at 48.

    Since then I quit importing yachts from Italy and started and new innovative way to raise money to feed the hungry.

    Take a look at our demo website. We are still raising money to finish the website so that we can launch in 2009.

    Looking forward to hearing what you think.

    Kindest Regards,

    Mark G. Andries


  52. Shalom Tim

    Although we’re separated by only one small degree, I’ve been reluctant to request an intro until I felt that I was in a position to add at least as much value to you as you have to me (& that’s no easy feat, to say the least!). With that said, I submitted an innovative idea to Google’s 10 to the 100th Project that I believe could be beneficial to your education initiative. Here’s a 30-SECOND VIDEO to explain “Hungry for Change” (click on ‘more info to the right of the video for a more detailed explanation):

    Tim, if the idea resonates with you, and you’d like to learn more about HfC, I’d welcome (with arms wide open) the opportunity to discuss it further.

    Keep rockin’ the casbah


  53. Parkinson’s principle can be applied here as well. If you don’t set a date to give, you will transition into the grave saying, “someday when…”. Then you can no longer give.

    The Bible mentions a woman that had very little but gave very much. It didn’t seem like a lot in terms of the amount, but it was a lot to her. People need a leader in all areas of life, sometimes your small donation will lead others to give. Many raging wild fires have been started by a small ember.

    Take action when you see a worthy cause and make sure that you are giving to perfect strangers as well as those whom you know. Sometimes people give for approbation so that others think highly of the giver. That type of giving is so self centered it almost defeats the purpose.

  54. The easiest way for a lot of people, including moi, to pay would be by a monthly direct debit.

    I went to the room2read, and the litlib donorschoose site and didnt feel absolutely comfortable about splashing an impulsive $250 (good cause or not). Especially with the declining value of the pound (Im in the UK).

    However inspired by your post I did a google search and set up a direct debit to SOS Charities.

    I wouldve much preferred to have given it to room2read or litlib as you had interviewed the CEOs and gone over their accounts, so Id be sure my money was being used wisely / efficiently.

    Shame that I couldnt give to the charity of my choice (i.e. your choice as I’d trust your judgement) because there wasnt a direct debit option.

  55. What about refried beans? The one that you find in the mexican food aisle at grocery stores? Can you eat cheese? Also, what if you are a vegetarian who doesn’t like tofu? Where should the protein come from? I am the world’s pickiest eater.

  56. Tim,

    The 4HWW is a mindblowing book, but at first I wasn’t sure whether I bought the same goals or if there wasn’t a touch of lets get ahead of the rest about it. Along with a few other pointers to values, this initiative and passionate activism has convinced me- You’re not just a damn clever and insightful guy, you’re a damn sorted one!

    Good luck with the next book, Neil

    PS. On the subject of sustainable development and genius-EVERYBODY should read Jeffrey Sachs-The End of Poverty! He blows every western excuse away and still leaves you full of Hope and answers!

  57. Tim,

    Great post. I would personally rather use my time to help others than just donate money (although I understand charities need funding as well). There is just something more rewarding I find in living a life of giving back, rather than just writing a check. Keep up the great thought provoking posts!

  58. Hey Tim,

    A group of about 20 of my friends and I are going to Kenya in December to build a school. We’ve been planning it for months with, an arm of (four time Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, World Children’s Prize Winners, all round good guys, producers of We Day, etc).

    I’d really like to make maximum impact with this trip. The people who are going are all motivated, entrepreneurial young people. Most of us are a few years out of university.

    Do you have any ideas on how to extend our reach? I’ve blogged a bit in the past, and will start blogging for this project soon. I am fairly adept with video editing and have produced and posted during my travels in the past. But this is something I’d like to build up.

    Please send me your thoughts.

    As a side note, everyone should look into Me To We. They have a fascinating mandate and business model. They are a social enterprise whose profits go directly into Free The Children. For most aid organizations only about 17 cents on the dollar goes to aid, the rest is admin and marketing. With FTC, because of their internal funding from Me To We, 93 cents on the dollar goes to aid. They are partners with Oprah and she donates through them all the time.

    Me to We has a book line, clothing line, music label, does these trips (where you go abroad, build a school, and interact with the community), and produces We Day.

    We Day is a day where they bring about 10,000 high school students into an arena and have high energy, high profile performers spread the message of social activism. This year they have a stellar line up: The Dalai Lama, Jane Goodall, Mia Farrow, Jason Mraz, Jeff Skoll, Robert Kennedy Jr, and more.

    Tickets are free for students but they have to commit to three acts of social change: one local, one national, one global. These kids are learning to give back at a very young age!

    I just wanted to share this with everyone. Tim, please send me any insights you have in extending the impact of my trip. Thanks sir.


  59. “Get what you want by helping other people.” -Zig Ziglar

    Hey Tim,

    The more you give, the more you receive.

    Giving back is an investment where the ROI isn’t monetary. Instead, it’s human, psychological, happiness.

    Like with any investment, if you only have enough money to survive, you pay yourself first. But once your finances are taken care of to where you can invest in a savings account, Roth IRA, lifecycle fund, etc… then you can give back.

    And the earlier the greater the ROI will be. You’ll be setting a standard for yourself, and you’ll be getting regular super-charged doses of fulfillment.

    Nice one, Tim. Inspired me to start giving back earlier,


  60. Pointless to say when you are already wealthy. Hindsight is 20/20, but if you are living month to month these sentiments are empty.

  61. Hi Tim,

    A great post…. love the idea of giving back… and echo your feelings… we have fundraised by building other things first and you’ve inspired us to help others….

    I also add that giving back from a positive position with your costs covered is more empowering than falling short yourself to help others…. there is only so much you can give before becoming a charity case yourself…

    We’ve been doing it to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis sufferers/ CLIC – Cancer and Leukaemia in Children, Prostate Cancer and The Stroke Association where we have built a series of ‘Charity Golf Days’ over the past 7 years – removed our overheads from the funds raised so we are not out of pocket…. and donated the difference to make a difference….

    Boy it feels good to complete something we enjoy participating in so much…. and have the chance to donate and provide as a result…

    Reading 4 Hour Work Week and enjoying fundraising through Charitable Golf Events this much has inspired us enough to create a Business dedicated to helping other people to organise Charity Golf Days of their own to raise funds for their own cause and charitable concerns….

    Of course you could easily make this a tennis match, a ski event or a walk/run…. whatever inspires you to enjoy yourself and help others…. but we are doing it with Golf as it allows you to meet some very powerful business individuals that can influence and help your cause much faster…

    If this is something that inspires you then please let us know… we want to hear from other Charities who either run or wish to run days to raise money, Charity Golf Day organisers, Golf Professionals, Golf Club organisers, Sponsors and golf day participants themselves who would like to make a difference?

    If this applies to you then great… if it doesn’t but you can think of someone it does then please pass this message on and find us at Charity Golf Days.

    Keep on keeping on….. Love your work Tim!

    Warmest regards


  62. I think this is so true and completely awesome. For me, I don’t see what the point is unless you’re making the world a better place. For me, that IS fun. I love the added idea of investment that you write about, (and the school idea is awesome,) but for me, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make financial sense- just do it!

    I once went to an event that a big philanthropist was at. His wife spoke. She was dressed in a simple dress with a little sweater. They were probably in their 50’s. She said that people say that its easy for her husband to give away money because he has so much money. He has millions.

    But she said that that isn’t true. He ALWAYS gave. He didn’t come from a rich family, and this couple married young. They lived in student housing in Idaho. They were both going to school and they had a couple of little kids already. There was a single woman with children down the street and every week they gave her some of their grocery money. It makes me cry to even type that out. I just think that is so awesome.

    So, I say, don’t wait to live the life you want to live! If you are fat and don’t want to be, go dancing and go to the beach now! If you are poor, give what you can give now- even if its just sweeping your neighbor’s sidewalk as well as your own.

  63. Very uplifting post !! It is wonderful to see that you’ve inspired so many people to help for an honorable cause.

    However, on a personal level, I think that we have to be cautious in terms of our intentions while doing good deeds. Because often times the feeling-good effect turns into a nasty type of arrogance, as the person begins to see himself/herself as better than others who don’t give away as much as he/she does.

    The person ends up defeating one disease of the heart (miserliness) to gain another (arrogance & subsequent boasting/ostentation).

    Though in terms of the overall output (= number of people being helped), an arrogant charitable person might be ‘better’ than a humble miser 🙂

  64. Tim,

    Was just reading through this post again, and it got me to thinking that it would not only be fun to get the funds together for the project, but also to go and personally help in the construction.

  65. Tim,

    I know this post is really old, but I’ve volunteering as a translator for an organization Vittana. It’s a great NPO that uses donations from wealthier people to fund developing world college students. The loans have an extremely high repayment rate as well (upwards of 90%).

    Also, the book Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus is extremely interesting. Definitely check it out.


    1. From what I’ve read so far from some literature regarding karma, I think of it as the great equalizer. Taking must be balanced with giving. And I guess giving can take a lot of forms e.g. monetary tithing, community service, church service, volunteerism, a smile, a pat in the back, etc.

      I’m just beginning to see the beauty of the law of karma. Giving is one surefire way of earning good karmic points.

  66. Great post, as a Junior Finance major, and a follower of Christ, I am passionate about generosity and changing the world! You bring up some great illustrations that are very encouraging. Definitely keep the good content coming!