The joy of giving back

As individuals, we’re not really supposed to talk about money. How much we earn. How much we spend on things. How much we give away.

Companies talk about it, though. There are certain things that they have to declare. Many of them talk about CSR (corporate social responsibility), or ways that they’re giving back.

I like the way Patagonia talks about its giving:

At Patagonia, we have a long tradition of what some refer to as “corporate responsibility.” But we like to think of it as more of a self-imposed tax, or tithing, to help care for the planet that sustains us.

Although I’m just one person, I also have a company: Luke Leighfield Creative Ltd. I’m the sole employee and my boss is a pain in the ass. As a company, I give away 10% of everything I earn. It’s the first thing I do — before paying myself, or setting aside money for tax. It’s the most important thing.

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement. It’s a movement for people who want to make a lot of money — enough to retire on — extremely early in their career, and then retire. (I’m not sure what they do after that. Maybe catch up on Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to get through.)

I’m more interested in the JOGB (Joy of Giving Back) movement.

  • The satisfaction that comes from giving money away, grateful that you were able to earn it in the first place

  • The freedom that comes from loosening the hold that money has on you

  • The purpose that it gives your work when you know you’re not just earning for yourself — you’re earning for others, too

I never feel like I have enough money. There are always new things to worry about. Pensions. Savings in case we have kids. Savings in case I’m out of work. Savings for our sickly dog.

I’m fortunate to even be able to think about those things. I’m fortunate to own a home, to be able to feed and clothe myself.

But here’s the thing: the worrying is never done. I never feel like I’m in the clear. I never feel like I have enough.

Giving money away helps me remember that I do have enough. It seems illogical, but giving money away makes me worry about it less. I don’t quite understand how, but it brings joy.

I spent a lot of time thinking about whether to write this post. It’s hard to talk about these things and not come across as boastful or judgemental. But I do want to encourage more people to talk about giving. To discuss charities that we love and support. To find ways that we can be more generous.

I want to thank the people that have given me work over the past year, enabling me to put some of that money to work for good causes (as well as pay for my mortgage and vet fees).

I want to encourage all of us to embrace the weird logic that giving money away can be joyful: an act of resistance in our strange, tumultuous, unnerving times.

I want to explore ways that we can encourage each other to be more generous. To care for our society, and not just ourselves. To realise that we have the power to make good happen in the world around us — not just through the power of our actions, but also through the power of our finances.

In the 2018–19 tax year, I was able to support Against Malaria FoundationThe Bike ProjectThe Canvascharity: waterGreenbelt FestivalSend a CowSingle Homeless ProjectSt Martin in the Fields, and our church.

Looking ahead to 2019–20, I’d love to hear about charities that you think are doing a great job. I’m particularly interested in London-based charities that work with the elderly, the homeless and people in prison. But I’m open to hearing about anything.

I’d also love to offer pro bono copywriting to charities in those spaces who could do with a hand, or use my music to do something good with the groups I mentioned above. If you have any hot tips, send them my way.

If you enjoyed this, you might like my weekly newsletter, Ten Things.

Luke Leighfield