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Monday, March 19, 2012

More than the Monetary Value

“I really appreciate your help from the bottom of my heart. It is nice to know there are kind people still out there in the world.”

“The Benevolent Community has shown me overwhelming generosity. It has renewed my faith in humanity.”

“…it warms my heart to know that there are generous people out there…I say to others don't ever give up on your dreams and goals.”

“…more than the monetary value, I so greatly appreciate the thought behind the gift. Having a need is a burden, but your action has really lightened the load.”

When I conceived of the Benevolent concept a little over a year ago, I imagined that those who chose to contribute to meet the needs of the individuals on the site would be moved by their experience. I hoped that by allowing for a one-to-one connection between those with needs and those who could help, I would succeed in opening the eyes of donors to the realities of the circumstances faced by low-income adults every day as they strove toward their goals.

What I didn’t anticipate with the same clarity is how moved those who receive help through the Benevolent site would be by the support of those who contributed to their needs. Now I see it clearly. Our recipients are telling us that getting their need supported through Benevolent has been significant not only in a practical way, but also in a much deeper, much more personal way.

“The Benevolent Community has shown me overwhelming generosity. It has renewed my faith in humanity,” Bridgette tells us. She was helped by nine supporters who read her story of striving to complete her college education after having survived cancer.

When I read this and the responses of other recipients who were happily surprised to discover that there were people in the world who would choose to care about and help them – I saw clearly how those who have been trying as hard as they could for as many years as they can remember might easily lose sight of the humanity and kindness in their community and in others.

I know now that Benevolent is delivering more value than I had anticipated.

When we give to those with needs posted to Benevolent’s site, we’re gifting hope and inspiration, and delivering it with respect and humanity. This could seem trite to some, but imagine how impersonal the process of applying for and maintaining one’s unemployment eligibility, paying one’s tuition and rent, filling out papers for children’s school and for special services and supports and job programs can be.

In traditional applications for support or services, people are asked to fill out pages and pages of forms to prove that they’re worthy and not trying to bilk the system. On the Benevolent site, we’re asking questions like “What is particularly challenging about your situation? What is the toughest thing you face?” and “Why will meeting this need now move you towards your future goals?” and “Talk about what it will mean to you if you get your need met.”

These are questions that presume, up front, that the person who comes to Benevolent with a need is human, striving, and has feelings, reactions, and insight. The very uniqueness of this kind of respect and of the willingness of strangers to help out – the way it surprises and touches recipients -- demonstrates the deeply-ingrained impact of the ways we frame and treat need in our country and in our systems of support.

As we continue to meet people’s needs, we now know that we also get to restore their faith in humanity and let them know that there are generous, kind people in their community. Most importantly, we get to let people know that we see them, hear them, and hope they will succeed. That, in itself, is a gift.

- megan kashner, founder & ceo

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