How to be discerning in your gift giving.

We’ve been exploring the different obstacles that we must overcome in order to be generous. This month’s obstacle is common to most of us.

Obstacle #4:
When we aren’t sure if the cause is legitimate.

What is your first thought when you pull up to a stop light and an individual wearing tattered, dirty clothes walks toward you with a sorrowful look on their face and a piece of cardboard in their hands that reads something like: “Lost everything. Anything will help. God bless you!”?

Want to know what my first thought is? ‘Nope, don’t believe you! Nice try!”
My heart goes out to the poor. Yet because of the scammers among us, when I experience what I described above, I find myself asking: Are they really in need?

Unfortunately in some places ‘panhandling’ is an occupation. The ‘solicitor’ does everything possible to ensure that the potential donor’s heart is tugged so hard that they feel terrible if they don’t give. However, often times we know that the money is used for items other than living necessities.

But not every poor person is a scammer. There are people who are legitimately in need. How do you discover if the need is valid?


If you are going to give money that you have earned from your hard work, it is acceptable and even important to ask that homeless person to tell you his story. See if it adds up. See if there are holes in it. Often, in an attempt to convince you the solicitor will paint the direst story imaginable.

If you hear: “My daughter has cancer, my husband lost both legs, my son got kidnapped, I am a Veteran of three wars, our house burned down, my relatives were all in it.” You can probably safely conclude that it is concocted to manipulate your emotions.

While some of them are well practiced in telling their ‘story’, most aren’t used to someone asking them for details and it won’t take long for you to find if their story is legitimate or not.

It’s okay – and actually crucial to be discerning in your gift giving.

If, after investigating, you decide that their story is legitimate. It is my opinion that the best way to help them is to direct them to an organization that is equipped to truly address their needs. There are a number of them out there. The Salvation Army, The Union Gospel Mission are two very reputable national organizations who will not only help individuals with their pressing need of food, water and shelter, but are also best equipped to help get them back on their feet.

If you are looking for a legitimate project or if you have a project in mind and want us to investigate it to see if it is legitimate, check out

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