Tag Archive: giving


So the other day i posted this post about my Grinchiness [or lack thereof] which highlighted that it is not so much Christmas that i don’t like, but how crazy over-the-top consumeristic it is, which in the face of so many people living without in the world, feels pretty horrific.  Continue reading

A community of friends who pool their money to meet the needs of people they know.

That is what Common Change is all about. And that is the non-profit that my wife, tbV, and i work with and have been for the last year and a half.

Almost every time we explain the concept to people and they get it, it excites them and they want to know more.

But many people in that boat feel like they are the only one of their friend group who might be interested in that idea.



One of the ways we have seen people really grab on to the idea of how Common Change works is through hosting what we call, ‘Generosity Dinners’.

# Invite some friends round for a meal that you are hosting

# each guest brings a donation to add to the group ‘pot’

# after the meal, each person has the chance to share a need of someone they know

# after a lengthy discussion and whittling down process, a decision is made

# the whole of the group ‘pot’ goes towards the need that was decided upon

# a follow-up email a few weeks later shares some feedback on how the gift went down.

Common Change presently covers groups in the United States and we are working with people in the UK, Costa Rica, Canada and South Africa to see what it will take in those countries to run groups there. But a Generosity Dinner can happen in any country in the world. It really just takes an invitation to some friends, the hosting of a meal and then an evening of sharing some money and meeting needs of people you love.

It is that easy. What is holding you back? This could be the start of a transformational season of you and your friends starting to think a little bit differently about the way you interact with your money and resources.

Contact us now at support@commonchange.com to find out more about how you can throw your first Generosity Dinner or click here for more information.


[Money certainly seems to be a topic we rarely speak much about – for a range of other Taboo Topics different people have shared their stories on, click here]



It started with a #neknomination [well, let’s be honest – it likely started with a drunk Australian feeling like this was something he thought was a good idea for more people to do?]

an online video’d drinking challenge game where you “film themselves drinking a pint of an alcoholic beverage, usually beer, in one gulp and upload the footage to the web” [wikipedia] and then nominate two other people to do the same, paying it forward so to speak [where “it” was a silly drinking game that has caused the death of up to four different people so far] with the resulting nomination needing to take place within 24 hours.

then it hit South Africa and, in particular, a guy named Brent Lindeque who started out his #neknomination driving in his car and then turned the whole thing on his head by driving up to a guy begging on the side of the road and passing out a sandwich and a cooldrink to the man. the challenge was transformed into RAKnominations and South Africa responded in a big way by filming videos of themselves doing Random Acts of Kindness and challenging others to do the same.

inspired by my mate Howard Fyvie who went and sang to a group of senior citizens and handed out cake and had polaroid pics snapped with them and then being nominated myself by Jono van Deventer who Howie had passed it on to [after he paid for some random lady’s shopping and then serenaded her in Spanish at her car] i endured a hectically crazy busy day trying desperately to make my #neknomination happen to no avail until at 11.15pm i stumbled upon an idea that might work, filmed it and got it edited and uploaded by 7.45 the following morning with minutes to spare.

in my #neknomination that eventually happened, i had a brief conversation with a mate of mine, Richard Bolland, who had expressed some hesitation, particularly to the random and once-off nature of these acts of kindness, seeing them as a great start, but really feeling like if they just happened and were walked away from that maybe they were not the most helpful thing and how do we encourage people who are stepping up and doing great acts, but challenge them to get more deeply and long term involved to be agents of long-term real change?


this morning i awoke to find two that seemed to have longer term effects at least so it feels like we are getting closer:

Ashton Hayes joined in and his #neknomination stepped it up a gear, inviting the whole of South Africa to get involved in rebuilding the burnt-down roof of a house for a woman who looks after 14 children in a local township.

South African fast food chicken join Nandos joined the #neknomination train by renovating the kitchen and dining area at the Sithandiwe Disabled Day Care Centre just outside the Alexandra township.


My friend Dave Gale shares some of his hesitations with the whole RAKnomination vibe:

My main concern with the RAKnominations that have arisen as morphed versions of the drinking dare Neknominations is about motivation.  I’m not objecting to them or wanting to belittle the effort that people have gone to, just questioning what lies behind and drives the actions.

It’s a reaction to a public dare, so it naturally has elements of pride, fear and guilt as motivating factors. People are not so much called to act as they are driven.

Granted, it does force you out of your comfort zone, make you reach into your wallet, challenge your creativity and cause you to look someone less resourced in the eye while you bless them.  But then, most likely you’re gone, back into your world, apart from ‘theirs’.  If it changes you, causes you to linger in ‘their’ world, to get to know them, begin to share resources between you (who says it has to be only one-way traffic?), reduce that economic isolation gap between you, it is a whole different world.

The filming of it and publishing that film adds another dimension.  You need it to prove you really did do something and have earned the right to dare someone else to keep it going.  I understand that, but it feels a bit chain-letterish. Chain-videoish? There’s a new word for you.  Matthew 2 comes to mind.

It should not be about you or anyone else other than the people you feel God is calling you to bless.  It’s about relationship. It’s about resources God as father has placed in your hands. It’s about living in a manner as close as possible to what you’d imagine God would like his Kingdom to operate like.

So, a question I am asking myself of late is: “What does this kingdom of God look like and what is the commander’s objective in this whole kingdom-building deal?”

Best I stop criticising what others are doing, no matter what motivates them, and look to my own heart and actions.  Common Change for me provides an opportunity to begin changing my world, need by need. [where Common Change is the non-profit organisation i, brett, work for where groups of people share resources to empower people in their groups to walk alongside and assist their friends who are in need]

God bless Brett, and keep challenging us to question our motives and live this kingdom life to the full. 


I asked my mate Richard to write some thoughts on this:

“This week I have been sick with the flu. If I didn’t know any better I would walk to the medicine cabinet, pick 2 or 3 random bottles/pills and swallow them in the hope that it would cure me of my illness. Luckily I am wiser than that and have been taught which medicine to take or to visit a doctor and get a medicine prescribed to me.

We often view the poor in the same way and attempt to solve their problems without any knowledge of the consequences of our actions. We give diarrhea tablets to people with a cough and wonder why they’re not getting better or we give a panado to someone who’s broken an arm. Sometimes we even get offended when people correct us and in return shout: “But I gave them medicine, surely it helps in some small way!”. We don’t realize that sometimes we can be doing more harm than good or not solving the problem at all.

I’m hoping that my metaphor is working here and we see that we need knowledge before giving and if we don’t have that knowledge we need to seek it out. The ‘oath to compassionate service’ has really helped me gain that knowledge before giving out the “medicine”: We should never do for others what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves. We should limit one-way giving to emergency situations. We should seek ways to empower through employment, lending, and investing. We should put the interests of the poor above my own self-interest even when it means setting aside my own agenda. We should listen closely to those we seek to help. My hope is that if we follow this oath we would do no harm to the people we are trying to help. “

Richard then referenced the first South African #neknomination video of the guy handing the food to the man on the corner:

The idea of basically handing out food to anyone who seems poor with absolutely no intention to build relationship or understanding. Its a good example of something being very good on the outside, but potentially damaging with no long term help. It’s such a grey area because it makes me feel good watching that video. But we’ve got to ask ourselves how much good it does.

Another good analogy I can think of is the starfish metaphor. Often people think ‘giving’ is like throwing a starfish back into the water. “but its making a difference to that one” When in actual fact all you’re doing to throwing a glass of water onto the starfish and saying that you’ve saved it.


i don’t think Dave or Richard or myself are trying to slam people who have taken part in #neknominations [well except the drinking game people – stop being STUPID – you might be fine at it, but somewhere along the line you are going to challenge someone who isn’t and they will try and up yours and another person will be seriously injured or worse!] or at least the RAKnomination ones… but what we are saying is examine the motivation of the videos and the effect. even with something as amazing as helping rebuild a roof or fixing up the kitchen for a home – stay in contact, build relationship, look for where that person can help you , share stories, get invested and do whatever you do for a longer period of time.

let’s face it, at Common Change, which Dave referenced, we have a saying which goes something like this: It’s not that the rich and the poor don’t like each other, it’s that they don’t know each other. Get to know someone, hear their story and then suddenly you are not faced with random homeless guy, but Peter who is your friend. I tend to want to help my friends and walk journeys with them. Then we will start to see real change.

let’s face it – i am extremely proud that South Africans took a stupid drinking game and added life to it – the acts of kindness have been great, BUT it would be even so much greater if we were able to shift the momentum that has been grown through the RAKnominations and transform it into longer term acts of change that will benefit individuals, families and even whole communities… instead of a 24 hour timeline for creating a video, what if people started committing themselves to get involved volunteering for six months at a place of need in the community… and what if that spread?

i VFSMnominate you South Africa, let’s show the world one more time, that we can lead the way…

[i just watched this clip today which seems to be a lot closer to how these things can look – evidence of relationship already plus also partnering with an organisation that has long-term involvement and knowledge of the community and is made up of people living in the community – more of this please: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MfpfEgJQ_s]

updated 21 Feb: Here is an incredible clip by Shane Vermooten which gets to the heart of what I’m speaking about in terms of inspiring to long-term change and transformation – come on:

i was listening to someone the other day describe how being part of a non-profit organisation would guarantee them tax benefits and it made me both sad and angry.

kind of like i feel about ‘Worship Song of the Year’ awards and sports stars [and others] who are paid ridiculous amounts of money…


don’t get me wrong [well maybe do a little bit cos it makes for a more interesting comment section below] i am not saying that i have a problem with the fact that in many countries you get some sort of tax break when you give money to charities and non-profits and maybe even religious institutions still… my problem lies in using ‘tax benefits’ as the main, or even a major, pull in trying to get you to give.


because, if you are giving to something because of the money you get back, you are not really giving. not if that’s your motivation. then you are just using the organisation.

whereas if you give to a thing you have decided to give to and then at the end of the year the government gives you some money back then whoohoo, bonus… if the amount of money you gave to the charity/non-profit was the amount you had chosen to give them, then you should give them the tax back money as well, right?

give to the thing because you think the thing is worth giving to. don’t miss out if there are benefits to be had [and as mentioned maybe add that to give extra to the thing] but let your motivation be that you really believe in the work that you are supporting.

[or better yet, become a part of Common Change and collaborate with a group of people to give towards people you already know who are in need and so add relationship to the whole aspect of giving – let’s make giving personal!]

i would love to get some discussion going on this, and try not trip over the fact that i still think it’s a travesty that this club paid 40 million pounds to that club to get that football player.

for the last 19 months, myself and my beautiful wife Valerie have been living and working with the Simple Way Christian non-profit organisation in Philadelphia, Americaland and yesterday was our last official office day… we fly out back towards South Africa on the 30th of December… can’t wait!

but what next? well we hope to spend around a month and a half at home and then [providing we find the financial support we will need to buy tickets back and live in the US for the next 18 months] fly to Oakland, California to work with our current Simple Way boss in a different and exciting non-profit organisation called Relational Tithe which also goes under the banner of Common Change.

‘Common Change is a utility designed to help connect you and your resources with people in your life. Compelled to action by my faith, we founded Common Change – an opportunity to imagine (and hopefully realize) a world where we are actively eliminating personal economic isolation. As Gandhi said, we believe that there is enough for all our need but not enough for our greed.  We are isolated mostly, not because the rich and poor don’t care about each other but because we don’t know each other.’

We see this as one form of re-imagining the Acts 2 model of the early church which is described like this:

‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’ [42 – 47]

if you have a couple of minutes to spare you can help us while also finding out a little bit more about this new and exciting venture we are going to be a part of – Common Change is up for a Giving of Life grant [that will match funds of us to $1000] and so you can go to this page and give us a vote or even give a donation towards the matching grant and there is some more information there on what Common Change is all about as well as a one and a half minute video which explains the concept very simply.

so please help us out by voting and if you feel like it’s a really positive thing [which it is] sharing and getting your friends to vote as well – Val and i have been part of Relational Tithe for about 8 months and it has been so inspirational and life-giving to see the kinds of needs and people that we have been able to encourage, help out and really give some measure of life to. This really feels like something that can be community and world-transforming as more people get involved.

thank you for your time, support and interest. you can expect to hear more from us in the coming month or two but this is a way to get involved in a quick and easy manner right now.

this year we got to be secret rooftop witnesses of this incredible act of Christmas mischief that Shane speaks about in this article and it was incredible hearing some of the stories from some of the people who had no idea where the money came from and yet for some of them it was a complete lifeline and life-changing moment for them:

So here is the start of the article shane wrote but click on the link to read the whole thing:

Critiquing the thick irony of the Christmas season is fair. It’s ludicrous that we celebrate the birth of the homeless baby Jesus by indulging in the biggest consumer spending of the year, scurrying around trying to find something to buy for people who have everything.

Nonetheless, there is something beautiful about giving, generosity and the contagious cheer that fills the world (not just the malls) during Christmas. We just need fresh imagination with how we celebrate amid the frenzy and clutter.

So we’ve started a new tradition here in the post-industrial concrete jungle of North Philadelphia … we call it the “Christmas Carol Conspiracy”.

You can read the rest of it here…

day 4 of the live below the line saw a bit of a stodgy jungle oats breakfast [not enough water, oops] which was microwaved and very easy to make… bit of margarine type substance to give it some flavour…

lunch was leftover soup/stew val made the other day – very tasty and yum cos of all the good veg in it…

then supper was REALLY nice – roasted veg:sweet potato, carrots and leftover butternut and then two pork sausages sliced and fried to add for taste and it was really a winner meal, best all week i think

ate well today and pretty tasty stuff – getting a bit of a better hang of it – don’t know that i have any lessons that came out of it and if you haven’t yet i would go and read my friend lisa’s comments on the whole week’s experiment which i link to over here.

i guess actually the one thing that stood out today was the friend vibe – it’s been a theme this week that a bunch of people hear what we’re doing and are “cool, we’ll take you out to eat” which in the context of this week defeat’s the object a little bit, but the idea of community being so much more important if a bunch of individuals don’t have much because pooling a small amount for a larger amount of people always works better – i remember as a bachelor trying to cook meals for one and it gets quite expensive or wasteful, but when there are four of you say throwing your R12 into the pot, then if you did that for a whole week you could get really creative and everyone would have enough.

the second aspect was the idea of inviting people round to play a game and not being able to offer snacks, drinks etc – fortunately in tonite’s scenario the one guy brought food and so we weren’t going to make them not eat it for the sake of our challenge so the three of them partook [what a word] but the idea that if you are living in a poor context, inviting people around for a meal probably holds less ampedness because of what you can’t offer… you’d think that at least but in my experiences in Kayamandi and Umtata and Malawi and Botswana [when i went as a child] and the Spanish community i visited in the States when i was there it was always the opposite – those with nothing always offer so much – they always give of their best – they are always completely generous – i have experienced this so many times in so many ‘poor’ contexts that i know it to be true…

so ja, one day to go, hopefully we have learnt some stuff – definitely been made aware of a bunch of things and going to give the money we would normally have spent on food to someone who needs it a lot more than us which is great. i think it has been good. but what lisa wrote is true. it’s nothing compared to what can and should and needs to be done.

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