There has been much in the press and media about how much (or little) we give to charity. Putting the inevitable debate about the accuracy of statistics to one side, I feel the story has missed the point, particularly when comparing British giving to American.
If there is a defining difference between the British and American culture it is about the role of money. In America, everything has a price. In Britain, I believe that we place a greater emphasis on support, that has no price. Whether it’s volunteering on a regular basis, caring for others, or just being there to help out, the value of what we give is worth far more than the value of our financial donations.
I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t be giving more funds to good causes, but it is also worth stopping to think for a moment about the value of your time given to help others. As businesses know, time is money, and is equally valuable whatever you do with it.
There is a debate about whether charities should record the value of non financial contributions (particularly volunteers time) in their accounts to show the true value of their “receipts”. Needless to say this has been contentious. After all, is an hour of one person’s time worth the same as another? Do we value time on the basis of what it is worth to the giver or the recipient?
What we give is personal and should reflect our ability to give, which might mean its less about money, and more about our skills and experience. To me, the important thing is that we give what we can to the community that we are part of. Sometimes just giving time is the most valuable donation of all.
In life and business there are three basic tensions, Cost, Time, and Quality. Is it possible to achieve high quality, at low cost, in a short period of time? Probably not, so if you see an opportunity that promises this, it is probably hiding something.
To reduce cost usually requires a reduction in quality, or a longer timescale.
To reduce the timescale usually requires an increase in cost, or a reduction in quality.
To improve quality usually requires an increase in cost, or a longer timescale.
So what is the best way to balance these?
I would suggest that you start with identifying what you can’t change. For example, do you have a fixed budget, a timescale that can’t be changed, or an expected level of quality? And start there. Once you have a starting point, your options become clearer.
You can generally agree on two of the three factors, and have to accept the third. You want it high quality and now? You may have to pay for it… You want it now and cheap? You may need to accept low quality…
If you are challenged on why the cost is so high, the timescale too long, or the quality not up to standard, think about what you can do to one of the other two factors.
A colleague told me yesterday that a mutual client has called him by mistake, when they were trying to get hold of me. As the client launched into a detailed explanation of their challenges and voicing their ideas, he hadn’t been able to explain that they had dialled a wrong number until after a few minutes.
The thought crossed my colleague’s mind that the problem the client was describing might be something he could help them with. But on reflection he knew he had to stop the conversation and direct the call to the right person.
My colleague and I chatted about how important it was that the right person helps at the right time. The “presenting problem” is rarely the real issue. As a business consultant/coach, my role is to find the heart of the real issue, and to help suggest and implement some solutions. Sometimes it’s gut instinct, sometimes it’s noticing particular words, sometimes it’s just about asking the right questions.
Consultants are sometimes accused of borrowing your watch and then charging you to tell you the time. But if your problem is that you don’t know how to tell the time, then asking a consultant for help seems like a good idea to me.
Life is difficult, and there are enough challenges for each of us without having to feel like we must do everything on our own. Asking for help from the right person at the right time can sometimes be the difference between success and failure.
Great question raised this morning at the Birmingham Social Media Cafe – “Do you value your time?”
It sparked an interesting debate about the perceived value of your time. Do you give it away freely? Do you calculate free-time in terms of lost opportunity? Is your time worth more or less to you than to your clients?
In a service sector, time is what I sell. If I am not charging for it then by default I am giving it away. How much can I afford to give away before I start to devalue it?
As ever, it’s a compromise. I need to give a bit away to “show what I’m selling”. The time that I choose to invest in networking needs to have some ROI.
I was reminded today that time spent with some people is priceless.