The Giving Emergency Stockpile and Strategy

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Lots of financial folks advocate the importance of having an emergency fund.

I’m one of those folk.

The fact is that you will almost certainly have a financial emergency in your life.  The question is more likely when and what.  The wise thing to do in these situations is to be prepared in advance for something that is ‘unknown’.

There have only been a couple of times in my life when I’ve needed to dip into the emergency fund, but each of those times I was so thankful that I had something set aside.

But what about the importance of having a giving emergency fund stockpile and strategy?

The fact is that at some time in your life you will encounter someone with a need.  I find that often when I’m asked for spontaneous help I’m not prepared to help in the ways that I think are most beneficial.  Truth is that the fact is someone will ask for help.  What is unknown is who and what.

What can I do now to prepare for those times when I’m asked to spontaneously respond to needs?

Last Sunday I was driving through Denver, Colorado and stopped at a stop light.  There was a man there who had a sign asking for food because he was hungry.  Now, confession time: I was on my way back from a Transforming Your Financial Diet Seminar and had a few hundred dollars cash in my pocket (from book sales).  The problem was that I think it’s better to give homeless people food instead of money.  As a result of being unprepared for a giving situation and not willing to take the time to go buy food, I drove right past him.

The point here is that I’ve never given any real sort of forethought and created a proactive strategy as to the best way to handle this type of situation. (In my defense, I’ve been living out of the US for 6 years, so these seem like new situations to me).

This week I published an article at Christianpf called 4 Ways to Become a Better Neighbor.  In the comments, Rich from Money Wise Pastor shared how someone he knows packs a homeless bag in their car so they have food to give homeless people.

What if I had a giving emergency plan and had a stockpile supply?

For example, if I see a homeless person, I will …

  1. Say a quick prayer and ask God’s wisdom.  There will be times when I should and when I need to drive by, but at least ‘x’ times a month I should stop.
  2. If I feel a ‘compulsion’ to help, I’ll find a way to engage in conversation with the individual.
  3. If the need is legitimate, I’ll provide them with some type of food bag I have prepared in the car.

Now, I’m not necessarily prescribing these steps, but why not have some type of an emergency plan in place for these types of situations?

I once interviewed someone who buys two of what he needs when the items are on sale at the grocery store.  He then takes those items home and waits for a giving opportunity where he knows he can use those things for the sake of the kingdom.  This is a giving emergency stockpile.  It is being prepared for giving situations that you’ve not yet encountered.

Another option is putting an envelope with $20 or $50 or $100 in your car and setting that aside for others.  You will likely not have any plans for the funds, but they are there and ready to meet a need when the need arises.

What do you think you could be doing today to prepare you for a future giving emergency?  Do you know people who do this type of thing?  What do they do?


  1. JD says

    I think giving is such a personal matter and hopefully we are wise in how and where we give our resources. We give cash donations to our local food bank and when asked for money from strangers we give if we have it.

    I personally think handing out food would be uncomfortable to me. What if the person is homeless? How do they cook the food? It presents more questions for me than just giving them food. We don’t give to every single one that asks but more times than not we give. I feel comfortable with our decision and understand that not everyone would.

  2. says

    My wife and I keep granola bars in our glove compartments to give out to homeless. Like you, we don’t like to give cash…so this gives us an “emergency giving” method to help out those less fortunate on the streets. We’ve also asked a homeless family if they like hot chicken sandwiches…then we went to Chick-Fil-A and purchased sandwiches for the whole family! It’s fun to do these things. Thanks for your article…you hvae great ideas!!

  3. says

    I think that a good way to be prepared to be generous would be to have gift cards on hand. For those who are leery of how money might be mishandled, a gift card for a restaurant could be a good alternative.
    That being said, a downside to this option is that it might be to a restaurant the person hates, and there isn’t as much “bang for your buck” in this scenario. Oh well, things will never be entirely perfect…

  4. Katrina says

    Lately, I’ve been thinking that a solution to giving food or money may be to purchase gift cards for local fast food places in increments of maybe $7-$10. This way I’m helping someone to put food in their bellies, and not helping them with just a cash handout…. Been thinkin’ ’bout it for months…. Guess maybe I should put it into action!

  5. says

    These are great ideas Craig. Being ready to give when a need arises is as much about preparation as anything. And trying to help the best way possible (some “help” actually hurts) is critical. Great reminders this time of year.

  6. Emily says

    Like many, I’m more comfortable giving food or objects than cash, but some of my friends (and some of the homeless guys at the shelter where my family volunteers) have recently pointed out a flaw in my thinking. Keeping single-serving snack foods and fast food gift certificates on hand is convenient, but they have pointed out that I don’t feed my OWN family that way. The homeless population, when they DO eat, very often tend to eat cheap junk food/fast food types of meals – not the highest quality calories – and that certainly contributes to the obesity and overall health problems in that population. My friends pointed out that, to love my neighbor as myself, we really ought to be feeding them food we would want our own families to eat. Ouch. I’m grateful for challenging friends, I guess…

    At our freeway exit, there is always a homeless man (not always the same one) with a sign, hoping for money or food or work. After trying to explain to my four year old daughter why he was standing there (we volunteer at a homeless shelter, so she already had some understanding of the issue), she wanted to give him the rest of her box of cookies. We did. The next day, she remembered, and I suggested we pack a lunch for him.

    Now, twice a week, I pack an extra lunch, on the afternoons when I drive to pick up my son from kindergarten. Sometimes this is a sandwich and fruit, more often it’s something hot (soup and homemade bread, chili, etc – it’s winter in Chicago). I admit, the butternut squash risotto got a weird look and a grunt – I hope the guy didn’t throw it away without even tasting it, ’cause I would’ve liked to eat it for my own lunch…

    Every time we get in the car to drive downtown, my daughter asks, “Mommy, what about the man with no house? Did you bring some dinner for the man with no food and no house?”

    I am blessed by her reminders, and blessed by the brief conversations I have had with the men, too. Next step: keep a list of their names and descriptions so maybe I have a fighting chance of remembering!

    • says

      Aren’t you so thankful for how friends and children help us to grow? Thanks for reminding us of the importance of loving our neighbor. I think the most encouraging thing in your comment is the intentionality. All of us would be blessed if we were more intentional about helping others in need. Yes, I’m talking to myself.

  7. says

    Thanks for the article. For several years now, I have set aside money for those times when the Lord puts someone on my heart to help. I call it Kingdom Seeds money. I just let it accumulate until a need comes up. The tough part is finding anonymous ways to get the money to the intended recipient. I have given to particular people through my church, purchased Visa gift cards and sent through the mail, and have used Giving Anonymously. I have even worked directly with a retailer to help out a family that suffered damage in a flood. It’s amazing how rewarding it can be! And it can actually be kind of fun to come up with ways to do it without them knowing from whom it came. (I would never want anyone to feel obligated to me for any of it!)

    It’s true what they say about how giving blesses the giver just as much as the receiver!

    (By the way, Craig, my parents spent 3 years in Papua New Guinea as associate missionaries after they retired. They still have interesting stories to tell!)

    • says

      I think this is a great idea. When my wife and I were in college there were a lot of people who helped us and most of the time we didn’t even know who they were.
      We’re trying to learn lessons of generosity from those who have shown it to us. If fact, my wife are putting prepaid Visa gift cards in each of our glove boxes. That way if a need comes up we’ll be ready to respond.
      I’m thankful for the work your parents have done in PNG. Almost everyone I know who has been to PNG comes away with some great experiences.

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