1. God Honors Those Who Honor Him. “There is a verse in the Bible that's been a guiding star for me,” says Gary, “and it's 1 Samuel 2:30, which says, ‘Those who honor me, I will honor.’ That has been my experience.
“As fast as I've found things to give money to, I've never been able to out-give God,” Gary says. “It’s like a bucket with a hole in it. As you give away, the water leaks out the bottom of the bucket. But it fills up faster than it leaks.”
Gary cites Luke 12:48, which says “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
“So there is an expectation,” says Gary. “What we get isn't all ours. It is a journey. It has its challenges because we need to do it right. He didn’t say ‘be a foolish giver.’ But if we are a generous giver and we research what we give to, we can have a real impact. For those of us who are Christians, it’s the most amazing way of demonstrating our faith and leading by example.”
2. Put Away Your Scattergun. “Rather than a scatter gun approach to giving,” Gary says, “we probably should try and be focused on what is on our heart. We sell toys, and so we give to families and children. Anything that comes in that involves families and children, we'll probably read the application letter twice. We're seeing a huge raising of awareness for autism. If these youngsters are struggling at that young age, what's life going to be for them?”
“Whatever it is that you are passionate about,” Gary says, “go with that. You then won't feel guilty when [a charity] is outside your scope because you can't support everybody. Everybody who writes to me personally, I write back personally with our decision, yes or sorry, no. This process helps us identify what the ‘yeses’ are.”
For charities that are in his scope, Gary takes the next step of investigating the charities’ balance sheets. “There are lots of charities that have huge cash reserves. They're sitting on enough money. I know it's right to have ‘reserve policies.’ It’s reasonable to have three to six months’ worth of cash in the bank so you can honor your commitments. But some charities have two years’ costs in cash, any donation I make today is not going to make a difference to anybody's life today.”
Gary gives this feedback to charities directly. “I write to them and I say, ‘Sorry, I think you're holding too much cash. Put the money to work that people have already given you.’ I even had somebody say, ‘It's a rainy day fund.’ And I say, ‘I know and I think it's pouring.’”
3. Motivate Others to Be Generous. Gary’s passion for generosity leads him to spark others’ generosity. “Generosity is much bigger than writing all the cheques ourselves,” he says. “Business leaders can facilitate generosity…Business can be a force for good.”
“I got off a plane and picked up the paper to find that there had been this massive catastrophe in Haiti. As I drove home, I kept thinking, ‘There must be something we can do.’ I felt God say to me, ‘Gary, you can't cry without water.’ I thought, ‘That's so strange... what are you talking about?’”
“About an hour later, I rang Samaritan's Purse and asked, ‘What are you doing in Haiti? What's the greatest need?’ They said, ‘Water.’ Then it made sense to me. ‘You can't cry without water.’
“I said, ‘How do we get water to Haiti?’ They said, “We need water purifiers because all the wells have caved in, we can take water from dirty ponds and put it through these purifiers run by solar panels.” The purifiers could clean roughly 25,000 gallons of water a day and cost £5000 pounds.
“I asked ‘How many can you get?’
“They said, ‘We could buy twenty in Florida,’ not far from Haiti.”
“So I started ringing around. I found other people were motivated by this. Within seven days, we bought 12. And within twenty days, we had raised money to buy 23. All sorts of people got involved.”
“People have got generosity in their hearts,” Gary says. “They just want to find a way to join in. Sometimes we just need to be a conduit to connect.”
“Most of the things we give to are related to children,” says Gary. Autism has become a focus area. When children with autism have meltdowns in the store, it’s easy for the public to think they’re having a tantrum. “We had the UK National Autistic Society present to our store managers to help us be more understanding and less judgmental,” says Gary.
“I didn't become a Christian until I was 33. And if I hadn't become a Christian, I wouldn't be having this conversation because I only earned money because it was for me. As Christians, we love supporting children's Christian holiday weeks. My Christian faith has motivated my giving; therefore we support Christian camps that happen in the summer in the UK.”