2017 Day of Giving- What Truett Cathy taught me on GIVING

What Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, taught me about giving. Key lessons for us to consider on this day of giving.

Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, not only made a great chicken sandwich, he made a mark on giving. As we celebrate this ‘Day of Giving’ in America, I wanted to share some core thoughts that Truett gave me and several other young businessmen several years ago at his mountain retreat in Alabama. These simple nuggets can have a tremendous impact on your life, as it did mine.

Truett is a simple man with a big vision and a big heart. There are not enough pages in a book to completely articulate all that he is accomplishing. Accomplishing? But Truett has passed away three years ago. How can he still be accomplishing? Truett knew that legacy and giving can continue, even after death. Through his Godly character, his legacy lives on. Through his family, his giving gives on.

Truett invited a few young businessmen to his retreat and gifted us with 24+ hours of just him. In this short time, Truett shared his successes and failures in life, but ultimately drew us in on his love in serving others by giving. There were two simple concepts:

1.    Making it gives more opportunity to give it

2.    Giving it requires as much (if not more) stewardship as making it

He knew the pull the thousands of non-profits had on successful businesses and business people. He knew it was hard to say no, but he did know that when we say ‘yes’ to something, in return we were saying ‘no’ to something else. In this, he gave some guidance to get the most impact from their giving.

1.    If giving under $100,000 per year, give to 3 or less organizations

2.    When you select the 3 organizations, make it a family decision (business family or your family). When you make it a family decision, involve each person directly in the giving decisions.

3.    When you give, give large to make a real impact, not a dent in their overall budget. If a larger non-profit, find something you can personally fund and take on as a family.

4.    When you give, get personally involved in your investment and think long-term. He wasn’t talking about taking a board position, but involving the family in visiting the organization and the areas you invested in.

It was just after our mountain meeting with Truett that I sold our second business and had a larger portion to donate that year. We did as Truett had taught that weekend. We got the family together and talked about how we could help and serve others in our giving. Our family decided we wanted to put 40% of the money in an orphanage. We didn’t want to put $5000 in multiple orphanages, we wanted to put a large portion into one orphanage so we could make a real, long-term difference. Six months after we selected our orphanage, my oldest daughter and I flew to Guatemala to spend a week at the orphanage. This visit made a huge impact on her life. The next year, our entire family spent Christmas vacation at the orphanage, staying through the New Year’s celebration. So what impact has this had on our family? First, my kids want to go back every year. We pray each night for the girls, and they remind me to keep investing in the lives of these girls. In January, my oldest daughter is giving 6-months of her life to serve others overseas.

Truett was a simple man, who made a simple sandwich but made a tremendous difference in the lives of many. Heed his advice in giving to a few, giving a lot and involving your family. As you can see in my story, my giving is now lived out in the lives of my children. When I am gone, this spirit of generosity will hopefully continue for generations.

When you get asked at the checkout or via a phone call to give, you can then say, “we have already selected our non-profits for the year” without any regret or hesitation. Live generously! Thank you Truett for giving our family a blessing through the life you lived.

Mitch Smith
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