Imagine giving for the very best reasons

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The Sunday after Thanksgiving, we promised to share with you information about a better way of giving that’s headed Kootenai County’s way.

Today we make good on that pledge by introducing you to Charity Reimagined. The nonprofit is led by well-known financial expert and resourceful community activist Maggie Lyons.

Here’s something you need to know about Maggie: She hates the spotlight.

She’s the rarest of humans: She’d rather listen than talk. She’d prefer to do the heavy lifting and let someone else get the credit.

The Press nudged Maggie into the spotlight for today’s front-page story about her new organization, and she agreed only because the cause is so critically important for anyone who hopes to change the charitable landscape in our community.

“Please,” she said at one point, “don’t make this about me. It’s not about me at all.”

OK then. We’ll make it about Mark Twain.

Twain wrote an essay late in life that was banned for years because it was considered sacrilegious. “What is Man” explored, in the simplest terms, what motivates people. And the conclusion Twain reached was this: What motivates people is whatever makes them feel good. Even the most benevolent acts, he posited, ultimately come down to the benefactor’s feeling of self-satisfaction, not any outward impact.

Whether you agree with the bard of the mighty Mississip or not isn’t terribly important here. What matters is that people on the giving side of a charitable equation can honestly assess their motives. That way they can be more effective in helping their neighbors on the other side of the equation.

And that’s what Charity Reimagined is really all about.

If you simply want to feel good by imparting some of your resources — money, time, endorsements — then the long-term product of your gifts probably doesn’t much matter. But if you really want to help people help themselves, Maggie and her new organization are just what you need.

Another Mark — Tucker, head of the local United Way — is a member of the small local army mustering around the mission of Charity Reimagined. Like Twain, he sees the problem more clearly than most.

“What recent research is making us realize,” he said, “is that no matter how much you may be trying to help, it could actually have adverse effects.”

Maggie Lyons and her expert team want to reverse those adverse effects. Charity Reimagined charges nothing for its consulting services, so there’s no barrier preventing board members, pastors, CEOs and presidents of Kootenai County-based nonprofits to explore ways they might be more effective in their worthy missions.

To be clear, there’s likely a lot of hard work ahead. But nobody ever said serious soul-searching was going to be easy. In Kootenai County’s case, the smart money says it will all be worth it.

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