There are three things I’ll never forget about March 2020. One was my wife, a nurse, explaining to her medically ignorant husband about how a new type of coronavirus was about to change the world. Second, I recall sitting at a restaurant and telling our kids that it might be the last time we go anywhere in public for quite a while – a sort of beta to our upcoming year of social distancing. Lastly, I remember watching “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” a documentary about Mr. Rogers.
That third memory may seem a bit random until thinking back on the news coverage of the time. Alongside all the scary details being broadcasted about the Covid-19 outbreak, we also saw inspiring reports of our healthcare professionals and essential workers performing their hero’s work.
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”Fred Rogers
The famous advice from the mother of Mr. Rogers still rang true. All I had to do was “look for the helpers” in order to “always find people who are helping.”
How I Became a Covid Helper
In those final few days of March, I was closing out the quarter at work and wondering why I was fortunate enough to be healthy and still employed in a job that is so easily performed remotely while so many others had suddenly lost their job or even died of Covid. I wanted to be one of the helpers, but what could I do under stay-at-home orders?
Then I remembered the Gates Foundation. Three years ago, I had pledged to donate 100% of my income from this new client to charity. That represented the entirety of my normal year’s 10% charitable giving, except I was donating it all at the beginning of the year before earning the year’s wages. This was obviously a financial stretch, especially when considering the variability in a salesperson’s income. But once I started writing checks to so many great charities, I knew I was doing the right thing. I had put my faith in God to deliver the rest of my quota and resulting income, and he delivered to the tune of a 109% annual achievement.
I thought about doing something similar for 2020, but the idea really tested my faith. At the time, nobody really knew if the economy could withstand the pandemic or if things might collapse. Still, I felt called to do something. Once again, I placed my financial future in God’s hands and announced that I would donate 100% of my sales bonuses from all deals closed in the first half of 2020 to charities assisting with Covid-19 relief efforts. Given the worldwide financial uncertainty, I didn’t know how many contracts I would close in order to fund this pledge, which was happening in addition to my baseline 10% charitable giving. But I knew there were so many people who needed this money more than I did, so I wanted to pay forward any success that I may experience.
I felt a sense of relief almost immediately after making the announcement. I was no longer a helpless observer watching the pandemic unfold from my living room. I was now on a mission to find more prospective clients, create a valuable solution for them, and direct the financial rewards towards charitable organizations who were helping our nation and the world get through one of the biggest challenges of a generation. No sales compensation plan in the world could have motivated me better. And thankfully, many of my clients were inspired to close contracts as early as possible in order to maximize the bonuses I would earn from overachieving on my monthly and quarterly objectives.
How Did Things Work Out?
One year later, I am happy to report that I was able to donate more than I could have ever imagined when first making this commitment, especially after extending my pledge throughout all of 2020. Below are just a few of the fantastic organizations I was able to support throughout this year-long process:
- Gato Community Cares: a local restaurant providing free, daily to-go meals for people in need during Covid, many of whom were laid of restaurant workers.
- Coalition for Compassion and Justice: a local poverty-relief center providing housing, job training, and more.
- The Launch Pad: a teen center providing specialized tutoring for students struggling with remote learning.
- World Vision: offering worldwide Coronavirus response.
- Maui Food Bank: providing food distribution to those who have become unemployed by the loss of tourism on the island.
- My church’s benevolence fund.
- A direct cash donation to a family who experienced job loss due to Covid.
“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”Maya Angelou
It seems like we are finally starting to see some light at the end of the Covid tunnel. But one concerning trend I’ve noticed is that a lot of charitable organizations are really struggling right now after a year of decreased financial support and volunteer availability combined with increased needs by those that they serve. So, I’m going to change my approach a bit.
First, I am thrilled to have already received my two Covid vaccine shots. This means I can get back to volunteering with the various charities that I used to regularly work with before the social distancing restrictions hit. I even volunteered at a vaccine clinic recently, and it was quite motivating to see the beginning of the end of this terrible virus.
Second, I’m going to continue donating 100% of my sales bonuses to charity for the foreseeable future, but will instead rotate the theme each quarter, starting with:
- Q1-2021: organizations that uniquelly support women, in recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8.
- Q2-2021: worldwide Covid relief efforts, since so many countries are lagging the U.S. and other first world countries in vaccine distribution etc.
- Q3-2021: charities focused on children, from early childhood education to sports and other after-school programs.
- Q4-2021: faith-based, in observance of Christmas.
And finally, I’m going to try and become more like Mr. Rogers. I mean, this is a guy who taught us all so much as children, from touring factories and explaining how everything worked to how to be a better friend. I’ve been joking with my wife that my home office is a bit like the little house that Mr. Rogers would come into for each episode since I use an outside entrance to a mother-in-law apartment-style setup. I have always kept a set of slippers and a zip-up hoodie in my office since it can get a bit chilly working downstairs. Now, whenever I change in or out of the same basic setup that Fred Rogers would do when he started or ended his show, I remind myself of how a quiet mannered man changed the world from his living room and how I can try to do the same from mine!
So thank you, Mr. Rogers, for all you taught us! Even in the middle of a pandemic, each of us can try to make it a beautiful day in the neighborhood. It is truly my pleasure to include a donation to the Fred Rogers Center as part of my charitable pledge, and I hope that others who read this consider doing the same.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”Desmond Tutu
PS – This was not an easy post to write. I don’t want to appear boastful. But after my initial announcement, so many people have reached out telling me how they have been inspired to get more involved with a charitable cause that I decided to try and encourage even more people. We’re all busy and money doesn’t grow on trees. But we all have the ability to do a little bit of good here and there. Together, we truly can overwhelm the world.