Bob Goff Turns the Idea of Charity Upside Down

Donald Miller

My friend Bob Goff started a school in Uganda where he provides an education for children who come from what any American would consider extreme poverty. But you best not call Restore International a charity. Bob won’t have it for a second. Instead of taking funds from wealthy Americans, the kids at Restore are actually growing crops and selling them in order to donate the money to American charities! Why? Because Bob Goff wants to instill dignity and purpose in the lives of his students.

Here’s a guest blog from Justin Zoradi, the Marketing Director for The Mentoring Project, the non-profit I started three years ago. Justin reflects on his interaction with Bob and the unusual emotions involved in accepting money from children a half world away:

Bob Goff, founder of Restore International, called me last week to let us know young men from The Restore Leadership Academy have decided to make a donation to The Mentoring Project to provide mentors for kids in Portland, Oregon.

Apparently, with the help of Restore, a number of these young men have started growing & selling their own crops. After hearing about The Mentoring Project, they wanted to give a small portion of their profits to our work.  

child soldierWhen we heard this news we were shocked, and a little unnerved. What were these young men thinking? Are we seriously going to accept donations from kids in Uganda? Many of these students were former child soldiers, their lives upended by poverty, conflict, and civil unrest, and now they want to give to The Mentoring Project?

It’s easy to be cynical about something like this and assume it’s not in the best interest of The Mentoring Project to accept donations from young people who are, for the most part, in a much harder situation than the fatherless boys in Portland.

But in talking to Bob about it, we realized that accepting the contributions and allowing Ugandan youth the opportunity to give generously is the most empowering thing we can do.

Bob described these students as the future leaders of Uganda and how this donation is a powerful incentive for the development of their country. The gift is a boost for us, but also an act of nation-building for them. 

Due to an eclectic mix of colonialism, foreign investment, and resource allocation, the world of international aid and development is dominated by 1st world countries supporting the livelihoods of 3rd world countries. Rarely, is it the other way around.

Coincidentally, alongside my work with The Mentoring Project, I run an international education organization calledThese Numbers Have Faces. As both organizations solicit support through various means, it’s exciting, and also inspiring, to see ordinary Americans, Canadians, and Europeans feeling empowered and overjoyed to give to our work in America and South Africa. 

We’ve learned that there is something meaningful and deeply enriching in the act of giving itself, regardless of the amount.

Remember the parable Jesus told about the widow who gave her last coin to the poor in Mark 12? In the same vein, let’s not take away the opportunity for the boys from Uganda to be blessed by God and experience the joy of giving.

We wanted the students in Uganda to know how much we appreciate their donations, so we mailed them a few copies of this thank you page showing one of the mentees they are helping us support here in Portland.

Basically, Restore International is turning charity on its head. They are saying that the privilege of financial progress and the joy of financial generosity shouldn’t be reserved exclusively for the global north. And, maybe if we gave the global south more opportunities to experience the joys of giving, they’d be more likely to pull their own countries out of poverty. 

Needless to say, we’re just thrilled to be along for the ride.

– Justin Zoradi, Marketing Director, The Mentoring Project

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller has been telling his story for more than a decade, now he wants to help you tell yours. He’s helped over 1,000 companies clarify their message through the StoryBrand Workshops. For an introduction to what he’s doing now, check out the 5 Minute Marketing Makeover.