The Godfather on Giving Back: It is Better to Give Than to Receive

The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

My name is Mark Wayman, and for the last eleven years I have owned an Executive Recruiting firm focused on gaming and high tech. Compensation starts at $100,000, average placement is $250,000, last year I placed eight executives north of a million dollars.

My passions are church and charity. Each time I place an executive, I donate a portion of the revenue to charity. This quarter those charities included Opportunity Village, Shade Tree, Noah's Animal House, Safe Nest, the Animal Foundation, the Epicurean Charitable Foundation and the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.

The holidays are a time when Americans focus on giving. Giving cards and gifts. Giving to church and charity. It's the most wonderful time of the year! As someone with a passion for philanthropy, here are a few of my thoughts on giving back.

It is Better to Give Than to Receive - Before you start thinking I'm some kind of saint, let's be clear, I am far from perfect. Was a "taker" for the first 40 years of my life. Spent every nickel I had on me, me, me. My house, my car, my vacation. My stuff! By the grace of God, when we sold our company in 2004, I had an epiphany similar to the Grinch, "Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!" For the last 11 years I have focused on giving back and helping others.

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year - The majority of charitable giving happens over the holidays. Wouldn't it be great if every day was Christmas? Philanthropy is an attitude. It's a lifestyle. It's a mindset - "Whatever you did for the least of My Brothers, you did for Me." You don't have to give a million dollars. Give what you are able, and do it all year, not just at Christmas. There are time when I get over my skis on charity (give more than my budget), however God always provides. It's like Christmas...you just have to BELIEVE.

My Passions are Children and Animals - There are 3,600 registered non-profits in Nevada. Obviously you can't support them all. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year, I select three or four charities to focus on for the following year. Would rather be good at three or four than mediocre at five or ten. My passions are causes that help children and animals for exactly one reason - they didn't pick their parents. You have to decide what YOUR passion is. What pulls at your heartstrings? Follow your passion!

I'm a HUGE Believer in Education - First person in my family to have a college degree. Undergrad from CSU Fullerton; MBA from Texas A&M. That stated, the 39% I pay in Federal taxes is to cover education. To my mind, our education system is failing, and throwing money at the problem is not the answer. Huge believer in education; not a believer in throwing money at a broken system. Education is not a charity.

Make Sure the Money Goes to the Cause, Part 1 - Over the years I have raised millions of dollars for charity. It never even occurred to me to "take a piece of the action." In other words, get paid to raise money. I do it because I'm exceedingly blessed and have a passion for helping those less fortunate. It comes from my heart. As such, I don't support "professional fundraisers" that get paid to raise money for non-profits. I want 100% of my donation to help the people it's intended to help.

Make Sure the Money Goes to the Cause, Part 2 - Be sure to investigate how your charity dollars are spent. If the charity raises $1,000,000, the CEO should NOT be getting $300,000. I have abandoned several charities over the years that paid their executive staff inflated compensation packages and/or had high administrative overhead. At the end of the day, be sure your donation is being used to help people and not fund the CEOs lifestyle.

If You are on the Board...Get on Board - This is probably the one part of charity that I dread, the Board of Directors. Everyone wants to be on a Board. Great resume builder. And THAT is the problem. Many of the people just want the PR. They don't show for the Board meetings. They don't donate or raise money. Most non-profits require a $5,000 give/get. Meaning you either donate $5,000 (you or your company) or you raise $5,000 from outside sources. I was on the Board of a charity with 25 Board Members. Maybe 10 showed up for the meetings. Worse yet, 6 of the 25 never donated or raised a penny. Unfortunately, this is pretty common. If you are a Board Member, do three things. Show up for the meetings. Fulfill your give/get. Donate your time and talent to support the cause.

Pseudo Charities and Vanity Projects - We have thousands of charities in Nevada, and I'm sure they are all lovely. But in some cases, I'm challenged to understand how they are a charity. The Smith Center is a prime example. I love the Smith Center and I love Broadway shows. That stated, it's not a charity and it took millions and millions of dollars away from non-profits that desperately needed funding. In another example, there is a charity that does exactly what Goodwill does, except Goodwill has been doing it forever. Again, be sure to research your cause and ensure it's a charity and not a vanity project.

There are MANY Ways to Contribute - You don't have to write a check! So many times people say, "Mark, I don't have your financial resources." Don't think you have to donate money. Non-profits are always looking for Board Members and volunteers. When I was on the Board of Make-A-Wish I used to say, "Anyone can write a check. The true heroes are the wish granters that volunteer their time to work with the kids." Donating your time is far more valuable than writing a check. Many years ago someone asked me for free tickets to a charity event I was hosting. Told him the ticket was $50. Pretty reasonable. This is a guy who bought a Starbucks every morning and went drinking pretty much every night. Guarantee you his nightly bar tab was at least $50. I'm not judging, just saying that you do have to make responsible choices if you want be a philanthropist. You will have to give up something for yourself...to help others. God bless you!