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Give a Little Bit

by Heather Egland


If you start from the idea that most people are good, you can assume that most people want to do good and that most people would help others in need if they could. People need so much all over the world that the prospect of

Photo: www.modestneeds.org

one person lending a helping hand can seem like a drop in the ocean. Many charities exist that our worthy of our time, our money, and our effort. But average people out there do not often think of themselves as having enough expendable anything to be able to contribute enough to make a difference. People can lose interest in contributing to charities because they can’t see the direct effect their contribution makes.

Enter Modest Needs, a charity founded by Keith Taylor, a 35-year old professor at Middle Tennessee State University. Realizing that so many needs go unmet, Keith also realized that no one person can help everyone. But everyone can help somebody.


Many people who don’t fit the welfare profile are living paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes an emergency or unexpected expense arises and people have to choose between necessities like paying a utility bill or buying clothes for their children. They can ask Modest Needs to help them pay these unexpected expenses, which can be the result of divorce, death, car trouble, corporate fraud…the list goes on. Each request for assistance is scrutinized by Keith to determine that the need is legitimate and that assistance would improve the quality of that person's life over the long term.

The site does not seek to enable people to continue a lifestyle that they cannot afford, for example, by delaying the inevitable repossession of a vehicle; it seeks to help people realize their means and to live within them. For some people the ratio of debt to income is far too high for Modest Needs to be able to help over the long term. For these cases Keith himself is a shining example of someone who learned he could be happy with less: he moved to a smaller, less expensive apartment and sold possessions to fund the site and to lift the stress that accompanies having a high debt to income ratio.

The theory behind Modest Needs is that even those who need this kind of help can still afford to help someone else, if everyone is willing to put others first. To quote Keith, "Even in the times that I was closest to eviction, I always could have come up with $5 if that meant doing something that I really wanted to do." Regardless of a person's misfortune, someone else is less fortunate - always - so why expect others to help you out if you won't spare a minimum to help someone who might be in a worse predicament?

Photo: www.modestneeds.org

For personal reasons the site is reluctant to solicit large corporations and wealthy individuals. To quote Keith again, "If we all work together with what we have, we can all help one another a great deal." Modest Needs asks anyone requesting help from the site to make a small one-time contribution – even if it is only a dollar – to go toward helping someone else. Not everyone does this and, consequently, the disparity between requests for help and gifts to the site is extremely large.

To be fair, part of the reason for this disparity is that some requests for help are not modest needs at all. Some people ask for help paying off outrageous credit card debt, or for help paying a utility that obviously hasn’t been paid in some time. Some requests are downright ridiculous – $1000 to go on a cruise (not a need), or $400 to buy a new pet (you can get a pet for free). The priority of Modest Needs is to fund small one-time expenses for which lack of funding would have far-reaching consequences in that person’s life.

Modest Needs embodies the belief that, given the benefit of the doubt, most people will do the right thing. Keith posts a number of examples where people who had asked for assistance suddenly discovered that they didn't need the assistance anymore and contacted him to tell him as much. In some cases, those people had already been told they were going to receive the assistance


One of the site's goals is to become self sufficient via an endowment. Originally the site was setting aside a portion of funds it received toward setting up that endowment, but that meant the site was not distributing all the money it could for the month, which was unacceptable to Keith. He is currently seeking one-time donations or monthly pledges from everyone who visits the site in the hopes that the endowment can be created by the sheer magnitude of response. If you would like to contribute to this worthy cause you may contact Modest Needs directly or click on the pledge box to set up either a one-time donation or a


a month to Modest Needs via PayPal. Email us to cancel.

monthly pledge via PayPal. All gifts are tax deductible and the benefit of using PayPal is they will keep records of your donations in a form that is acceptable to the IRS.

Requests and finances are posted on the site so recipients and donors can view the status of requests as well as the amount of cash available for dispersal. Modest Needs is registered with Guidestar.com, which is a national database of non-profit organizations.

In addition to keepgoing, CNN, NPR, The Today Show, and People magazine have featured Modest Needs. If you contribute to Modest Needs as a result of visiting keepgoing , please drop Keith a line and let him know.


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Copyright©2002 by Heather Egland.

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