In 19th Century Central Europe, a fracture network of feudal micro-states engulfed the region with perpetual warfare in their pursuit of power and dominion. The resulting consequences were poverty, disease, starvation, and lawlessness.
But in a small farming town near Frankfurt, one man understood the value of a stable and reliable economy during uncertain times. That man was Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen.
During a devastating winter famine, Friedrich was inspired the to help his most vulnerable neighbors survive. To do so, he started a cooperative bakery that gave fresh bread to those suffering worst in the community, on a low interest line of credit. With this one simple act of cooperative production and giving, Friedrich helped save lives and ignited a financial revolution.
Five years later, following his cooperative model, he started the first modern credit union. The credit union model was so successful in building a financial infrastructure for the fractured Central European markets and communities, it helped provide the stability necessary to unify and establish the world’s fourth largest economy; a country today we call Germany.
Since Friedrich’s spark of innovation, benevolent societies and niche community financial organizations have continued thrive. Some of the greatest success stories can be found in various American credit unions; a vast network of non-profit organizations that don’t reward their members with profits, but with stable, low-interest financial products, and other services.
Under this model, credit unions helped organize, and streamline, savings and capital management of numerous Americans, from school teachers, to agrarians, airplane manufacturers, and many others.
From these stories from economic history we learn keeping wealth and monies flowing among neighbors is one of the best ways to ensure the health and growth of a community. This holiday season, we want to encourage everyone in Eastern Washington to give whatever way they sustainably can. Whether you donate a few hours of your time and knowledge as a consultant, pledge $1 per day, decorate at a fundraiser, or just offer to help at a front desk, you can be of service in more ways than you know.
It’s also a wonderful way to meet new people with whom you share common values, or as a family activity. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a new passion or tradition.
Getting out and lending a hand makes a difference! When local organizations and non-profit missions flourish, so do the individuals of which they are a part. By volunteering and donating, you aren’t just on the coattails of a success story, you are the success story; you are the builder of your own better world.
Giving back can also be a lot. It involves new people, places, ideas, challenges, and commitments not every person can make. Take a look at your means and abilities.
Find what you can give comfortably, sustainably, and reliably over a period of time. Commit to that, adjust accordingly, but integrate it in your life so it becomes a part of you, your family, and your diet of outreach. Just like Friedrich, you never know when one small act of kindness can turn into an international sensation!
To all our friends and neighbors, we wish you a merry Christmas, joyful Holidays, and successful New Year.
Tavis Hamilton is director of marketing and public relations for Equilus Capital Partners, LLC an SEC/FINRA registered private capital equity firm investing members’ holdings in diversified asset, with a focus in Northwest real estate development.