/ General /Financing
Hope with Modest Needs
Share This Article
Financing Hope with Modest Needs
By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer
Geneva and her husband struggle each
month to make ends meet since she had to leave her job
last year to care full-time for her daughter. Her
daughter suffers from Down’s syndrome, ALL leukemia, and
severe anemia. As the cold winter months in Ohio
approached, they worried how they would heat their home.
The fuel companies required a minimum delivery of 250
gallons to fill the tank in order to deliver fuel and
after basic necessities of mortgage, food, and medical
supplies for Geneva’s daughter, there wasn’t enough
money left. They tried to borrow funds from relatives to
help, yet no one was able to assist them. In
desperation, Geneva contacted Modest Needs.
Modest Needs began as a way for its founder Dr. Keith P.
Taylor to engage in philanthropy while still making a
difference in the lives around him. He knew he could not
possibly afford large gifts, and he noticed that many
families struggled with day-to-day expenses where modest
amounts could make a significant impact on their lives.
“You don’t have to be rich to change someone’s life,”
Modest Needs fills a much-needed gap in many lives. For
example, according to the 2-1-1 Texas Information and
Referral Network, more than 52 percent of callers who
request assistance do so for basic needs. Many of these
needs include utility assistance, rental/mortgage
assistance, health care, and public benefits. Beth Wick,
Program Coordinator for 2-1-1 Texas says, “Many of the
people who call need help to make ends meet; sometimes
it’s a one-time request, while others need help from
month to month.”
Unfortunately, the statistics reported by Texas are
common across the United States and much of Canada.
According to theory underlying Maslow’s Hierarchy of
Needs, in order to grow in substantive areas,
individuals must have their basic needs meet (food,
water, and shelter) first. Until this happens,
individuals become stuck in a chronic cycle until these
needs are met.
In 2002, Dr. Taylor acted on his desire to see many
people move beyond their basic, every day needs. He
devoted 10 percent of his gross income – approximately
$350 per month – to help people move from dependence to
self-sufficiency. He leverages the power of the Internet
to attract other donors who may have relatively small
amounts of money to give, but together Taylor and these
donors are changing the face of philanthropy.
“Modest Needs attracts those donors who want to feel
that their giving is significant, even if it is on a
much smaller scale than the Warren Buffets and Bill
Gates of the world,” states Taylor. “These donors want
to offer something and they share the idea that their
dollars make an impact.”
Many of the people who have received help through Modest
Needs are caregivers in one form or another. Geneva
cares for a chronically ill child and found her need for
heating oil met through Modest Needs. Her thank you
letter stated, “Thank you to all who helped our family
get heating oil for our home. The cold weather has
already begun and we have been trying our best to keep
the kids warm since our fuel oil tank has been empty
since last winter. God bless all of you for your
kindness and helping our family stay warm this winter
Taylor remembers the story of a gentleman from Canada
who received help from Modest Needs. This gentleman had
a child with a crippling illness and the family had
spent countless dollars remodeling their home to make it
wheelchair accessible. Finally, the gentleman ran out of
money before he could purchase a vehicle that would
allow for easy transport. The van they had could not be
retrofit; however, he decided that he could build a ramp
into the van that would allow the wheelchair to travel.
His proposal to Modest Needs was that if the
organization would supply the material needs, he would
build the ramp himself.
Taylor states, “He sent us pictures of the ramp when it
was finished! With a small investment, this family was
able to have an accessible van; there was no need to
spend thousands of dollars for a handicap accessible
Another story is that of a young student in New York who
wanted her brother to be able to leave their second
story apartment despite his mobility issues. The problem
was getting a stair lift that would make coming and
going from the apartment easier. Taylor recalls, “This
situation presented a particularly difficult dilemma.
The stair lift was $15,000, well above our capacity to
help. I called the young lady and challenged her to
raise $14,000. If she could do that, Modest Needs would
pay the remaining $1,000.” The young lady did just that
– she raised $14,000 from individuals, businesses and
other foundations and Taylor delivered on his promise
that Modest Needs would pay the difference.
Of course there are limits to the types of assistance
that Modest Needs can provide. The typical grant is $380
and always less than $1,000. “Beyond $1,000 and we feel
the need is no longer modest,” Taylor says.
There are three categories of grants that Modest Needs
Self-sufficiency grants – prevent an otherwise
self-sufficient person or family from entering the cycle
of poverty when a financial burden arises due to a small
Back-to-Work grants – provide self-sufficiency to
willing individuals who may be limited in returning to
the workplace by a small expense. Examples of these
grants are purchasing special tools or paying licensing
fees that may be otherwise out of reach.
Independent Living/Quality of Life grants – assist those
who are not able to work, yet these individuals want to
continue living independently despite a small need or
unexpected expense that no other organization can meet.
Individuals who desire help from Modest Needs must first
fill out an online application. If it is approved to
move further through the process, staff at Modest Needs
will contact the individual for written documentation of
the request. For example, if the need is for a
specialized piece of medical equipment, Modest Needs
will ask for copies of pricing for the equipment from
the vendor where the equipment will be purchased. Once
the documentation is approved, the request is placed on
the Modest Needs website.
“Just because a need is on the website,” says Taylor,
“does not mean that it is automatically funded. Our
donors help score the applications in an effort to
prioritize the funding that we have each week.”
Taylor adds that IRS regulations prohibit donors from
designating their donations to assist a specific
individual. Rather donors are involved in ranking
applications and staff makes the final decisions on who
is assisted based on the final scoring and the amount of
money available each week for assistance. In order to
determine that funds are used responsibly, money is
never given directly to the applicant. Rather, Modest
Needs mails a check to the vendor or creditor on behalf
of the individual.
Applications that are not funded remain on the website
and can continue to be scored each week for 30 days.
After that, the application is removed from the site and
if the score is high enough, the individual is invited
to resubmit their application as long as the need
In 2006, donors have had the special privilege of
knowing that their dollars are serving even more people.
An anonymous celebrity donor has pledged to match each
dollar raised by Modest Needs. For the first time since
Modest Needs was formed, the organization has given away
100 percent of its donor dollars and used the
celebrity’s funds for operational expenses, as well as
giving to meet the needs of individuals who request help
from Modest Needs.
Hundreds of persons seek help from Modest Needs each
month, bringing an unfortunate dilemma. “There will
never be enough money to meet the needs,” says Taylor.
“There are people who will not get assistance from
Modest Needs, even though they have legitimate
Caregivers may find that their needs fit the guidelines
for Modest Needs and feel that they can apply for
assistance. At the same time, some individuals may feel
that they have a few dollars to donate each month to
help persons who may not otherwise get assistance.
Taylor invites both categories of individuals to visit
Modest Needs and find out how they may give or get help.
For more information about Modest Needs, contact
information is available online at www.modestneeds.org.