Modest Needs began when Keith Taylor was an English professor at Middle Tennessee State University. He created a website, offering small portions of his salary to people with, well, modest needs. In 2002, the site became a full-time operation, and, in 2003, he moved the organization to its current Manhattan office.
Recipients apply to the site for small grants, like a doctor bill or car maintenance. Applications then go through an extensive screening process where frivolous requests are weeded out. Accepted applicants are then required to provide up to 15 documents to prove their needs for a grant. Once finalized, the accepted requests are then posted on the Modest Needs site for 45 days.
The average grant is about $560, but donations can be as small as $10. Donors don’t usually decide on specific recipients, but rather a category of recipient, like military families, single parents, or abuse victims. The money is then paid directly to the doctor, bank, or mechanic by Modest Needs. The grants normally satisfy short-term needs, as only about 10 percent of recipients apply again after receiving grants. Seven out of 10 recipients go on to become donors, which is the beauty of the program.
Why Modest Needs? Why try to help people in poverty with life’s little emergencies?
Modest Needs is an organization created to prevent poverty—a life raft for those who are on the brink of financial ruin. So many of us, including myself, have been in a position where all they need is a little help one time to prevent them from completely going under. Not everyone has friends or family who can give to them in a time of need. I know how that feels; I’ve been there, and I’ve done my best to create a place for people to turn when they have no one else who can help them. Modest Needs is that place.
Are you a good man? Why or why not?
I certainly strive to be. One thing that I can’t deny is that I have an overwhelming empathy for people, particularly those who are struggling. Life is hard. Most of us know that. And I find myself moved to do whatever I can when I see good people in pain. Am I perfect? No, but am I good? I think if you asked my friends and family and colleagues that they would tell you “yes.” Because being good—to them, and to others—is a top priority in my life.
What makes a good man, in your eyes?
A good man is, most importantly, a man who does what he thinks is right. He doesn’t succumb to stereotypes about men: that they can be cruel or uncaring, that they aren’t tender, that they lack compassion. He is a person of integrity, true to his word, with enough confidence to do what he thinks is right and enough humility to hear the genuine and constructive criticism of others. And most importantly, good men give generously, reach out to others as they can, with what they have, because giving is the ultimate act of compassion, and compassion is the foundation of integrity.
Who has been the ultimate good man in your life?
My father. Everything I know about what makes a “good man” I learned through his example. Indeed, he continues to inspire me daily, and I consider myself extremely fortunate that my father is not merely my father, but a very good friend.
What other men would you nominate as a “Man of the Day?” What guys, like you, are doing equally awesome things?
I’m a big fan of Herb Alpert, who made a name for himself playing the horn in the 60’s and 70’s but who is now one of the single greatest, most generous, and most compassionate philanthropists working in the United States. I’m also a very big fan of Peter Thum, who founded Ethos Water, and Chris Anderson, the curator of TED.