Resources The Power of Giving

Become an Everyday Philanthropist

You work hard and you play hard. But some sense of satisfaction seems to be missing from you life. What could it be? Perhaps you need to consider the art of philanthropy. Giving to others in need, an institution you support, or a cause that concerns you is at the heart of philanthropy. And here’s the best news yet—you don’t need to be a millionaire to practice philanthropy.

Start with a personal inventory. First things first, schedule a quiet time to reflect on your passions, interests and which social issues you trouble you. Use this period of reflection to identify institutions you use like the YWCA, a local museum, or community health clinic. If you don’t know where to begin—start in your own backyard. Read local papers, check out the bulletin board at your favorite coffeehouse, ask friends, family or faith leader for suggestions. But you must schedule this time. If you don’t make a date to do this initial work you may never find the time to become a philanthropist.

Philanthropy is all about giving but it’s not only about giving money. You can give your time by volunteering. You can give your skills by tutoring. You can give your experience by leading organizing a fundraising event.

Sometimes giving you time isn’t enough. Money may be required to solve a dire problem like natural disaster relief or to provide funds for a food bank in crisis.

How do you find funds to donate when your funds are allocated for your monthly bills and personal savings? Well, the first thing you never do is to go into debt. A successful philanthropist needs to have peace of mind and give only when they budget their gift. Get into debt and you’ve become the problem that needs to be solved—not the solution you hoped to provide.

A practical way to generate some funds is to conduct a personal inventory. Take a tour around you home paying special attention to closets, basements, attics, junk drawers, and the space under the bed. Chances are that you have far more possessions than you actually use and that many of these items haven’t been used in several years. Consider asking a friend to join you in this process. They don’t have your sentimental attachments to items and the will help make rational decisions in favor of philanthropy.

Set up four piles—one to sell, one to donate, one to keep, and one to recycle. Remember to recycle. Don’t donate items that are broken or ripped; only donate useable items. The end result of this process will be hard cash to support a worthy cause and an uncluttered living space filled with light. Sell the items at your own yard sale or rent a table at a local flea market for larger crowds.

What other ways do you practice being an everyday philanthropist?