It’s always been my dream to have gobs of money, so much beyond what it would take to make my family’s life comfortable that it would allow me to be a major donor to the causes I believe in. More than being able to order lobster for dinner every night, having a live-in hairdresser, or owning a villa in Lake Como, having the means for philanthropy with a capital P is my idea of true luxury.
The fact, of course, is that few of us will ever join the stratosphere of philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, and their nearly 170 billionaire cohorts who have so much wealth that they’ve made the Giving Pledge to donate at least half of their net worth to charitable causes in their lifetimes. (It fairly boggles the mind that there are more than 170 billionaires around to sign the pledge in any case, much less that they account for fewer than 10 percent of billionaires worldwide, but that’s fodder for another time.)
Coming back down to earth, what’s important to recognize is that philanthropy in every form and at any level is vital to our communities, our world, and not even to be selfish about it, it’s important to our own personal senses of humanity and self-worth.
The 3 Things You Can Give
The great thing is that the means for giving back are available to everyone, and they don’t necessarily involve cash. Personal treasure is only one of the triumvirate of assets you can donate. The other two are time, and talent.
Starting with treasure, even if things are no longer valuable to you, they may be valuable to someone else. Vehicles, for example. You’re probably aware of organizations that accept donations of used cars, but you may not know that you can also donate your old, ignored boat to an organization that will arrange to collect it and auction it off for charity. What is it they say about the two happiest times in a boat owner’s life… the day they buy it and the day they sell it? It’s happier still to donate it to a good cause.
Don’t have tangible assets to donate? Your time and talent can be equally or even more valuable. Make an inventory of all the skills you have, and imagine how many places they could be useful. Naturally, if you’ve got professional credentials in law, accounting, marketing, or any number of other areas, there are nonprofit organizations that would welcome your help with open arms. Even if it’s just for a few hours a week, offering your professional services pro bono can be a great gift to charities that couldn’t otherwise afford them.
Don’t let it stop you, though, if you have other kinds of talents to offer. You may be good at organizing, at talking to people on the phone, at coaching a sport, at cooking for a crowd. You may know how to paint a wall, swing a hammer, plant a tree, or translate from one language to another. And while you may not recognize it as a talent, you may simply have a natural gift that puts people at ease and makes them comfortable in uncomfortable circumstances.
Even if you’re not sure you know how to do anything at all that could benefit someone else, forget the fact that you’re probably entirely wrong about that, and volunteer your time anyway. Just put it out there. As in, hey, I appreciate what your organization does. How can I help? You’d be amazed at what you can find within yourself or learn to contribute.
The Rewards for Giving
The top of the list is that doing good just feels right. At its best, donating your treasure, time, or talent is something you do freely because you’re grateful for your blessings and want to share them with others who may not have as many.
Even at that, there’s nothing wrong with receiving a few less saintly personal benefits from giving.
For one, the sense of satisfaction you can get from making a difference, whether it’s in the life of one individual in your neighborhood or in a community somewhere across the globe.
For another, volunteering gives you the chance to learn new skills and refine old ones. Not only does it add polish to your resume, but it could lead to a new career opportunity you’d never considered before.
And finally, there’s the fun of meeting new people. Volunteering is a great way to make friends by joining together on a common goal with people you never would have met otherwise. Who knows, it could even lead to love!
What is your favorite way to give back? Let us know in the comments.
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