Philanthropy is not just about money.
Written by Anna Pikovsky Auerbach & Julie A. Murray
of Moonridge Group Philanthropy Catalysts
Philanthropy may be an intimidating word to many, but few people actually know that it comes from several Greek words, which jointly mean “love of humanity.” And that is a simple concept. Giving back not only helps us to do good in the world, but it can be inspiring and uplifting for the giver. Research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health (lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression), and that these benefits are even more pronounced for the elderly.
Particularly at this time of year when the Halloween costumes are already out on the shelves and turkey and stuffing are just around the corner, we focus on not only how thankful we are, but also on how we can help others. For some people, giving comes naturally. For others, they may want to give back but often don’t know where to begin.
Giving can mean many things, and philanthropy does not mean just writing a big check. Giving back can mean money, volunteering, or in-kinds goods. Most nonprofits are just as happy to receive your time and talents as they are to receive a donation. And often, expertise is harder to find than funding sources. Also, although many associate volunteering with painting houses and cleaning up playgrounds, it can take the form of participating on a board of directors or advisory board, or through something called “skill-based volunteering.”
Skill-based volunteering can include anything from helping a nonprofit file its tax return, getting its legal contracts in order, developing a market campaign or brochure, or updating its website to really anything that helps it do what it does better. Non-profits also greatly appreciate in-kind donations such as office furniture, computer equipment, and other materials. (Always check with your nonprofit before dropping off a trunk full of items.)
Nonprofits often have very limited staff and resources with which to carry on their incredible social missions. They always look for ways to diversify revenue streams, so anything you can give, in any amount, matters.
What can you do?
- Find a cause or organization you are passionate about.
- Think about what you can do to give back – be it time, money, or in-kind resources. Maybe it’s a particular skill you have, or something you do at work that you are particularly good at.
- Connect with the organization and ask what you can do to help. You’d be surprised at the opportunities that come up when you just ask. Finally, find a way to build an ongoing relationship. Join a Board or a committee, and stay in touch with the organization throughout the year.
Research the causes important to you
- Children & Youth
- Education & Literacy
- Health & Medicine
- Arts & Culture
- Advocacy & Human Rights
- Homeless & Housing
Where to FInd volunteer opportunties