Philanthropy: Active, ongoing effort in pursuit of improving human welfare. “Never respect people merely for their riches, but rather for their philanthropy; we do not value the sun for its height, but for its use.” (Gamaliel Bailey) We all desire to find purpose through giving. When confronted with a situation where sympathy and words of comfort aren’t enough, the logical next step is to take action. In this case: financial action. As with all things, there are best practices that boost the impact of your giving, keep reading for 3 skills of highly effective philanthropist.
The best philanthropists are:
Writing a check for the first cause that knocks at your door is tempting. It’s also unwise. Wherever your money goes, so goes your association. Providing funding essentially aligns your name, your brand, and your morals with that cause. Consequently, caution is crucial. Anything worth supporting is worth researching. Look into the history of the establishment, dissect its mission statement, study the staff. Ask questions. Take your time. Check more than one source. Once you do your due diligence if you still feel motivated to provide assistance, go forth with confidence. You’ve done your homework and can rest assured that you made the best decision for both parties. But don’t become lax. If this is a long-term partnership, make sure to schedule occasional check-ins to confirm that your values still line up with their current mission. Your research should also include asking the company whether your contributions are serving the purpose you intended them to, or whether changes need to be made. Stay engaged.
Being research-oriented also means actively seeking causes that pull on your heartstrings, instead of waiting for them to find you. Make a list of your passions and concerns, then look up charities and businesses that could use your help. Taking these steps will provide peace of mind that you’ve crossed your t’s, dotted your I’s, and are purposefully matched with the people or initiatives that you feel most inspired by.
2: Financially Responsible
Committing to donate a financial gift is a noble undertaking. However, we rarely contemplate whether those donations can lead to financial hardship for the giver. If you are considering making a philanthropic contribution, ask yourself these 2 questions: 1. Is your gift going to negatively impact your financial stability? 2. Do you have the means to commit to longevity? If not, step back and reevaluate your plan. It’s okay to wait until your funds are in order and donate a non-monetary gift (i.e. your time) in the meantime. Remember, once you step-up and decide to fill someone’s financial need, he/she may need your help again in the future. If you aren’t in a space where your budget allows you to help a second time, are you prepared to decline if asked? If not, avoid putting yourself in a position where you’re willing to incur debt or financial strain simply because you didn’t use enough discretion before initially volunteering aid.
Philanthropy should be a positive experience. It should bring you joy and satisfaction, not worry and monetary consequence. So, plan ahead and be smart about how you spend. There are many ways to better the community that involve no cost at all. There’s no shame in temporarily prioritizing your own financial stability in order to be a permanent philanthropist in the long run.
The most charitable among us have mastered self-reflection. Here are some questions you should ask yourself about your philanthropic ventures.
- Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much?
- How is my charitable giving enhancing my life? How about the lives of others?
- What goals can I set for my giving?
- Have I handled all the paperwork and legal aspects of my charity?
- What haven’t I done yet? Which causes have I missed?
- Have I encountered any downsides to helping others? If so, how can I change my approach in the future to avoid those same experiences?
Regularly analyzing your thoughts, reflecting on lessons learned, and considering next steps will help ensure the highest level of effectiveness and satisfaction in your giving.
There are many nonprofit organizations, sponsorships, and fundraising campaigns that are in desperate need of empathy and action. Philanthropy serves to address exactly that. However, it’s important to put your best foot forward once you do decide to spring into action. Take a page from the pros and implement the 3 skills above and you’ll soon have fellow philanthropist asking for the secret to your success.