Philanthropy: How to Give a Lot With a Little

The word philanthropy can be an intimidating term for those who feel they don’t have much to offer. But at its purest, philanthropy boils down to “goodwill to fellow members of the human race” (Merriam Webster). We all have the desire to better the world we live in and all it takes is a little effort. Here are three ways to give a lot with a little.

A Little Money

Billionaire philanthropists Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey have the type of financial security that allows them to give with wild abandon. We can sometimes feel that our charitable contributions pale in comparison, consequently lowering their impact. But remember, despite the size or amount, all gifts are meaningful when they come from the heart. Even if you don’t have much to spare, something is always better than nothing at all. Here are a few ways to make your dollars count.

Make a Small, One Time Donation

  • Many people choose to donate when and what they can, even if that’s a small amount, one time. Be proud of your desire to give and initiative to act on it. Every gift makes a difference, and any recipient would be honored to accept your act of sacrifice and kindness.

Save Up to Give

  • If your budget is too tight to gift the ideal amount, pick a reoccuring minimal expense you can live without (i.e. coffee, eating out, Netflix) and give it up for a short period of time. Take the money you save and donate it to a cause of your choice.
  • Set aside a few dollars each month, then give the lump sum away for the holidays

A Little Thought

A little thought goes a long way. While financial offerings are often the only type of gift commonly associated with philanthropy, meaningful giving comes in all forms. To start, think of sentimental things people have done for you that made a lasting impression in your life. Make a list of your favorites, then isolate the acts of kindness you deem worthy of replicating.  Below is a list of (non-monetary) gestures to brighten someone’s day.

Make Something

  • Take inventory of your pantry and use ingredients you already have to make a delicious meal or dessert for someone in need
  • Upcycle old articles of clothing to make a fresh, one-of-a-kind outfit to donate to a local charity

Say Something

  • Know of a friend who needs a bit of encouragement? Speak up! A kind word at the right moment can be the ideal gift for someone who is down on their luck
  • If face-to-face interactions make you nervous, share your thoughts in writing. An email, text or handwritten note full of positive sentiments is sure to be received with warm gratitude   

A Little Time

Your time is finite, making it the most precious commodity you own. Unlike money and thought, you cannot earn or create time. Therefore, devoting a few hours to another person’s needs is one of the most selfless donations you can give. Try:

Spending Time with a Stranger

  • You’re sure to find your niche in a place such as a hospice center, the NICU of a hospital, an animal shelter or a food bank.  The investment of your time is an excellent way to show you care, while taking a hands-on approach to transforming lives.

Charles Dickens said, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” Every effort to improve the happiness, well-being or safety of another is a grand gesture that should be undertaken with pride. You can be the change you wish to see, even if you do so little by little. Keep up the good work.

Brad and Julie DuncanPhilanthropy: How to Give a Lot With a Little
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