Five ways anyone can be a philanthropist.
A friend recently confided in me that she feels like a failure because she does not give enough to charity—not enough money because she doesn’t have it, and not enough of herself because she doesn’t have time. I explained to my friend that philanthropy is for everyone, even on the smallest level. To the average person, it could appear that philanthropy is only for rich people with lots of time on their hands. Nothing could be further from the truth. As an entrepreneur, I am often asked to donate money and time to worthy causes. But I work alongside people from all walks of life who share my desire to give to others. For me, giving is not just about money, but also time, energy and effort to help those in need. Philanthropy is for everyone. Here are five things that you can do to be a philanthropist right now:
1.) Adopt a cause. There is no lack of worthy causes that deserve your help. But first, you must find a cause that is close to your heart. It can be anything. Your personal connection is the most important aspect of giving. If you were to look at the everyday needs of those around you—even your friends and loved ones—you could find a cause. You may have a friend who died from cancer, a neighbor who has Alzheimer’s disease or know of a child with juvenile diabetes.
2.) Donate something. Don’t focus on the dollar amount; even sending a check for $5 can be meaningful. While billionaires seem to get all the publicity, anyone involved in fundraising will tell you that the small donations keep the causes going. I know of several colleges and universities that value the number of alumni who give almost as much as the amount that is given. In that regard, when the tallies are taken at the end of the year, someone who gives $10 is counted the same as someone who gives $10,000. And $10 given regularly during the course of a lifetime really adds up.
3.) Donate your time. You would be surprised how many organizations and causes need manpower more than or as much as money. Many organizations train volunteers to raise money by making phone calls. Others welcome help in setting up for benefit dinners or, more importantly, cleaning up afterward. These are the unglamorous but necessary and heartfelt donations that are every bit as important as money. You don’t read about it in the newspapers, and that’s the point. Your time can also be spent doing something for a neighbor, such as sitting with an elderly person who simply needs the company, or taking them grocery shopping. This is another type of donation of time you don’t hear about, but a void nonetheless that needs to be filled.
4.) Create your own cause. Perhaps you know of someone afflicted with a rare disease that does not have widespread support or recognition. Maybe there is a person in your neighborhood— a wounded veteran returning from Afghanistan, for example—who does not qualify for needed treatments or food money. Organizing just one potluck supper or auction, and donating the proceeds to the individuals in need can be of immense service. Your own philanthropic efforts will have reverberating effects on someone’s life.
5.) Be creative. Look for unexpected ways to donate things. Did you know that you can give to just about any charitable cause by donating a used car? Hospitals, foundations, even the Salvation Army may take a beat-up old piece of junk and give a tax-deductible credit in exchange. The car doesn’t even have to be in running condition. There are also seniors-support organizations that will use the value of the car toward ride services for seniors in your local area. Your old car could allow a senior citizen to get transportation to doctor appointments and grocery store runs. I believe that it is my duty to give to others, and that we all share this responsibility to some extent. Philanthropy is about setting goals and reaching them on behalf of someone else for their benefit. It’s a selfless act and one that I take very seriously. Whether you do it alone or gather friends and colleagues to accompany you in the journey of giving, I promise that once you venture down the road of giving, you will live a better life for someone else’s advantage, and that alone is worth the journey.
Theresa Roemer is the CEO of Theresa Roemer LLC, and a small-business owner who specializes in business philanthropy. For more information, visit theresaroemer.com.
Gifts That Give
Donate money in honor of your loved ones with livestock for impoverished families worldwide through Heifer International. You can buy a share of livestock or the whole stock! For more information, visit heifer.org/gift.
Bridgewater Candle Company
Buy a candle for all of your loved ones and for every candle, Bridgewater will donate a portion of your purchase to Rice Bowls, an organization dedicated to feeding orphans throughout the world. For more information, visit bridgewatercandle.com or lightacandlefeedachild.com.
Miracle Foundation: Give a Miracle Campaign
The Miracle Foundation invites you to give the gift of a bright future. Gifts to help orphaned children throughout the world include water purification systems, health care, life-skills education and winter clothes, to name a few. You can give these on behalf of family and friends, or just as a way to give to those less fortunate this year. To learn more, visit miraclefoundation.org/holiday.
Ten Thousand Villages
Each beautiful, unique gift at Ten Thousand Villages is made by one of thousands of disadvantaged artisans in 38 countries. Choose from jewelry, home décor, art, textiles, serveware and personal accessories for your loved ones. For gift ideas and more information, visit tenthousandvillages.com.