By: Ashley Ann Reich
Most people have an element of philanthropy running beneath the surface. For some, this is more prominent than others, to the point where they have sought careers running foundations, sitting on non-profit boards, or working in organizations that share a common mission. For others, this is simply an instinctive desire to give back in some way. There are many ways for individuals to give back to their community, organizations, and foundations, financially and otherwise. Below are some suggestions for piecing together how exactly this concept fits into their monthly budget and overall legacy planning.
Make a List of Passions
As a beginning step, it is advised to put pen to paper when it comes to your list of passions. Consider where you have volunteered previously or perhaps which topics you get most interested in that fuel your advocacy and desire to give back in some way. One article suggests visiting organizations to visualize the work being done and volunteering time at a few organizations to determine which ones interest you most. There are also many opportunities to serve on a board of directors that will get you even more insight into the operations of the organization. Personally, I took a step to start getting involved in my local Rotary club as a Rotarian. This allowed me to hear presentations from community leaders and gave me a good list of contacts to reach out to for those organizations that I wanted to learn more about. Additionally, as someone who works in higher education, I was naturally fueled by organizations that supported college students attending school for the first time or gave back to the community through scholarships.
Once you have narrowed down a list of organizations and perhaps toured them at some point, it’s time to get involved. Volunteering at different organizations is a great way to connect with others; it is good for your mind and body, can advance your career, and brings fun and fulfillment into your life. You can find opportunities to volunteer at your local community theatre, museums, libraries, senior centers, animal shelters, or youth organizations – trust me, people are always looking for free help! A good beacon when volunteering is to consider if the obligation feels more like a job or a chore or if it truly feels fun and rewarding – or, in other words, “fills your cup up” at the end of the day. Volunteering and learning more about an organization will allow you to narrow down where you might want to financially commit longer-term.
Consider the Financial Element
There will always be an opportunity to support causes that you are passionate about. Most of them will get your information, and you will suddenly begin to get mailers for donations and galas before you know it. As you continue to volunteer, you will see when the time is right to consider the financial element of supporting that organization through a monthly or annual donation. If you have extra money in your budget, consider giving money – perhaps a percentage – to that specific organization, you volunteered with or consider needs within your workplace or community where you could give a one-time gift. As an aside, there are some great tax benefits to giving financially to a charity, but also as it relates to expenses for volunteering.
When my husband and I became debt-free many years ago, we sat down to consider our legacy planning and, specifically, where we want to give our extra money. All of the steps noted above we did over several years landed on one undisputable area for both of us – the area of overseas missions. My husband and I have done short-term missions together in Guatemala and have traveled to this amazing country with a church in our region over six times. We began our journey of giving back by sponsoring two children in a local village we visited, and about two years ago, we began discussing how we wanted to incorporate that organization into our living will and trust. Both of us are passionate about the total village transformation project we have been able to be a part of in one village. We are working on several other projects in Guatemala alongside our partner church. We are united in our desire to serve by giving of our time but took it a step further to provide financial support that will outlast both of us.
Giving back for us is missional and a non-negotiable for our belief system. We involve our family in these discussions and ensure that our funds are managed properly by a company that shares the same beliefs. Rachel Cruze states, “I promise, no amount of money can replace the feeling you get from seeing a life affected by your generosity.” This quote rings forever true to those who have been able to give financially to a cause that they love and feel called to, and it certainly is how we continue to feel when we can visually see people’s lives changed.