Giving Back: Philanthropy 101
A lot of individuals and organisations perform philanthropy, and the truth is that it is more than simply donating money, although that is a part of it. Anyone can become a philanthropist as long as they understand the opportunities that they have to give back. If you have the desire to help others less fortunate than yourself, then you are already on your way to becoming a philanthropist. Keep reading to learn more about philanthropy and how you can participate.
What is a Philanthropist?
A philanthropist is a person that offers their resources, be it time, money, or something else entirely, to a group, organisation or person that needs them, free of charge. Most of the time, philanthropy or the title of ‘philanthropist’ is reserved for wealthy individuals or groups who can afford to donate large amounts of money. But the truth is that anyone can be a philanthropist. They can operate in a number of different ways. You can work alone or as part of a group, or some people even give back through their jobs and the businesses that they work for.
Some issues require a culturally sensitive approach. Without one, you risk being labelled as a saviour, and this can stir up resentments and trouble. While your intentions may be good, it is important to consider the larger issues at play when it comes to offering your help. There are a number of issues that affect us as a society that you may want to help with, but it is important that you do so without being tone-deaf. Remember to educate yourself first and foremost before you commit any more of your time or effort to an issue that you may end up making worse.
Why Do People Participate in Philanthropy?
There are a number of rewards that come from performing philanthropic acts. Most notably, the feeling of fulfilment that comes from helping other people. It can be a deeply personal and introspective experience. You also tend to learn more about the value of your resources, about what your time and money mean to other people. Helping other people also simply makes you feel good.
Types of Philanthropy
Generally, there is three different types of philanthropy or three ways that you can help to support causes that you believe in money, time or resources. Money is the most common form of philanthropy. It is often the easiest way to help, and it represents the smallest commitment. You can offer an ongoing donation or a one-off sum. Some people even leave gifts behind in their will to be donated to charities of their choice.
Time is another way in which you can contribute. You can offer your time and labour, and this is a great way to help if you don’t have the financial resources to offer. You can still contribute to an organisation’s mission by offering your skills. Again, some people volunteer once or twice, finding that it isn’t necessarily for them, and others take to it, volunteering regularly over the course of years. Finally, you can also donate other resources if you are in the position to do so. Depending on the organisation, you can donate things like food, vehicles or furniture that the organisation might need.
How to Become a Philanthropist
if you are interested in becoming a philanthropist, then there are a number of steps that you need to take. Firstly, you need to identify an area of interest. While it would be nice to contribute to every cause and sector that speaks to you, it simply is not feasible. This is why you need to start by narrowing your options down. Look for a specific area of interest to focus on. It needs to be something that you will continue to feel passionate about. Some people choose an area that impacts them personally.
After you have narrowed down your possibilities to a certain area, it is time to identify a cause. Try to find an issue within your chosen area that you believe in and want to support. Think about charities, organisations or practices that you feel like you have more of a connection to. You can always choose to support different causes within your chosen area of interest over the years; you don’t have to stick to one.
You might also want to think about finding a philanthropic role model. There are a lot of philanthropists out there doing amazing things with their time and money. By finding a philanthropist that you admire, you can begin to emulate their approach, on a smaller scale, of course. For example, perhaps you like the work that Bill and Melinda Gates have been doing; perhaps Beny Steinmetz’s philanthropy work speaks to you.
The next thing you need to consider is what you have to contribute. While donating your time or money is great, you might want to think about what your contribution means for the bigger picture. You need to establish how much you have to give. Next, think about the things that you would like to achieve through your philanthropic efforts. This can inform what you want to contribute. It can help when you have a certain outcome in mind.
You also need to start looking for opportunities to help. You should, by this step, have a thoughtful framework behind you. You’ve thought about an area of interest, of issues that you want to address. You have an idea of your desired outcomes and have metrics in place for success. The next step is to begin to conduct your research into the opportunities available to you. Start by looking into specific organisations, groups or charities and vet them against your personal specifications. Remember to look into their allocation of funds and resources to ensure that their goals align with yours.
After you have vetted the organisations and narrowed down your choices to one charity or group to devote your time and energy to, you next need to think about how you plan to support the cause. Remember not to overextend yourself with what you promise to contribute. For example, you might decide to assign a certain percentage of your income to donate regularly. On the other hand, you might decide to volunteer a couple of hours or even a day of your time to the cause.
It is necessary to take the time to reassess your philanthropic plans regularly, maybe once a year or so. You might discover that in the interim, your priorities have changed. There might be other causes that speak to you more, or perhaps you have found that you don’t mesh well with the organisation. But, on the other hand, you might discover that you love helping out, and you want to continue to do so and even leave them a gift in your will.
Finally, you might also want to think about ways to further your philanthropic efforts. One such way to do this is to engage your network. Share your plans with those in your personal and professional networks. Talk about the causes that you care about and the ways in which you contribute. You might just inspire those around you to join you in your efforts or contribute to causes that they care about.
The Bottom Line
There are a lot of ways in which you can choose to give back, to make a difference to the causes that you care about. You don’t have to be wealthy to be a successful philanthropist; you have more to contribute than money. Do your research to find a cause that speaks to you and think about what you can do to help them.