There are a few times during the year when most people think about doing good solely for the benefit of others. The holiday season, for example. I think it’s great that so many companies, individuals and families get inspired during the holiday season to stop and give back. But wouldn’t it be amazing if we could hang onto this desire to help others all year long?
I would venture to guess that almost every one of us wants to be philanthropic, but I also know that there are a lot of excuses that stop us from taking action. In fact, I’ve made many excuses myself: It’s not in the budget; I have no extra time; I don’t know how to give; I don’t know who to give to.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about ways that I can incorporate philanthropy into my business so it becomes an ongoing and intrinsic part of what I do. Here is a look at the thought process, brainstorms and ideas I’ve been kicking around.
What does philanthropy mean?
I started the process by looking at the term “philanthropy.” Philanthropy is the desire to improve the lives of others through monetary or physical donations and other charitable actions.
These days, when we think philanthropy, we tend to think big movements such as the Giving Pledge, which has received quite a bit of news coverage for the billions given by the wealthiest of the wealthy. This is commendable, absolutely. But it doesn’t translate well into the everyday lives of freelancers and small business owners. In fact, it almost makes it seem like being philanthropic in a meaningful way is unachievable.
What does philanthropy mean to me?
I had to think hard about what I wanted to achieve by becoming more philanthropic. This is what I came up with:
- I want to give consistently to one or two causes that are relevant to me.
- I want to make financial as well as other charitable donations.
- I want to tie my actions to a part of my business.
- I want to be able to choose giving activities that I feel will really make a difference but are not out of my reach.
- It’s important that I ensure that I am giving for the right reasons.
How can I be philanthropic?
The hardest part of this process for me has been identifying ways to incorporate philanthropy that are realistic and truly worthwhile for those on the receiving end. Here are some of the ideas I’ve been contemplating and a few I already do.
- Volunteer my time to support local charitable organizations by writing marketing copy, designing marketing materials, etc.
- Mentor an up-and-coming entrepreneur as he/she gets started
- Give away some of the intellectual capital I have developed (books, reports, training materials, etc.) to those who can’t afford to purchase it
- Donate to the scholarship program at my alma mater
- Offer to teach business classes at the local community college
- Make quarterly financial donations to a specific charity
Right now, I have begun a few of these activities, but I’m still working on developing philanthropic goals that will tie it into my business more closely and consistently.
Do you consider yourself philanthropic? I’d love to hear what you think and if you have successfully incorporated philanthropy into your business.
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