Thursday, April 17, 2008

Charitable Causes and Giving

Many business professionals would love to support philanthropic endeavors, but have no idea how to get involved with the arts, education or charitable organizations. To make matters worse, many of these fine organization only seem to "elephant hunt" when looking donors. If a person does not have the means to write a $100,000 check, then they do not invest the time to cultivate relationships, thus leaving millions of dollars on the table.

Yesterday at my monthly Leadership Austin meeting I had the pleasure to meet two outstanding women who are tackling the monumental cause of connecting average people with the opportunity to make a difference.

Rebecca Powers is the founder of Impact Austin. This unique organization was founded by Mrs. Powers five years ago when she realized that ordinary women could make an extraordinary impact. She began by looking for 100 women who could write a check for $1000. While not a huge amount of money, together they would be able to give a grant of $100,000 to a local charity. The organization has now grown to over 510 women, and this year they will give five grants.

Her story is amazing, but more important is the impact that she and her organization make on the local philanthropic community. Not from a family with three generations of wealth, she had only ever given money to her church. Organizing a group of 100 women who would make huge grants could have seemed impossible, but she did it. When someone feels that a regular individual cannot make a difference, all they need to do is look at Impact Austin and you will see that anything is possible.

Patsy Wood Martin is the director of "I Live Here, I Give Here", an organization that was founded to encourage giving in the Austin, Texas area. National studies consistently find that Austinites give far less to charitable causes than people in other cities. In fact, Austin is ranked 48th out of the 50 largest cities in the nation in per capita giving. The mission of the I Live Here, I Give Here campaign is to change that.

Studies show that people would give more if they better understood their community's needs and if they felt that their contributions would make a difference. I Live Here, I Give Here is working to raise people's awareness, and thus increase the levels of giving.

A friend of mine confided in me wants to give 5% of her income to charity, but she feels overwhelmed by all the choices. She believes that all causes are good causes, but fears that making fifty small donations to fifty charities wont have any impact. I suggested that she select on phenomenal organization whose mission touches her heart. Then give consistently to that cause over five years. While each year her 5% may not seem like much, over five years that becomes a real number.

Giving in small amounts does add up. If you think 5% is a good amount to give to philanthropic causes, but you wait until you earn $1,000,000... you may never write a check for $50,000 (because that is a lot of money). However, if each time you get a check $2000 you send $100, you will do it. Over time it is the same amount of money, and much easier on your personal checkbook.

I encourage people who write books or launch side businesses to tithe an amount off the top line of their sales to a good cause. This encourages the individual and makes their project bigger than just themselves. It feels good to know that each time you get a check that your charity benefits.
Have A Great Day


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