What do you think of when you hear the world "Philanthropist"? Many think it is a rich benefactor for charities. But I do not believe you need to be wealthy to be a philanthropist. Anyone can make a difference and give their time and money to help their community.
When I began earning extra money as a professional speaker my wife suggested we earmark part of the income to help out a worthy cause. Together we created The Kate Singer Endowment for Cranio-Facial Surgery. The money is donate through the Central Texas Dell Children's Medical Center Foundation. It is not a lot of money at any one time, but over the years the small checks add up to thousands. Additionally on Kate's 6th birthday we hosted an online social media fund raiser which brought in an additional $1710 to fund research by local doctors who specialize in helping children in Texas who are born head and facial abnormalities (in February we plan another online social media fund raiser that will surpass $3000 in 2009).
I am not bragging, I am pointing out that anyone can help out a good cause. I believe the problem is that individuals believe one needs to give large sums of money to have an impact. But small amounts consistently given over time add up to make a difference. Additionally, when you band together with others, the numbers can really add up. It just takes action to make a difference.
The other mistake that is made in the world of philanthropy is that not-for-profit organizations tend to put out the image that they are only "elephant hunting" when they are looking for donors. Some seem to only focus on people who can write the big checks, making the average person feel like an outsider. The truth is that charities are usually welcoming of anyone who will donate to their cause. Again, the big grants and mega donors are nice, but having the grassroots people who are passionate about their cause is also very important.
I have recently joined the board of a great local charity, Heart House, which supports free after school programs dedicated to providing a safe haven and academic support to low-income children and encouraging them to become good citizens. The organization is young and still growing, and has become a great place for me to learn about the world of charitable organizations. We are about to launch a professional auxiliary group that will help the organization continue to raise money to expand their good works, while allowing members to network and create programs that will have a meaningful impact (More to follow next week on the Heart House HALOS program. I am the board liaison to this new group and look forward to getting people involved who are hungry to get involved with a local cause).
Austin, Texas has a local campaign to help those who want to learn more about giving back to their community. The I Live Here, I Give Here Campaign is on a mission to boost local giving by educating fellow Austinites about the needs in Central Texas and the organizations working to meet those needs. This is a great place to start if you have an interest in local charities.
I am also a huge fan of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas. This community of entrepreneurs provides a financial vehicle for early stage companies to allocate inexpensive private equity to a donor advised fund, creating a source of cash for corporate community investments that doesn’t impact future company earnings or operating cash. In addition they organize the technology business community to participate in service days twice a year, which brings together hundreds of professionals to work on projects that improve local schools.
No matter where you live, if you have a desire to make a difference in your community, do not sit back and wait. Many think they will give once they are rich, but it may be better to start a regular philanthropic donating process early and let the small dollars add up. Many of us are fortunate, even if we do not have a fortune. To everyone whom much is given, much is also required (Luke 12:48). Find your cause and support it. You will make a difference.
Have A Great Day.