Giving Back and Getting Involved: Ideas for Young Professionals
If you’re anything like me, you’re a young professional. You want to work on something that’s interesting, challenging, and motivating. Ideally, you want to work on something you’re passionate about. You want to work with others who are smart and motivated. You grew up connected to the world – though you may remember the dark days of dial up.
You and me, we’re all about getting involved and staying connected. Why should our philanthropy efforts be any different?
But how can you meaningfully contribute to the world? How can you make it a better place while still going to work, paying your bills, and finding time for family, friends, working out, and your personal projects? Perhaps you’re hunting for a job: short on money, but long on time. Perhaps you’ve found a great job with money rolling in but next to no free time. Or perhaps you’re newly employed, still paying off student debt and zealously hoarding every vacation day you accrue in order to take some time off to see your family during the holidays.
Whatever your current situation, there are ways you can help: ways you can give back to the communities that helped shape you or to communities that might need a hand.
Start by finding something you’re interested in and passionate about. Maybe it’s education, maybe it’s food security, maybe it’s music. This “something” is likely the reason you’re interested in philanthropy in the first place. Whatever it is, pick something and start getting involved. Connect with others. Be a part of the community in person or online. Remember that time, as well as money, is a resource charities and other organizations are always looking for.
Not sure how to get involved? Here are some ideas, none of which require you to have Bill Gates amounts of money:
Is there a local cause you’re passionate about? You can support them financially or by donating your time. A local school, scout troupe, or food bank would welcome someone with your skills and you’ll be able to see the effect you’re having.
Support a specific cause far away that resonates with you, whether it’s funding a school, building a well, providing vaccines, or stopping the spread of infection via bed nets. For instance, as a Canadian, I can really get behind Spread the Net, a cause that protects people from mosquitoes. Well, it’s more about preventing the spread of malaria, but you get my drift. Support for global causes is often financial, but if you’re able to travel you could provide “boots on the ground” support.
Become a Member
Museums, orchestras, and theatres will welcome you with open arms – and membership isn’t as expensive as you might think. There are often different tiers of membership, allowing you to tailor your giving to your budget. And it’s not just about writing a cheque and only remembering at tax time. Membership provides free or discounted access so that you can see your donation in action.
Become a Lender
Lend your money to people who can use it to start or grow their business, or to go to school. Micro lending organizations like kiva.org let you choose who you lend to. As the short term loans are paid back, the funds return to your account so that you can loan them out over and over again. And did I mention the sweet analytics tracking? I’m a big fan of Kiva, so if you’ve got any questions drop me a line!
Tithing is the act of giving 10% of your income to an organization. It has its roots in Judaism and Christianity, but the idea is readily adaptable to suit other purposes. For instance, I have some friends who dedicate a percentage of their annual income to giving. They then have fun picking and choosing which organizations and causes to support each year. Give it a try: you set the percentage and you choose where the money goes.
Be a Buddy
Sometimes it’s really not about the money: donating your time and building personal relationships in your community can be incredibly valuable. Best Buddies, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and many other organizations can pair you up with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or with kids who need mentoring, or with recent immigrants who could benefit from a local’s perspective and knowledge.
There are so many ways to get involved and give back. You could sign a petition, attend a protest, mentor a student, write a cheque, or do some other version of anything listed above. The key is to find something you’re passionate about and to give something of yourself.