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Are You a Philanthropist? Maybe...


This is a guest blog post from Reed Sandridge.  Sandridge lost his job in 2009 and did the unthinkable - he started giving away $10 a day to complete strangers!  He captured the story of every recipient  A frequent writer and speaker on volunteering and micro-philanthropy, Sandridge lives in our nation's capital.

The word philanthropy comes from the Greek language. Phileo means to love and anthropos means human.  You put them together and you have the idea of loving humanity. For a more modern definition, I Googled the term philanthropist to get the "official" definition from and found a delightfully simple one, "Someone who makes charitable donations intended to increase human well-being."

You'll notice that the definition doesn't talk about specific financial amounts so we can throw that idea that we have to be a billionaire to be a philanthropist out the window. Let's also be reasonable too and acknowledge that if this is not our principle occupation in life than it may not be appropriate for us to refer to ourselves as a philanthropist like those whose last name is Gates, Buffett or Rockefeller to name a few. However, I am quite comfortable calling myself a micro-philanthropist or even simpler, a kindness investor - a term I coined while giving away $10 every day for a year while I was unemployed.


But if you're like me and don't have a half-dozen banks around the world busy counting your bars of gold, how do you get started?  Well look no further, I've created a very simple framework to guide people who want to start being a bit more savvy about their giving. I call it IMPACT Giving.  This simple guide works for those who give $10 a year or $10,000,000. 


Once you have decided that you want to channel some of your funds to help a cause or organization, spend some time thinking seriously about what you want to support.  Explore organizations that appear to be aligned with your personal values and interests.  Read their financial statements if they are public.  Write them emails and ask them questions that are important to you.  In the end, you want to give to people and organizations that you believe in.  You want your hard earned money to truly make a difference.

Mission Statement

This may sound silly, but I encourage you to put some thought into why you are giving and what it is you want to accomplish.  Write it down.  Let it guide you in your giving.  It shouldn't be more than a sentence or two, but it should provide a clear sense of direction.  It might be something like this: "To provide funding for programs that help children in the United States who suffer from heart related illness."  Although I tend to believe in narrowing your focus so that you can channel more of your time and resources to a handful of causes, some people prefer to cast as wide of a net as possible and support a myriad of organizations.  There is no right or wrong answer, but it is helpful to define your approach.


The next step is mapping out exactly what you will do.  Perhaps you will support four organizations equally or maybe you will give primarily to one organization but offer secondary support to a handful of others.  Again there is no right or wrong answer here, but making a plan will clearly define who you will help and how.  You want to think about your finances here too and budget how much support you are able to provide. If you have a financial advisor or even just someone whose judgement you trust, you might want to run your plan by them. I always add an additional 15% for unforeseen support opportunities that come up.


Implementing what you have decided sometimes becomes a problem.  Your finances or interests might change or perhaps you just lack that tiny amount of motivation needed to move your plans into action.  The good news is that if you have done the first three steps well, you should have enough time and moral equity invested in the process that you keep true to your commitment.  Follow through with your plan.  Exercise discipline when tempted to support other worthy causes - next year you will have an opportunity to adjust your personal giving portfolio.


Take time to check back with the people and organizations you support to see how your investment is used.  If you are giving small amounts to large organizations, they most likely won't be able to give you very personalized information, however, you can get a sense for how they are using all the funds they receive.  Also do an internal check.  Are you still passionate about supporting these initiatives?


Once a year take time to make any adjustments that might need to be made about your personal giving.  Maybe you are able to give more or perhaps you have to curtail your giving due to new financial burdens you have taken on.  Maybe you want to allocate a larger percentage of your support to a new organization.  Recalibrate and make a new plan and act upon it.

No matter how you decide to give or who you decide to give to, you will find this to be a rewarding part of your life. There are few words that can describe the beauty of ordinary citizens collectively realizing our own ability to use our talents and financial resources to positively impact social change.

Photo credit: Info Hub

Post 1: Giving During Desperate Times

Post 2: Breaking Down the Barriers of Self-Centeredness

Post 3: Volunteering on Your Next Vacation

Post 4: 5 Ways Volunteering Can Help You Decide Where to Give Money

Post 5: Changing Trends in Volunteering in America

Post 6: Volunteering Overseas: My Recent Adventure to Ireland

Post 7: Ireland: The Best Place in the World in Which to Grow Older

Post 8: Are you a Philanthropist? Maybe

Post 9: AARP Stepping Up Commitment to Volunteerism

Post 10: Cable Companies Helping to Increase Volunteering Rates?


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