On most days, I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, but I'm certain that one of the things I want to be is a philanthropist. I like to call myself a philanthropist, but according to Wikipedia there is a great distinction between philanthropy and charitable giving and at this point in my life I probably err on the side of consistent charitable giving. When I tend to think of philanthropists, the ideal is of wealthy people who give large sums of money to charitable organizations and causes to bring about change. I am a non-financially wealthy person that gives not-so-large sums of money to charitable organizatons and causes to bring about change. I still call myself a philanthropist and you should call yourself one, too. Start giving right where you are.
That's what I did. I've always been a person inclined toward volunteering (starting way back in elementary school as a reading tutor) and supporting charitable organizations, but in 2010 I decided I really wanted to take my giving to another level. I had been out of work for a year and when I finally accepted a job one of the first incentives I took advantage of was the automatic payroll deductions for charitable contributions. I'm unsure if most companies offer an easy system to do this, but it's definitely worth investigating. I was able to choose my charities and bi-weekly deduction amounts all online; no exhaustive paperwork.
For me, this has been a great starting point. Instead of giving one organization a large donation over the course of the year, I will be giving four organizations a modest donation (the company match is an added boost). I'm supporting literacy, HIV/AIDS awareness, mental health awareness and suicide prevention currently. The funds are deducted before I even touch my check, so I honestly don't miss what I never had.
Another way to increase charitable giving is through a program I just learned about yesterday, Celebrated Chefs. There's a great article in the July 2011 issue of Today's Chicago Woman about CC and how dining out can be entertaining and philanthropic. When you sign up--it took me less than three minutes and it's FREE--you choose a charity and when you dine at participating restaurants up to 5% of your bill is donated to that charity. Dining out is one of my favorite things to do and my friends and I do it pretty often, so signing up for this was a no brainer. Chicago has a nice selection of restaurants on the list. I chose to eat on behalf of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
I know from experience that Easter isn't the only time a child will see food in a basket. Many families that receive food baskets and assistance are not homeless, but are in fact part of the working poor. There are also programs that assist the elderly with food, which my mother was fortunate enough to receive assistance through last year, so I greatly respect the work of the GCFD. Needless to say, my restaurant picks going forward will be much more deliberate now. Visit www.celebratedchefs.com for more information.
After reading the article, I became even more inspired to step my philanthropy game up, so my next venture is setting up a giving circle with my like-minded girlfriends. Giving circles allow individuals to pool their funds together as a group to make grants to charitable organizations (you see how we stepped up from "donations" to "grants"?!! Working together can be better!). Ten women joining together and committing to contributing $1,000 over a year is philanthropic power. I'm excited to see young, Black women making greater strides in philanthropic giving and we can start right NOW!
There are so many other ways to give of your time and resources, but what I'm encouraging is to do it now. Don't wait until you're "rich"; we are rich right now! Give what you can afford to give because it will make a difference.