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How To Become a Philanthropist: 7 Steps To Change the World

If you’re wondering how to become a philanthropist, it’s easier than you think. Anyone can do it and, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just for the wealthy. Make no mistake about it: Humans are social creatures. We love to help one another. That’s why philanthropy is so popular. It’s a feel-good activity that improves our world. And the benefits far outweigh the costs. Before you start contributing to worthy causes, however, it helps to understand the options available to you. You’ll want to make good decisions so that you maximize the impact you want to make in the world. No worries, either, about how much — or how little — money you have. All you need is a vision and a plan.

What Is Philanthropy?

A philanthropist is an entity, either a person or a corporation, that provides time, money, or resources — and perhaps all three — to people or nonprofits in need of assistance. The overarching goal is to make lives better for others (or the world we inhabit). Philanthropy is often associated with large sums of money and wealthy people. But, as mentioned, philanthropists can be any person or entity. Even a tiny business can be philanthropic.Some philanthropists rise to rockstar status and are known for their generosity. For example, Warren Buffett, Melinda Gates and Oprah Winfrey are just a few among the mega-rich who have given large sums and had an impact on important social and environmental issues. But you don’t have to be a millionaire, and indeed - many nonprofits are supported by hundreds of thousands of people who give modestly. Even a relatively small donation - alongside hundreds of others who also are giving a small amount - can add up to hugely impactful levels of support for nonprofits working to support communities in need.

What Philanthropy Looks Like

Philanthropy can take a number of forms. These include, for example:Money: Donations may be one time only or on a regular basis. Philanthropists may also bequest money after death or establish a trust.Time: Those who don’t have money to donate or prefer to contribute in other ways can donate time and labor. Examples include volunteering at a homeless shelter or tutoring students after school. As with monetary donations, these can be one-time, yearly or more frequent contributions. Many small, community-based nonprofits are dependent upon the generosity of their volunteers’ time to extend the impact of their mission.Resources: These donations, known often as “in-kind,” include furniture, vehicles, food, clothing, toys, computers, etc.

Benefits of Changing the World With Philanthropy

It may seem to be a cliche, but the benefits of philanthropy are immeasurable for those donating time, money or other resources:

  • Lends perspective: Philanthropy heightens your sense of connectivity to the world and the things that really matter.
  • Better health: Your mental health and physical wellbeing both improve when you give back.
  • Lower stress levels: Volunteering has been proven to lower stress and enhance feelings of well-being by releasing dopamine.
  • Tax reductions: Donations may be written off on personal taxes.
  • Social interaction: Volunteering can offer opportunities to network and meet others who are committed to similar causes, and connections can be formed among a group of donors providing financial support.
  • Improved skill set: As a volunteer or a donor who has researched the causes that nonprofits are working on, you will learn new skills, both hard and soft, and improve your leadership acumen.

How To Become a Philanthropist

As with any good strategy, you’ll need a road map to get to your final destination. Follow these seven steps to become a philanthropist:

1. Clarify Your Goals

Before you decide where to put your time and effort, you’ll need to understand what’s most important to you. What do you value? Where can you make a difference? What would feel good to do? Include your personal or professional goals such as expanding your network. Whether it’s working for climate change or helping your community’s underserved population get the resources they lack, make sure that you feel passionate about the issue.

2. Determine Your Commitment

Before you decide what to do, you need to determine how to do it. Do you want to give money or time? If it’s money, what can you afford? If you plan to volunteer, how much time do you have? When can you volunteer?

3. Choose Your Organization

Once you know the type of commitment you can make, research and vet organizations. Do they align with your mission and values? Where do they work? If you know you want to focus on homelessness in your community, determine if the organization is serving the homeless population in your city. Most organizations share information about their programs, their leadership and how they use their charitable donations. If you have questions, ask. The organization should be transparent and credible.

4. Check With Your Company

Before you completely nail down a target nonprofit, check out the support your company may offer – whether that be a match or volunteer opportunities.

5. Establish a Plan

Based on the causes you care about, the resources you want to commit to and the organizations you want to support, determine your giving cadence. For many, setting up recurring, monthly donations means you can ‘set it and forget it.’ But you might also want to consider setting aside some funds for donating during an emergency - whether it's a hurricane on the Gulf Coast, the war in Ukraine, or a social justice issue.

6. Stay Engaged and Curious

Find your community, and learn about other organizations that are doing important work in support of the causes you care about. You might find that in order to tackle an issue that you’re passionate about, multiple organizations are needed to make change. You can create social connections in-person or online to discover more organizations.

7. Trumpet the Cause

Now that you’re a practicing philanthropist, tell others about the organizations you support and why. They may be inspired to help or to find a cause of their own.

Have Fun With It!

Philanthropy is something anyone can do. Whether you donate time or money, it offers great benefits and improves the lives of others. Find the organization or cause you want to support and go for it. It’s a fun and easy way to give back to the community and expand your horizons.If you would like to know more about a corporate giving program, contact Groundswell. We can help turn philanthropic giving into an essential employee benefit.

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