As you can probably tell from my emails, I truly love what I do. While some may think it’s a bit geeky, I love helping to navigate the ins and outs of the law to address business challenges. And, of course, it’s nice to get paid for doing this.
But, I also love what my job lets me do. The things that don’t come with a paycheck, but instead with a smile, a “thank you,” a “great job,” or simply the knowledge that I made a positive impact. Some people call it “giving back.” But, to me, it’s what you get back that is most rewarding.
If you are thinking about volunteering, donating or joining a non-profit board, here are a few tips I’ve found helpful on how to get the most from giving back.
Find an organization that shares your values.
If you are giving your time or money, it is much more fulfilling to give to an organization that shares your values and passions. I was lucky enough to attend two amazing women’s educational institutions which gave me the building blocks to achieve professional and personal successes. My core belief is that all who seek it, should have access to the same education that I did. Thus, I spend the majority of my philanthropic energy in service to my high school, Emma Willard, and Wellesley College. By the way, through this philanthropy, the alumnae networks offer wonderful professional and business development opportunities as well as strong friendships.
If your situation does not permit you to give financial support, many non-profits have roles for volunteers. When I was a recent grad, paying back student loans and trying to pay my rent on what was left, I donated my time to help plan high school reunions and participate in phon-a-thons asking others to donate money to my beloved alma mater. For many organizations, time is much more valuable than money.
Go on a board.
Many non-profits seek subject matter expertise in their board members. There is a misconception that all non-profit board seats require substantial financial contribution. While there generally is some expectation that a board member will contribute financially to the organization, there are some that would be thrilled to have a lawyer or accountant on board for their expertise. This is also a great way to get board experience.
Do your diligence.
Going on a board, even a non-profit one, can bring potential liability. As a board member, you will have fiduciary duties that you must fulfill. Even donating money or time to a non-profit requires some degree of diligence to be sure that your contribution is being used appropriately. Take the time to ask questions and learn as much as you can about the organization’s financial status and management before signing on.
Every institution can use more money; I don’t know one that would say “No, thanks” to an unrestricted contribution. However, if you truly want to do something impactful and feel good in the process, see 1-3 above.
Happy philanthropy! I hope that your contributions to non-profits are as rewarding as mine have been. Thanks for reading!