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Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Year's Resolution - Be More Charitable

Maybe 2017 is the year you give back.  There is so much personal satisfaction in helping others and making the world a better place.  (I know that sounds corny, but it is true.)  But how do you start?  It's all about time, talent and treasure.


While financial contributions are important, time may be the greatest gift you can give.  If you don't have disposable income or if you just want to give in a more personal way, there are plenty of shelters, food banks, Boys & Girls Clubs and other institutions that are grateful for volunteers.  Your donation of time can be a one-time event or a continuing relationship with an organization that will put your time to a worthy purpose.  Don't limit yourself to the obvious volunteer opportunities!  Don't forget nursing homes, animal shelters, libraries and neighborhood clean up events.  While it might not give you a tax deduction, the personal pride in knowing you have given from your most precious resource might just change your outlook on life.

You might be thinking you should skip this type of charity because you don't have any special talents, but you are most certainly wrong.  While you may not have artistic abilities (although you can volunteer those too), you might have untapped talents that are even more useful.  I have a friend who has a great speaking voice and an understanding of science and math terms.  She volunteers reading and recording text books for the blind.  Perhaps you have some untapped skills that might help others.  Are you an accountant, hair stylist, attorney or outdoor enthusiast?  You can help seniors with taxes, provide salon services at homeless shelters, offer free legal services or volunteer at local parks.  Maybe you could be a Scout leader, train service dogs or teach English as a second language.  If you have a hobby like knitting or sewing, you can use those talents to make things for the needy.  It may take a little more effort to find your talent, but everyone has a talent they can offer to others.

This term might be a little unfamiliar to you, but it's the most common form of charity - giving money.  If you want to contribute to a specific cause, it's easy to find an organization that will accept your donation, whether your passion is animal welfare, disease research, environmental protection or international child relief.  You can also donate to umbrella organizations, such as the United Way, that will spread your money around.  If you belong to a church, your denomination may have a charitable arm that provides humanitarian services worldwide.  There is no limit to the number of organizations that will accept your money.

If you are looking for less traditional opportunities, check out GoFundMe and similar sites that offer unique causes to support.  In doing the research for this post, I visited GoFundMe and was overwhelmed by the sheer number or worthy causes.  What was even more amazing to me was to see the amount of money people contributed to creative grass root causes.  Very cool.

Please remember a couple of points about monetary giving.  If more than 8% of your donation is going to a charity's administrative expenses, you might want to find a more efficient organization.  Also, beware of telephone solicitations, regardless of the worthiness of the cause.  The solicitors frequently take a percentage of your donation as payment.  Finally, don't give out your credit card or bank account information over the phone.  Ask them to send you something in the mail or through email so you can see the website and check to see if it's legit.

Regardless of how you do it, you can make a big difference in the world, one cause at a time.  There is no amount too small, no time too limited or no person who lacks talent to do something special.  Be that person who practices charity and change your life in 2017!