Philanthropy 101: Learning to Give

by Belinda Munoz on September 10, 2009



I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver. — Maya Angelou
Giving is a powerful act of kindness.  Despite all the problems we know exist in the world, I am encouraged by the many generous people who give their money, time, talents and resources to organizations and causes to make our world a better place.  The blogging community for example is a wonderful community of givers.  We support and encourage each other, and offer valuable content to the world.  (Does this mean that people work that much more cooperatively when we don’t have to interact face to face?  Do we compensate for the lack of live interaction by becoming more altruistic to each other?  Does the fear of rejection decrease exponentially when all we have to face is a computer screen and not an actual person?  Pardon the random musings.  It’s all just so endlessly fascinating!)
Giving is one of the true joys of living.  I believe that giving is an instinct we all possess just as much as taking is.  Without giving, we don’t feel justified to receive, and without receiving, we don’t feel justified to give.  My son has been offering me food ever since he could scoop up gooey baby food from a jar with his tiny fingers.  It’s when we get older when our giving instinct becomes stunted for various reasons.  We all have a desire to give, though, for some of us, we just need a litle nudge.
I remember when I wrote my first real charitable check.  I was 22, fresh out of college, making something like $24,000.  The check I wrote was not a large sum, but for someone living on a tight budget in an expensive city, it was huge.  I wasn’t forced into giving nor was I made to feel guilty if I didn’t give.  I gave because I was compelled to do so and because I believed in the cause.  I remember feeling overjoyed when I made this contribution.  I felt at once humbled and privileged that I could participate in offering a gift; that I could be part of the solution and all it took was a little sacrifice on my part.
Giving Money
If you’re intested in cultivating your inner philantropist, but have never contributed before, take a look at some of the easy ways to get started below:

1. Give a one-time gift of any amount to a cause you are passionate about.  If you believe that everyone deserves basic human rights, consider donating to Human Rights Watch.
2. If that felt good, repeat as many times as you’d like.  If there are many causes you’d like to support, consider picking one each month.  If reversing climate change is a cause you feel strongly about, consider giving to The Alliance for Climate Protection founded by Al Gore.
3. If you’d like to create a habit of giving, consider making an automated monthly donation for a whole year to a cause you passionately believe in.  To make this easier, think of a figure and divide it by 12.  That’s an amount you probably won’t notice missing from your bank account.  If improving women’s rights keeps you up at night, consider giving to Women for Women International, Global Fund for Women or Women’s Funding Network.
4. Consider contributing to the campaign of a politician you admire.  If you see a connection between the causes you champion and a politician who represents you, this is a natural next step.  Maybe it’s someone who made you care about politics for the first time.  Maybe it’s your local mayor who started a successful homeless program that many other cities in the country have adopted.
5. Consider micro-lending through  Here, you can pick an entrepreneur in a developing country who needs capital to get a business off the ground.
No Money?  No Problem.
If you’d like to give but think you simply don’t have the money, perhaps you’d consider doing this: everyday put all your change into a jar.  When the jar is full, donate it to an organization whose work you’ve always admired.
Non-monetary Ways of Giving
If you’d like to contribute in ways other than monetary, consider the following:
1. Volunteer your time.  Determine what type of organization appeals to you.  Find out if there’s a chapter in your area.  See if you could volunteer for an event, or help out at a board meeting or if they need a hand at the office.  note:  some organizations will require training before vetting a volunteer.
2. Fundraise for an organization of your choice.  This is a fun thing to do with friends.  You could do a house party, or ask a board member to host the party, and invite prospects who you think would be interested in the cause.  At the party, have lots of information to share with the prospects.  Spend a good amount of time talking about the organization’s success stories.  Be sure to open it up to Q&A so your prospects can really get a good feel for the organization.  Don’t forget to make a pitch at the end of the presentation.  Not everyone who attends will contribute right away.  Those who don’t can be cultivated later.
3. Give to a food bank.  Each time you pick up groceries, pick up an extra can of beans or a bag of pasta.  Put this extra item in a designated “food bank” bag.  When the bag is full, take it to your local food bank or a church nearby.
4. Join the board of directors of an organization you support.  Non-profit organizations rely on the generous giving of foundations, corporations and individuals like you.
5. Start your own non-profit.  Do this only if you’re sure that there isn’t already an organization in your area that supports your cause.  Be sure you feel very strongly about the cause because it involves a lot of hard work.
Giving can be transformative both for the giver and the receiver.  Imagine how much we could change the world if we gave as much as we received.
Recommended reading:
Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World, Bill Clinton
The Power of Giving:  How Giving Enriches Us All, Azim Jamal & Harvey McKinnon

No one has ever become poor by giving. — Anne Frank

Image by totalAldo

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lisa Alves September 11, 2009 at 8:51 pm

So glad I stumbled upon this, thank you, I’ll be reading!!


2 belinda munoz September 11, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Thanks for the encouragement and for stopping by.


3 Amy Rao September 17, 2009 at 6:13 pm

This is a blog I will share with everyone I know. I especially love “Philanthropy 101.” You remind us all of perspective and what humankindness really means. I absolutely love this! thank you for sharing-XO


4 Belinda Munoz September 17, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Thank you, Amy! Inspirational people like you remind me that, despite all the bad that we see, there is a world full of good out there and that we must encourage each other to sustain it. xob


5 Darian Swig September 18, 2009 at 4:09 pm

This is terrific! “Choosing positivity” is a motto we all should live by. Reminds me of great Churchill quote: “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Well done.


6 Belinda Munoz September 18, 2009 at 9:23 pm

Thanks, Darian! That quote really resonates with me. Life is not just about what we get, possessions we acquire, prestige that we gain, or titles that we earn. Living a fulfilling life has so much to do with what we give, what contributions we make, how we, in our unique individual way, make the world a better place.


7 Ma. Liberty S. Viray September 22, 2009 at 10:29 pm

This is my favorite blog. This is a prerequisite learning for all of us (students of life) who aspires for a fulfilling life. Thanks! Please keep writing…


8 susie tompkins buell September 23, 2009 at 11:50 am

belinda, thanks for such a burst of light onto a shadow. it is so uplifting to feel your trust and hope and to inspire others to join your energy.

“it is not joy that gives you gratitude, but gratitude that gives you joy.”


9 Nanay September 23, 2009 at 12:03 pm

I always believe that CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME. Other than that your heart beats faster when you come across something you feel truly needs some kind of help.


10 Belinda Munoz September 24, 2009 at 9:49 am

I happen to think so, too! So much can go right with a little bit of generosity…

I’m inspired daily by people like you!

I agree, and when we master charity at home, why not expand our horizon and look at giving outside our home?

Thanks, everyone!


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