We all have something to give, and our potential to give is equal to anyone else’s, depending on how we acknowledge and structure our giving. Just as we breathe in and out, exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide with the plants and animals around us, we are constantly in this dance of giving and receiving with everything in our world.
We often don’t recognize the giving that we’re doing as ‘gifts’ or place them within a framework of philanthropy, because they don’t fall into the classic philanthropic category of money spent. But our time and attention, our networks, our skills and stuff are all aspects of giving. Taking stock of our resources is an essential step in deciding what we have available to give and creates clear boundaries around that giving.
It also provides us with an opportunity to cultivate and nurture certain areas. After doing an inventory, you might decide you want a higher paying job to provide more financial support to the causes you care about, or that you want a less stressful job so you have more time to give to your family. For the first time, you might view your networks or your interest in a certain hobby as viable sources of giving and include them in your philanthropic plan.
Consider the following examples in order to do a personal audit and make a comprehensive inventory of the things you have available to give.
Your time and attention:
- You allot your mornings to focused playing with your children.
- You set aside 2 hours a week to do the books for a low income day care center.
- You visit elderly patients at a retirement community and listen to their stories.
Your skills and strengths:
- You make people laugh and put them at ease.
- You can design websites and marketing materials.
- You enjoy fixing bikes.
Your networks and influence:
- You instigate and inspire others to come together.
- You know people with untapped resources.
- You have a wide social network and influence on twitter and Instagram.
- You set up a personal plan for tithing 10% of earnings.
- You build a ‘giving back’ philosophy into your business plan.
- You pay off the unpaid lunch fees at a local school.
- You have a garage full of sports equipment that you don’t use anymore.
- You’ve collected an assortment of designer purses that sit in your closet.
- You have multiple sets of china that have been passed down to you that go unused.
I advocate being insanely creative with what you have available to give, because essentially, philanthropy is our desire to give away our life energy to make something better. Think about that for a minute. You are exchanging bits of yourself to create something outside of yourself. This is the totality of what life is: an exchange of energy and resources. Trusting the flow of this energy exchange is the heart of philanthropy.
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