Let’s face it: we all want to make a difference in the world, but sometimes it can feel like we don’t have the time or resources to do so. However, instead of taking action, as a philanthropy professional, I continue to witness a silent and deadly disease that plagues far too many American households—charity paralysis. That’s right. I’m calling it like I see it.
Only half of U.S. households give to charities. In fact, charitable giving continues to decline, and according to the latest “Giving USA” report, financial giving from individuals saw a 3.4 percent drop since 2017.
While there are plenty of valid and robust societal reasons for the decline in charitable giving, philanthropy continues to be an important pillar for many. For example, since the pandemic began, nearly 75 percent of millennials have sent some kind of financial aid to family, friends or a charitable organization. Additionally, Gen Z was a close second, with more than two out of three young Americans giving to help those in need during one of the most challenging times in recent history.
The truth is, the desire to do good is high; however, sometimes we get stuck in one of two places: First, deciding which charitable organization to give time or money to can be overwhelming. Second, it is terrifyingly challenging to choose how much of our financial or time capital to invest.
Look, the cure to charity paralysis is simple. Say it with me, ”philanthropy isn’t one size fits all.” In fact, philanthropy doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking; there are many small ways that we can incorporate giving into our everyday lives. Here are three simple steps to help you do more good that matters:
Know Your Purpose
With over 1.5 million charities in the United States, narrowing down where to give can be daunting. Try starting with what matters most to you. Then, to find clarity, answer the following questions:
- When you were younger, what interests bought you great joy or concern?
- Right now, what is one issue you’d like to change that has impacted either you personally or a friend?
- If there are no barriers to what’s possible, unicorn dreams, what would the lives of those you love and your community look like?
When I work with mission-driven individuals, their philanthropic journey often starts with an issue that profoundly impacts them. The questions above can guide you through some quick soul searching to find what sparks your heart and mind.
Find Your Niche
Once you have clarity on your purpose, it’s time to find your niche. Thankfully, websites like Charity Navigator, United Way and DoSomething.org provide a searchable cornucopia of charitable organizations to aid in finding one that aligns with the issue or cause that matters most to you.
Do Good Now
That’s right, just like the latest Cascade Platinum commercial, I want you to do it and do it often; however, do good with the caveat of understanding that your investment in philanthropy may look different over time. Like your favorite pair of jeans, your preference (or, let’s keep it real here, your body) may have you swapping your favorite pair of skinny jeans for a relaxed fit depending on your season of life—this is perfectly okay.
So, go ahead and give a little—your wallet, your time, or even just your voice. Sign up for a newsletter, become a monthly donor, host a small fundraiser, or make an investment of time by volunteering with an organization that fills your purpose cup over. And, while you’re at it, add “philanthropist” to your list of titles. Philanthropy is not a fad, it’s a lifestyle – so embrace it!
Let me know in the comments how you plan on integrating giving back into your everyday routine. Additionally, for more ideas for how to do good that matters visit Brave Philanthropist for tips and inspiration. Until then, happy giving!