Long word. Kind of funny sounding. Incredibly profound effects.
So what exactly is philanthropy?
According to dictionary.com:
“altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property, or work to needy persons, by endowment of institutions of learning and hospitals, and by generosity to other socially useful purposes.”
In other words: the dollars you donated to the local animal shelter, those moments you volunteered in your child’s classroom, that 5K you ran down Greek row to raise awareness for CARDV, or the times you spent serving hot meals at The Salvation Army…those are all acts of philanthropy.
I condone philanthropy on a regular basis & maintain practicing acts of philanthropy as often as I can – but it is especially prevalent around the holidays. During the winter when the weather gets colder, warm thoughts & kind actions towards others from all walks of life are especially important.
I know that you often hear a designated percentage of your budget should be allocated towards philanthropy & charity – whether it be 10%, 15%, you name it. Yet, I could never fully comprehend why you would want to limit yourself from giving (whether monetary value, or volunteer hours) and hit a point where you say: “Oh, I donated my $100/2 hours of volunteer time this month to this charity and now I’ve met my quota.“
Now I completely understand…sometimes there are just too many foundations, funds, shelters, people, social causes, and the like out there to give to all. Sometimes it’s a matter of taking care of your family, your friends & yourself first because life happens before you can give to others. It’s all about balance. I could understand that is why people like the consistency of allocating a certain percentage to charitable & philanthropic causes in a month.
But then I got to finishing the book All The Money in the World by Laura Vanderkam. Here is one of the biggest themes/paragraphs that just sang straight to my heart:
“Give yourself some philanthropy fun money. Concentrate the bulk of your giving on a few organizations, but leave about 20 percent of your total charitable budget unrestricted, so you can dole it out to things that strike your fancy. In the context of buying happiness, I can think of little more fun than going through life with the mind-set of always looking for ways to make the world better for $5-$20. And not just via nonprofits. Spending money on other people qualifies as pro-social spending whether there’s a tax deduction involved or not” (181).
Vanderkam then lists out several ways that you can exercise utilizing your philanthropy fun money. Bingo. Enter in a Flexible Philanthropy Fund. You may not be able to write out $100,000 checks at this point in time to your charity of choice (although, I hope on my financial journey at one point in my life I can pass such an amount on). But having a portion of money that you can use at your discretion to make positive changes can have a large scale effect on others. Even better? The flexibility aspect of giving when you can and not stressing about what the dollar value has to be.
To get started with this fund take $5, $10, or $20 this month (could be cash, or a designated amount in your checking account). Use this amount in any way, or fashion that would promote some form of philanthropy in your hometown. Want to kick start using the amount of money you set aside? The next person you encounter in your hometown who is raising money/bell-ringing/giving awareness to a cause – give that total amount that you have set aside for your fund, no questions asked!
Want a couple more ideas for a Flexible Philanthropy Fund? Inspired by Vanderkam, I put together a list of 10 ways you can put this fund to use:
- Give money to the kids at the car wash fundraising for their sports team (even if your car doesn’t need a washing)
- Cover the cab/Uber fare for all your friends on your outing
- Head over to CharityWatch.org, click the “Top Rated Charities” link, donate to a charity that’s listed under the starting letter of your first name
- Write random notes with positive messages and leave them on campus/around town to put a smile on someone’s face
- Overfill the parking meter (even if you only need about 10 minutes in that parking space) that way the next person does not have to pay
- Help friends reach their entrepreneurial goals by providing tools or time to their business
- Take a moment to pick up a lost item to give back to it’s rightful owner
- Spend just a little longer talking to that stranger who has a lot to say at the grocery store
- Find a local non-profit or charity you are most passionate about and volunteer your time to their efforts
- Purchase a coffee, snack, or meal in advanced for the customer in line behind you
Of course this is a limited list, and there are an incredible amount of ways you can utilize a Flexible Philanthropy Fund. Whether large, or small a Flexible Philanthropy Fund when put to use with no boundaries can create an immense amount of joy to others. Jot down ways you would use such a fund, and encourage friends & family during this holiday season to participate in all the ideas you wrote down. You never know – one random act of kindness can ignite the passion in another to pass it on.
What would you add to the list above with a Flexible Philanthropy Fund? Are there any special things you’ve done for philanthropy? Let me know, I would love to hear your experiences!