Philanthropists are made, not born. Having inherited money does not necessarily make you generous and working hard for every dime does not have to make you stingy. If you are interested in learning how to be a humanitarian and contributor to causes you believe in, you must begin by creating the habits of a philanthropist.
Find a Cause
Most philanthropists feel very passionately about a particular cause or group of causes and work tirelessly at raising and donating money to further the works of that organization. A notable example is power couple Bill and Melinda Gates who have donated billions of dollars towards global health initiatives. Another example is Laura and John Arnold who focus on policy change towards bail reform and pharmaceutical pricing. Richard and Nancy Kinder have given millions of dollars to Houston’s Memorial Park and Museum of Fine Arts among other causes. In other words, philanthropy is about making the world a better place through a cause that is near and dear to your heart.
Plan for Giving
Not every philanthropist donates money the same way. Some of the wealthiest people in the world have signed onto The Giving Pledge started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet in 2010. The basic idea is that wealthy individuals pledge to give away half their fortune. This idea of giving away half is not just for the rich. Anyone can make this commitment no matter how much money they make. It’s simply a matter of making giving a priority. Of course, the wealthier you are, the less you must sacrifice material goods to live this way, but at its heart, the pledge about doing for others.
If you’re not quite ready to commit to giving away money you haven’t yet earned, consider making a monthly donation to a favorite cause or charity. Although one-time donations are great, regular donations ensure your chosen organization will be able to plan for and maintain an operating budget year-round. Even if you can’t pledge more than $50 a month, your contributions will be joined with other regular donations to help keep the organization functioning smoothly.
Another option is to put a bequest in your will so that a donation is made after you have passed away. Be very clear with your children or anyone who thinks they might be inheriting money from you what you plan to do. Make sure that you have an estate planning attorney draw up all the legal paperwork.
If you prefer a more grass roots approach to giving, find a non-profit group such as Donors Choose or Global Giving where your modest donation is pooled with others and sent to different specific high-impact projects such as buying books for underserved students or building a freshwater pump for a village.
If you’re unsure where to put your money, you can always start with an organization like the United Way or the Red Cross that will direct your dollars towards where they are needed most. Take steps to vet any charity without a proven track record to make sure your money is being used the way you want it to.
Volunteer Your Talents
Being a philanthropist is more than about money. The word is derived from the Greek and means “lover of humankind.” If you want to take loving your fellow man (or woman) seriously then a great place to start is by spending time helping in some way as there are many charities begging for volunteers. Those in the medical profession are always needed, but other skill sets are equally valuable. Not everyone can stitch up a wound, but charities need carpenters, accountants, teachers, architects, civil engineers and attorneys too. And that’s just a partial list. If you want to get involved, simply being a willing worker bee who shows up on time and is committed to the task at hand can set you down the road to philanthropy.
Philanthropists come in all shapes in sizes. Not all of them are billionaires, but they are all committed to making the world a better place in whatever way they can.