In this season of giving and receiving, I wanted to share some thoughts around donations.
Over the past few decades, I have done a lot of volunteering. When I was underemployed, I volunteered. When I was over-employed, I volunteered.
Volunteering our time often has a longer-lasting impact and imprint on people, including ourselves.
The first key is finding a channel for impact and value such as a person, an event, or an organization we believe in.
The second key is being able to deliver value over time for this person, event, or organization. You can confirm your belief in providing it by literally asking if it is helpful to them and then ask them to confirm how it is for them (versus a simple “yes” that can often be tokenized as a blanket answer to any volunteer).
The third key is the repeatable act of volunteering for this channel and/or others. Volunteering is not a checkbox, but rather a commitment and effort on your part.
So why volunteer vs. provide a handout of extra funds to said cause?
Both can help. don’t get me wrong. Often, I hear people talking about writing a check when they can not find the time, even though that sounds like poor time management. I believe the willingness to volunteer is lacking with many people and it extends to far more than helping the less fortunate or funding [fill in the blank].org
I recently listened to well-known philanthropist billionaire who analyzed the hundreds of places they funded with sizable donations annually and then measured the impact after a few years. The impact of those donations were so minimal, he stopped writing checks to most of them because it did not make a noticeable difference (or at least not to the level that was expected at the time). Many organizations are getting increasing criticism on the impact they deliver (or don’t). Some are better documented and measured than others.
When I attended the VIP event after this interesting Question and Answer session with the philanthropist, the Dean of the Business School where I volunteer some of my time as a startup advisor thanked me personally. While I fully realize a business school is a business as well, I am there to assist their efforts in providing unbiased advice to dozens of new startups (run by students) a month throughout the university, well beyond just the school of business or the school of computer science.
The Dean also asked why I do this. I simply prefer to donate my time than my money. My time, advice, and experience shared seem to have a longer-lasting impact than any money I have ever donated to anyone. It is a better investment.
In October 2017, I moved from the Washington DC area to the low country of Bluffton, South Carolina.
When I told the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship that I was moving the DC area where I had to leave the house by 6am to beat traffic from Dulles, VA to College Park, MD, they immediately offered to keep me engaged through the use of an online mentoring platform so I could continue mentoring from anywhere in the world remotely.
Before moving, I made sure to find new venues to volunteer as a startup advisor in South Carolina. While many opportunities do not pan out for a variety of reasons, a few do.
I made sure those were available before finding a house to live in. Call it selfless maybe. I call it an opportunity to learn and share. Yes, that is right. I get to learn what gaps and challenges there are in the market today. Filling those gaps and challenges becomes a future lecture, my next book if there isn’t one that exists (like Keywording Now) or another business to fill that gap if there is a big enough market need for it. Find a solution to an existing problem.
That is why the first question I ask is “How can I help you?”
How do you donate your time?
What lasting impact do your efforts have where you volunteer?
What impact did your money have if you choose to donate?
Which will be remembered more?