How to Be More Than a Passive Philanthropist

Giving money to an organization to support a cause or simply to show your support is a well-received act of generosity, but it’s important to remember that is not necessarily ‘true’ philanthropy.

As Rabbi Chaim Levine, Founder and Executive Director of the successful philanthropy Brothers for Life, states, “There are three levels of giving that progressively get more difficult and demanding but at the same time more valuable and impactful; giving one’s money; giving one’s time; giving one’s home and heart.”

True philanthropy involves active involvement with an organization to provide assistance in more than monetary ways. By doing so, an individual can maximize his or her talents, skills, and resources while helping favorite cause reach their goals. Here are some of the most impactful ways to be more than a passive philanthropist:

Serve on the organization’s board of directors.

If the organization has a board of directors and committees involved with coordinating different projects, consider volunteering your time as a board or committee member. This will allow you to give the gift of time and your business know-how, leadership skills, or other talents to help the organization move forward. If you have served on boards in the business world before, your experience will be priceless to the organization as you bring a much-needed executive perspective to the table.

Actively Promote the organization.

Most organizations need marketing assistance and lack a dedicated experienced team to rely upon. Consider ways you could help promote awareness online and offline through your normal communication activities and channels. Brief mentions or more detailed descriptions and discussions can be incredibly valuable at introducing and inspiring community members and organizations who may be interested in supporting the organization. Sometimes just the dissemination of information from a trusted source can have a substantial positive impact.

Be a connector.

If you have good networking skills and are active in the community in other ways, serve as a connector between board members, committee members, and volunteers, and your network of connections. Consider what strengths or opportunities either party might be able to offer the other and introduce individuals who you think might share similar passions and values and might be able to work together. Providing access to your social capital — your business and personal connections — can be invaluable to an organization that needs trustworthy and hardworking people on its team.

Organize events.

Consider organizing awareness or fundraising activities either with or independently of the organization. Whether large or intimate, you could take the lead in helping to grow the organization you are committed to by overseeing an event. The initial goal doesn’t always need to be about fundraising. Education and awareness are foundational to ultimately successful fundraising. For example, the Greenstein Family Foundation helped Brothers for Life over the years invited many new families to meet the wounded soldiers associated with Brothers For Life who were visiting Seattle. By exposing other families to the soldiers their awareness and affection for the organization grew. There was no fundraising at these events but over time these families became active supporters with their time, their money and ultimately their hearts.

There are many ways for philanthropists to support their favorite organization beyond simply writing a check or looking for recognition based on the dollar amount they have given away. If you really want to make a difference, consider different ways to be actively involved in the organization so your ideas, skills, and talents can help the organization grow and evolve.