My first volunteer opportunity came by way of my stepmother who worked in a nursing home. They needed kids to "adopt a grandparent" because the sad truth was that many of their residents didn't get any visitors. Our tasks were simple - read the newspaper to them, play games, just be someone to talk to. My sister and I still talk about some of our "grandparents."
When I began my marketing career, my first gig was at United Way. Being so close to the needs and challenges of building better communities was eye-opening, particularly in regards to giving. I'd always been very generous with my time, but hadn't been bitten by the bug of donating. I've been inspired to increase my giving three times - two date back to United Way, one happened this year.
Donation Inspiration #1: 30%?!
I took a seminar on developing major gifts (typically donations of $1,000 or more) from IUPUI's Center on Philanthropy. The instructor openly shared his own outlook on giving. He budgets 30% of his annual income to support the causes he cares about. That's no small bit - just hearing it made me realize I could do more.
Donation Inspiration #2: Anonymous Awesomeness
The last year I worked at United Way, we were really struggling to energize enough donors to support the families requesting holiday help. It's heartbreaking to see the stories knowing you haven't gotten enough to divide up among those in need. When the hour was late and it appeared we'd have to turn many people away, an anonymous donor stepped up and accounted for all remaining families on the wait list. You can't imagine the mood shift in our office.
Donation Inspiration #3: Lost and Found
I never knew it growing up (just learned of it this year, in fact), but when my stepfather finds money on the ground, he donates it somewhere. He doesn't need it, and the money isn't really his. So, when I found five bucks on the ground earlier this year, I decided I'd follow that path.
This also expanded my horizons to smaller, more spontaneous giving. Most of my giving in the past was planned out, budgeted, thought through. Thinking through your donations is smart - after all you want to be sure you're putting your money in good hands. But giving that found $5 bucks felt pretty darn good and could happen on a whim. I know plenty of organizations who can make that $5 go a lot further than I ever could.
This post is part of Think Kit 2011.