I have found that volunteering and charity work are quite fulfilling. And I hesitate to use “fulfilling” because I’m not seeking to fill a void in my own life, but rather to fill a void in someone else’s who needs it.
There are many avenues one can take for such philanthropic ventures. You can be an active participant by working for a soup kitchen, or helping build a home. Or you can be a passive giver and write a check.
One upon a time I labeled many of these people “Causists.” At least the ones who were unabashedly vociferous and obnoxious earned this title. A year ago I touched a little bit on this when I wrote about October being National Breast Cancer Awareness month. This was a cause I took up in part because I am a woman, and in part because my aunt is a (2-year) survivor.
But I find myself championing other causes. In February, my company was a major sponsor of the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk for our area. In fact, with the generous support of wonderful friends, I rivaled the corporate donations that my company also solicited. This cause also hits home because both of my parents have had significant heart history.
But it’s not just about giving money. Time is a valuable asset too. A while back I was a youth group leader at my church. I (rather blindly) took the helm for a group of 14 and 15 year olds. This was some of the best time well spent in my life.
When I do something, I invest my energy without reservation. And here I am again. I am a provisional member of the local Junior League. We are a very active community group that provides charitable support (both active and passive) all around the city from low-income elementary school book purchases to an accessible playground for all children to helping out at Ministry with Community. I am excited about this opportunity to be involved. But at the same time, I am concerned about stretching myself too thin. And I am having lunch today with one of the lawyers in the County Bar Association to discuss starting up the Wills for Heroes program in our state.
But then I just got a solicitation from “The Smile Train” for a donation. I have a habit of reading charitable donation solicitations. This one (like 99% of them) was quite touching. The financial breakdown of monies actually going to the needy people in the program is outstanding. I’m considering giving a donation. But that falls on the heals of checks that went out to a center providing riding for the handicapped, my alma mater, my church, the SPCA, and America’s Second Harvest.
Where do I stop? Is it better to give in little amounts, spread over many charities? Or should I focus all my investment (financially and other) in one charity? And how should I decide? Of course, they ALL sound like wonderful opportunities and certainly needy causes. And I want to give to all of them.
Once upon a time (back in college), I thought that it would be great to marry a wealthy guy for the SOLE purpose of spending my time researching deserving charities, picking one, then throwing a lavish party wherein all of our uber-wealthy friends could come and write 5 and 6-figure checks. Residual suggested I make my own mint AND research the charities AND throw the parties.
I’m working on it.