Albert Einstein once said, “It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.” While I agree with him, I also understand how easy it is to become overwhelmed (or at least a little confused) when deciding what shape philanthropy or contribution might take for you.
The benefits of giving back are well-supported by research. The Science of Generosity initiative, a comprehensive review of more than 500 studies on giving, found that givers experience countless benefits as a positive side effect of philanthropy.
One study published in the National Library of Medicine found that charitable donations activate neural activity in the area of the brain that processes pleasure and reward. Researchers from Harvard University and the University of British Columbia uncovered that spending money on another cause or person led to lasting improvements in people’s overall happiness and life satisfaction.
And, perhaps most notably, a 20-year study done by the University of Buffalo discovered that altruistic behaviors can even reduce mortality rates.
We all know we should give back, but making it routine can be hard when we’re unsure what to support, where to give or how much is appropriate. Here’s how to get started.
Identify your cause.
Ask yourself these questions to figure out what cause speaks to you most.
- What social, political, environmental or logistical problem do I want to solve?
- We all have a cause or concern that is dear to us. The trick is figuring out how you can leverage yours to connect your heart and your hands.
Once you’re ready to begin giving, keep in mind that your contributions don’t need to be astronomical. Micro- philanthropy is the practice of leveraging charitable donations made in smaller increments. This could mean anything from 25 cents to $10 or $200.
Micro-giving can take many forms, from $1 Red Cross pledges at the grocery store checkout to event sponsorships like dollar-per-mile 5K races.
To figure out the right type of micro-philanthropy for you, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the best use of my time, talent, network or resources?
- What community project could I contribute to?
- Does my organization have a company-sponsored event or donation-matching program?
- Is there someone I could mentor?
Thinking about giving back in this way makes philanthropy more affordable, relatable and attainable.
The tennis legend Arthur Ashe put it best when he said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by @Elisall/Twenty20.com