Philanthropy for the Rest of Us: Giving Time & Talent

So I’ve convinced you that philanthropy is not just for the “uber-wealthy” who write huge checks and get their names on buildings. But are you aware that it doesn’t even have to be centered on writing small checks either? It doesn’t have to involve giving property at all. That is right, you can be a philanthropist without giving any money or property to favored causes.

You may be big hearted and intent on helping your community, but will never have the resources with which to make significant charitable gifts. Many successful people find themselves in this position, but it does not mean they should ignore philanthropy nor their desires to help others. That is because they have an abundance of time, skills, and experience that can be most valuable to nonprofit organizations.

Even if we accept the assumption that donated time is cheaply valued (as if we were only stuffing envelopes or planting trees), Americans donate 8.8 billion hours, worth an estimated $195 billion, each year; nearly 30% of all the resources nonprofits count on to complete their missions. Would you say this “donation” is “philanthropic”? I would, as I doubt most organizations would be successful without it.

But we don’t merely stuff envelopes or plant trees as volunteers. We serve on committees, councils and boards where leadership skills are worth multiples of this assumed value. Some provide skills in accounting, law, marketing, information technology, and business services that may be invaluable to nonprofit organizations. For such “skills based volunteering”, I believe the value of the time & talent donated is worth many billions more. The “avoided costs” these volunteer donations have provided to nonprofits each year is huge, critical to nonprofit success, and an incredible source of purpose and satisfaction to millions of people.

So, if you are unable to donate money or property to your favorite cause (and even if you are and do), please don’t discount or dismiss the real philanthropic impact your donation of time and effort provides. Volunteering allows us all to see up close the benefits of our gifts, to gain a tremendous sense of purpose, and to continue our personal growth while making a difference in the lives of others.

If you believe you have the time and would like to consider becoming a volunteer, but do not know where or how to get started, I would love for us to talk and to help lead you in the right direction. Send me an email:

Now, that is a most fulfilling means of Philanthropy for the Rest of Us.

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