I was recently invited to speak at the Junior League of Atlanta on the topic of philanthropy - giving back and doing more. In developing my outline for the presentation, I noted these key focus areas to consider when allocating time to philanthropic endeavors.
Choose a cause about which you are passionate. I have had the opportunity to volunteer my time with a number of different philanthropic organizations and what I have found is inevitably, I invest time and money in the areas where I feel I can make the most impact - where the reward is personal - and is something where I as an individual can make a difference. I have seen many individuals engage in philanthropic activities (or volunteer roles) that were not a fit. Inevitably (and typically in a short period of time), they disengage, disappear and / or move on to other things. Choose wisely - and spend time doing something that is personally rewarding.
Define balance - and how investing time in a philanthropic endeavor "fits in" with everything else. It is good to be excited about investing time in a group, committee or organization but the biggest mistake one can make, is "signing up" without ever being able to "show up." Most of the time, when you add something to the life schedule, something else has to be taken off the list. Ensure that you spend time understanding the trade-offs to avoid wasting your time and the time of others. Make philanthropy part of your life cadence.
Network. One side-benefit of getting involved in community groups or organizations is the opportunity to develop relationships with individuals from other companies and organizations having different backgrounds and experience. Make time to expand your network. You will most likely see some of these individuals again as you commit to involvement with other groups. Your new contacts can be an excellent resource - they share common interests and passions and this can be a real advantage in the workplace and community.