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How to Get Into Philanthropy

As defined by Merriam-Webster, philanthropy is the giving of money and time to help improve the lives of others. Despite the straightforward definition, philanthropy can relate to a broad range of actions, which is why a question many of us ask is how does one get into philanthropy?

When exploring this question, ask yourself, “What causes do I care about most?” With numerous organizations supporting a variety of causes, it can be difficult to choose among hundreds of philanthropic organizations.

As a result, many donors are strategic in their giving, meaning that they ensure that their donations will yield the best results coinciding with their beliefs. To help realize what causes you care most about, rank organizations according to the categories that they address, such as people, places, issues or philosophies.

Sites like CharityNavigator.org and GiveWell.org are helpful when researching and ranking organizations. Don’t be shocked if your rankings change over time. Like everything else, this is a learning process, so allow yourself some time to learn the best ways to donate.

Although monetary donations keep organizations working toward their specific cause, giving time is just as important as giving money. Organizations are always looking for volunteers and even full-time employees dedicated to the organization’s cause. The most popular position people typically apply for in a philanthropic organization is that of program staff member, whose main responsibility is grant-making; but there are so many more positions available that applicants may typically overlook.

Employment opportunities typically available at a philanthropic organization include: member of the foundation board, senior management, finance, programs, communications, administration/human resources, donor relations, research and grants management. All of these positions play a major role in an organization’s daily operations and in the achievement of its core mission.

An increasing amount of volunteers are serving the world’s poor in both the U.S. and foreign countries. Although the common perception of volunteers is that they are merely young and inexperienced college students or graduates volunteering to simply pass the time, volunteers are just as important and influential as employees. With the timing of assignments ranging from weeks to months to even years, volunteering can directly correspond with one’s schedule.

Volunteering has become more than just an easy way to assist international development efforts or humanitarian relief work; anyone can learn new skills and share their knowledge with others. With various opportunities available across the world, finding a volunteer position that is related to your interests or expertise is easy, thanks to sites like Volunteermatch.org and Idealist.org.

Even though philanthropy is commonly associated with donations, it goes beyond donating money. While considering how to get into philanthropy, remember that every action helps, whether you contribute your finances, time, or even your gifts and talents.

– Meghan Orner

Sources: Merriam-Webster, Philanthropy New York, Devex, Bridgespan
Photo: MillanCPA