When the word ‘philanthropy’ is used, many of us think of people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and other very wealthy individuals. The meaning, however, is not solely associated with huge personal riches. Dictionary definitions include ‘love to mankind’, ‘universal goodwill’ and ‘an active effort to promote human welfare’.
A person who practices it tries to make a difference with whatever they possess. For most of us that's knowledge, time and energy. When we offer these freely, we’re spending as generously as any Rockefeller or Carnegie.
In her book ‘How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist’, Nicole Bouchard Boles came up with 330 ways to make a difference in your home, community and world without donating any money. She shares her ideas that have nothing to with the size of your bank account and everything to do with your personal talents and attributes.
Giving of yourself
Most cities and large towns have volunteer opportunity websites or agencies that act as the middle men matching your skills to the needs of charities. They can be contacted to find out where your philanthropy will be of most help and which situation would be the most mutually suitable.
Knitting or crocheting just about anything will be gladly accepted by local shelters. They can use blankets, hats, mitts, teddy bears or other toys. All you need is your imagination.
Recently I met a woman at a craft fair who said she used to knit mittens each year for 25 years and at Halloween, she would give these to the kids when they came trick-or-treating. School ended at 3:15 pm and at 3:20 pm kids were lining up outside her home for their mittens.
Some years later a plumber came over to fix a leaking tap and he said, “I have been to your house before”. When he finished the job, he came back to her and said “You are the lady that gave us mittens at Halloween. I loved those”.
Sharing Your Time
If you wish to get involved, it helps to figure out when you can spend time and what you would enjoy doing. This will help you identify a suitable agency. I knew someone who retired and immediately volunteered to work at the zoo gardens every Wednesday. After a year, she quit because she did not like the weekly routine.
After rethinking her time commitment, she decided that it was better for her to take on short projects like helping to make occasional lunches at her church, donating a painting for an auction and helping at her grandchildren’s school.
Want to hold and cuddle a baby for a little while? Hospitals, especially children’s hospitals need people to do just that.
Using good Ideas
A BC family wanted to do something for their local shelter. They were inspired by charitable groups that collect money and buy underwear for shelters across Canada.
The family invited their friends and relations to a summer barbecue and asked them to bring new underwear for men, women and kids instead of bringing the usual bottle of wine or hostess gift. Everyone liked the idea and gave generously. The shelter benefited from more than 100 pairs of underwear.
Cardinal Foundation in Winnipeg has an annual donation drive in November called ‘Knock Your Socks Off’. They collect new and gently used socks for a local men’s shelter.
Sharing your possessions
Your computer can be used for philanthropy. The website www.care2.com uses search engines that will generate donations to a variety of charities.
Good used clothing, home goods, and linens can be donated to your local charities. A great resource for donating clothing and other household goods to charity is www.donationtown.org and www.era.ca accepts used, working order computers to donate to the needy or non-profit organizations.
Ujamaa Grandmas www.ujamaagrandmas.com in Calgary will take your fabric or yarn leftover from sewing or knitting projects for their annual yarn and fabric sale. They fundraise to help African families devastated with AIDS.
We at Lanagan Lifestyles collect small change for our big piggy bank and when it’s full we write cheques to organizations like The Salvation Army, The Mustard Seed and The Calgary Women's Centre. When anyone inquires about the huge piggy bank they are doomed to be parted from their small change.