Ever since I’ve started discussing my career to transition from the private sector to the social impact world, nearly everyone has told me how much they would like to give back and engage with an organization that is solving a problem they care about.
Now, more than ever, many people are looking for ways to be part of the solution.
Guess what? You don’t have to change jobs or careers to have a positive impact on the world. You can make it happen with whatever resources you’d like to expend and you can do it within the confines of your busy life.
Here are five things you can do now:
Pick Your Passion
First, decide what you want to support. Go with your visceral, gut reaction. What warms your heart? What injustices make you indignant? It could be homelessness, advocacy for children, animal rights, environmental protection, marriage equality, reproductive rights, hunger or any of the other important causes out there. Then pick your organization(s). Find a worthy recipient for your attention by talking with your friends - if they are serving on boards or volunteering, their due diligence may be enough. Or rely on groups like Charity Navigator or Social Impact Exchange’s S&I100, who assess and rate organizations for impact, transparency, financial health and the like.
The causes that you are passionate about will welcome any contribution you can afford. Give $5 if that’s what you feel comfortable with. According to Giving USA, 72% of total charitable giving in 2013 came from individuals – contributions from foundations, companies and bequests make up just over one-quarter of total giving. Whatever you give will make a difference – never feel like your contribution will not be large enough to matter.
Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is
There are many social impact organizations, operating as both for-profits and not-for-profits, that are solving big problems with the proceeds of the goods and services that they sell. Whenever you have a choice, spend your money with one of these organizations. There are over 2000 B Corporations who are certified based on social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Whether you’re buying a gift for a friend, a pair of glasses, home cleaning products, services for your business or chocolate, you can buy from a company that’s committed to delivering positive social impact.
Engage Your Organization
Forward-thinking executives are engineering social impact into the rhythm of their businesses. At a recent meeting of top company leadership in my last organization, we took an hour to make packages for Project Night Night to distribute to kids at local shelters and many leaders told me it was one of the most meaningful parts of the session. EMC World 2014 included a Water Walk to support charity:water. It’s incredibly memorable and productive to build a social impact session into a team meeting, planning event or conference.
For me, this is the most precious gift of all. While volunteering to assist in a kindergarten classroom in the late mornings might be difficult for many professionals, there are many valuable things you can do with just a little of your scarce time. It can be making food for monkeys at the zoo on Saturday, reading with kids early in the morning, calling to encourage people to vote for a candidate or answering phones during your NPR affiliates’ fundraising blitz - a few hours a month can change lives. And if you’d like to do more, you can join the pro bono movement through well-organized groups like Taproot Foundation or participate in a non-profit board – you will likely find a great fit through The Bridgespan Group or boardnetUSA.
So, if you feel moved to create positive change, don’t wait! There are so many organizations that need you right now and you can help change the world with whatever you have to offer.
About the Author: Paula Reinman specializes in helping social impact organizations fulfill their missions through effective marketing and communications. You may follow Paula on Twitter at @preinman and at www.linkedin.com/in/paulareinman/.