You Don’t Have to Be Old and Rich to Be a Philanthropist

In a country like Australia (largely wealthy and filled with opportunity), I believe that young people who are privileged to have a solid career should be giving back to the community.

I’m sure not everyone will agree with me. However, it only takes a short trip to an impoverished part of our country or abroad to realise that despite the trials and tribulations we may face or may have faced in our lives, we are incredibly fortunate and miles ahead of so many in this world.

Finn and I made a commitment several years ago to formalise our charitable giving. We settled on 2% of our annual income each year. Over the years we have experimented with spending this money in different ways. Here are a few tips and some of the things we’ve done to help you consider your philanthropic plans. Remember, you don’t have to be rich and old to be a philanthropist!

Regular giving

If you are passionate about a certain cause, or organisation, this may be the easiest way to get behind it. Signing up for an ongoing monthly donation is a really easy way to do something small each month to support the work that your pick of the bunch is doing.

Personally, we donate monthly to Care Australia who serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the world, one of their focus areas is women and children – a cause very close to my heart. We also contribute $25 a month to a Kiva account and loan the money out as it builds up (mainly to females starting small businesses or for education needs).

Gift it

Each year some of the money we donate is in the form of gifts through movements like the Oxfam Unwrapped program, Care Australia and many other charities also do this, and Kiva provides gift cards so that the recipient can actually choose who they lend the money to. Last year at our WE Christmas party, Christine received a gift card from Kiva through our Kris Kringle game (you’ll have to ask her who she loaned the money too!).

Larger, one-off donations

Prior to doing the regular donations, we would work out roughly how much we had to donate for the year. Then each of us were free to pitch ideas as to where we could make our larger lump sum contributions.

This year we sold one of our businesses and were able to make a much larger than usual donation.

Time is money

It’s not always possible to donate money, I get that. But it is almost always possible to donate your time or expertise in some way to a cause. It’s not always easy and I remember when I was about 25 trying to volunteer my financial expertise to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre in Melbourne, but it wasn’t what they needed at the time. I felt frustrated by this, but it was a great lesson for me. It’s not always about what I want to give, but about what the organisation needs that I can provide. Even though my expertise was financial management, stocking shelves in their store was what they needed at that time. That journey led me to mentor a young Indian woman who was job seeking. It was a really great experience for both of us.

I’ve also been lucky enough to work with Project Futures for a couple of years now, sitting on the Board but also through WE’s partnership with them. My journey of volunteering time has been long and windy, often filled with frustrations, but also with reward. I had to drop my ego around what I wanted to do for the organisation and do what was needed. Giving money may definitely be the easier of the two options, but giving time is infinitely more rewarding.

Run for a cause

Like Pam is doing this month, running (or raising money in any way) for a cause is another great way to flex your philanthropy muscles. Your influence is powerful, and a form of currency. Consider using it to raise money for your favourite cause and get fit at the same time. When I was younger and didn’t have as much spare cash, this was my preferred option, and I undertook the Oxfam Trailwalker two years in a row and raised $10K each time with my team. It was bloody hard! But such a sense of achievement both physically and knowing that we’d raised funds and awareness for Oxfam. One of the greatest things about this strategy is that you involve so many others in an awareness perspective and a financial perspective.

I hope this gives you some ideas and motivation toward becoming more involved with philanthropy. Consider the many ways in which you can contribute. It’s something that’s really important to me, and has been for a very long time. It’s within everyone’s reach and the selfish side is that you receive a lot of personal reward in helping others.

If anyone is interested in getting more involved with the young philanthropy scene here in Australia or abroad, a great place to start is New Gen, part of Philanthropy Australia, and you may also be interested to check out when and where the next Nexus Global Youth Summit will be held.