This is the last year of my 30's -- next year I will turn a ripe 40 years old. Reflecting on my 30s surfaced 3 milestones in the past decade that shaped my personal giving story:
At 30, while working in high finance, I had my first taste of giving my skills for good when I began volunteering for the UN Online Volunteers, then with microfinance institutions in Cambodia and India. The possibility of my skills benefiting someone other than my clients really inspired me and that has kept me volunteering in microfinance today. At age 34, nothing prepared me for what the global financial crisis did to the livelihoods and retirement of innocent people. I left the industry voluntarily, in search of more meaningful work.
At age 36, I became a mother. For the first time in my life, I made a career decision that was not in my sole interest -- I gave up being a social entrepreneur for a stable salary in a non-profit.
Today, I am a mother of two and work at the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre that promotes effective and efficient philanthropy in Singapore. I regularly volunteer with social enterprises, MFIs and social investment circles. Although the years were rocky, I gained some valuable personal giving lessons.
1. There are many ways to give -- most of them unexpected.
Online skilled volunteering. Digging sanitation trenches. Walking the neighbour's dog. Gently-worn suits to needy job seekers. This incredible variety of options kept me feeling that I could always find a way to give, whatever my circumstances. Impact came not from size -- but from a clear alignment of giving goals and delivery.
2. Information and networks are important tools in giving.
Knowing more about a social issue and the people and organisations working in it can help make the best use of limited resources. Yet I also felt resistance when givers needed to be more transparent and open up to others.
3. Being philanthropic does not mean we stop challenging.
Creative donors free themselves from preconceived notions of philanthropy and blur the boundaries between commercial and social.
4. Sometimes we need to pay to give.
Whether in the form of intermediary fees or capacity-building cost -- few would invest in philanthropy, much like any new venture, to grow and be effective in achieving its objectives.
Singapore's philanthropic sector is facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Proactive, networked, creative and informed givers are on the rise, with many ready to support their growth. NVPCs giving study shows that not only do 90% in Singapore donate, , 90% of donors who agreed that most non-profits use donated funds properly were likely to continue donating in future. Year on year we have seen exponential growth in donation amounts from www.sggives.org, Singapore's largest online donation portal.
This is why NVPC is so excited about GivingTuesday coming to Singapore in the form of GivingTuesdaySG. Anyone can step up to make a difference, no matter how small. There is inclusivity in the ways we give -- direct donations, giving in kind, social investment and more. It stands for the power of crowdsourcing and social media to drive giving -- with barely any cost to charities. Networks are built among individuals and businesses working with charities and everyone that cares working with anyone who needs.
GivingTuesdaySG introduces a different kind of Singapore giving, keeping the same intent to do good, with the courage for creativity, innovation, globalisation and inclusivity. At a national level, GTSG is a challenge to the givers of Singapore -- will we have the courage to give differently this year? How will we utilise the resources, networks and leverage innovation to create bigger impact? I am hopeful that my 40th year will see us ushering in a philanthropy that is inclusive, informed, creative and efficient!
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in celebration of #GivingTuesday, which will take place this year (2013) on December 3. The idea behind #GivingTuesday is to kickoff the holiday-giving season, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday kickoff the holiday-shopping season. We'll feature at least one post from a #GivingTuesday partner every weekday in November. To see all the posts in the series, click here; follow the conversation via #GivingTuesday and learn more here.
And if you'd like to share your own #GivingTuesday story, please send us your 500-850-word post to firstname.lastname@example.org.