If it's that time of the year when we search for tax write-offs for charitable donations in the year just ending, why not also make it the time to plan for the charitable "donations" you won't be able to deduct in the year ahead?
I am talking about a different sort of giving -- your time.
As the head of a volunteer-driven international human services organization and as the U.S. National Representative to the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE), I can state with complete candor that the greatest need of many nonprofits is the enthusiastic, hands-on support of committed, knowledgeable volunteers.
That's not to say that financial donations are not important...they are, particularly for organizations that lack sustainable support from governments or foundations, or a strong base of giving from individual donors.
But, again, it's not all about the money. Soup kitchens need cooks and servers. ESL programs need tutors and language teachers. After-school programs for disadvantaged youths need mentors. Well, you get the idea.
At The Junior League, we encourage our members to become "52-week-a-year" volunteers, but I also know that's too much for many people.
But you have to start somewhere...so here's my big idea on how you can expand your charitable profile in 2015 -- just double your volunteer "donations." If you did one day at a soup kitchen in 2014, why not do two in 2015? If you did five evenings as an ESL tutor this year, why not do 10 next year?
It's that simple. But imagine the impact of your increased donation on the ability of a local organization - one that that is truly committed to a mission you fully embrace and support - to really help people in your community.
Here's what I think will happen if you do.
1. The organization will thank you for your increased commitment.
2. You will feel good about your (larger) non-financial donation in ways that cannot be easily matched by just making a financial contribution.
3. You will tell your friends about your experience in getting deeper into your organization's mission delivery.
4. Your friends will at least consider joining you next year, just to see what you're doing.
5. And I am willing to bet that you will discover that voluntarism has an even bigger place in your life (and you might find even more time to "donate" next year).
Think of it as a different sort of crowd funding!
Because the fact is, voluntarism is a critical component of the nonprofit sector's ability to function effectively, particularly in helping to bring human services to the people who need it most.
But it also provides another way that we, as human beings and members of a civic society, can create meaningful experiences outside of work or family.
I can hear you say, But I am just one person, and it's a messed-up world out there.
But even one individual can make a big difference to one organization just by showing up.
So just show up twice as much in 2015...even if you can't take it off on your taxes!