In this column and the next one, I will share ways of ensuring a satisfying experience when giving back to community. This week, I focus on important questions to ask yourself. Next time, we turn our attention on questions to ask of the causes and organizations you may give to.
Giving back to community is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, and flows from gratitude about the blessings in one’s own life. If you have been inspired to get involved and help others, congratulations - you have made the first step!
One of the things I have experienced myself (and seen with many other people) is disappointment from reaching out to help the cause that came to mind first, and then not having expectations met. In most cases, this can be avoided by doing a bit of self-inquiry before choosing the when, where, why, what and how to give back. While we cannot always avoid disappointment, or know when someone else is being deceptive, clarity will improve your odds.
There is an optimal way for each individual to give back, one that makes the best use of the resources you can contribute (which may include sharing your time, money, abilities, ideas, or connections) and is rewarding for you at the same time. It is not one-size-fits-all, however; what constitutes a “good” giving experience is very personal.
The most important parts of the self-inquiry process are firstly being open and curious to unlock opportunities you may not be aware of, and secondly trusting your instincts about what feels right to you. I have one friend who absolutely loves driving seniors to their appointments, while another friend is deeply rewarded because she set up a scholarship fund in memory of her son. Your way of making a difference is as unique as you are. Asking yourself the following questions will help.
- What kinds of people would I most like to help? Or am I more interested in supporting animals, the environment, research, or another type of cause?
- How will my community and/or world be different because of my contribution?
- What causes have influenced my life the most?
- Am I likely to donate and volunteer with the same cause, or do I prefer to give money to some things, and time/skills to others? Do I involve other people in my life?
- When I picture myself getting involved in a cause, what kinds of things am I doing?
- If I imagine myself giving money to a person or organization, what is important to me in that investment? What kinds of results am I seeking? How much involvement do I want, and for how long?
- What skills, knowledge, interests, and connections do I have that might be contributed to a cause?
- If I prefer to give overseas rather than in my own community, what beliefs or desires cause this preference?
While giving back is altruistic, ignoring your own interests does not equal selflessness. A more satisfying experience of giving means you are likely to give more and/or repeatedly, and to promote giving to others in your circle. Next time, I will discuss how you can also ensure that the cause you are giving to is aligned with your interests and preferences, in terms of their impact, and how they manage volunteers and donors.
One of the unique features of United Way (and the reason many of us choose to work on behalf of this cause) is that we are an umbrella organization through which many causes are supported. One great investment that United Way makes is funding for the Community Information and Volunteer Centre at Kelowna Community Resources at www.kcr.ca. Through the website, you can find hundreds of community organizations and volunteer opportunities, and even set up your own volunteer profile to receive e-matches.
To find out how you can support change through United Way, visit us at www.unitedwaycso.com