By Arlene Knox, Senior Director of Development/Planned Giving at the Edison State College Foundation, Inc. –
It is widely known that people who live purposefully live longer. Whether taking care of a spouse, enjoying a favorite hobby, traveling, volunteering, or other meaningful tasks, these activities translate into improved mental, physical and spiritual health for an individual well into their senior years. For individuals seeking more enrichment and purpose in their lives, charitable organizations offer a variety of choices to help others.
As the end of the year approaches, charities, or non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations, seek financial and volunteer support at a time when community need is the greatest. Here are some practical ways to find meaningful opportunities for purposeful living through non-profit work:
1) Find a charity. This sounds easy but in reality can be overwhelming. There are hundreds of non-profit organizations registered with the IRS in Lee County alone. To find out about some of the best organizations, contact your local United Way and your local Community Foundation. They have strict funding guidelines for any non-profit that receives grant funding and must abide by professional standards of operations and conduct. You can also check Guidestar.org, which is an online ratings database of thousands of non-profits around the country.
2) Visit the charity. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of your favorites, call, visit, or check them out online. Find the list of Board Members, view the annual report, and ask questions about their programs and services. Some charities must remain private to protect their clients (Shelter for Abused Women, etc.), others may require training for volunteers, and others may simply need financial support. Every charity has a different operating model, and this is based on how they can offer the greatest service to their clients. Be flexible in understanding how they operate.
3) Act. Listen to the needs of the non-profit and act accordingly. If they request a commitment of five hours for you to help answer phones, make sure you are 15 minutes early to your assignment, are properly trained and stay the entire length of service. If you are helping to pack meals, hold hands for bereaving parents, transport clients to a medical appointment, file papers, greet guests, whatever the task, treat it as the best job you never had. Most of the staff members working in a non-profit are extremely passionate about their causes. You can help support this passion by being a good volunteer.
4) Give. To be the best giver, sometimes you actually have to say “No.” Open your mailbox, check your Twitter account, email, and Facebook and there is no question you will find a giving request from a charity. To be an effective philanthropist, choose a limited number of charities for the giving season, and instead of giving smaller checks to dozens of charities, give larger donations to your favorite three. This provides greater impact for the charity and it provides you with a sense of knowing that your dollars are more impactful.
Living with purpose and meaning are critical factors for health and well-being. Take a moment this season to examine your daily life and let the non-profit sector help you create more meaning.
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