There are so many ways to be a philanthropist.
When we think of philanthropy, we tend to think about donating money, which is important. But lending our time and expertise to a cause can be just as impactful.
The San Diego Women’s Foundation (SDWF) recently hosted a panel discussion to explore ways we can be more effective volunteers and leaders for the organizations that we care about.
I was delighted to moderate this conversation, which featured the expertise of three SDWF members and staff leaders from nonprofits with whom they partner.
How Can We Help Nonprofits Achieve their Missions in 2019?
SDWF members Elaine Kalin, Nancy Spector and Kathy Jones sat on the panel, along with Kim Heinle (Bayside Community Center), Diane Cox (Just in Time for Foster Youth) and Jose Cruz (Barrio Logan College Institute).
With decades of collective experience as community leaders, our panelists shared insights about how we best help nonprofits achieve their missions.
Here are six lessons that can help all of us be more effective changemakers:
- TRUST the expertise of the nonprofit staff: They know their clients best. They are experts in community need, and in how to solve problems.
- Find your passion, and know that passions can change: The most effective volunteers care deeply about the mission of the organizations where they serve. Think about what causes are most important to you, and what inspires you – you’re more likely to stay involved with an organization that really speaks to you.
And it’s ok if your interests change over time – recognize when it’s time to step back from an organization and seek out something new.
- SHOW UP (or just say no!): Diane shared that the most important thing a volunteer can do for Just in Time is simply show up for foster youth. Many of the young people they serve have trust issues – they’re used to broken commitments. When a volunteer makes a commitment that they don’t keep, it causes more damage than they may realize.
Nonprofits rely on volunteers to achieve their missions. This is true for one-day volunteer opportunities and board-level commitments. It’s easier on the nonprofit if you say no upfront than if you say yes to something that you don’t have time for.
- Translate skills developed in your career: During Elaine’s career in financial planning, she saw the effect that poor planning can have on quality of life in retirement (she retired at 48, by the way – ask her how!). For Junior Achievement, she developed a curriculum to help teens avoid the mistakes that she had seen her clients make.
But you don’t have to be a financial expert to make a difference. Think about the skills you use at work – those same skills may be in high demand with local nonprofits.
- Surround yourself with “doers”: Kathy values her SDWF membership because it connects her with so many women who see a problem and take action to solve it.
- Take the first step: You know what they say about trees – the best time to plant one is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.
I am inspired every day by SDWF members and our hardworking nonprofit partners.
If 2019 is the year for you to change your community, learn about key issues and connect with women changemakers, SDWF may be the right fit for you.
About Katie Sawyer
Katie oversees day-to-day operations and strategic direction of the San Diego Women’s Foundation (SDWF), ensuring that programs and services delivered are consistent with the organization’s mission to engage women in significant philanthropy. Katie works closely with SDWF board of directors, members, community partners and staff to guide an effective grantmaking process and to provide programming that helps members become more savvy, strategic philanthropists.