Throughout my professional career, I worked for institutions and colleges that were deeply vested in philanthropic work. This would range from having the option of having money withheld from our bi-weekly paychecks for United Way to adopting a school in a foreign country.
Since transitioning from working for someone else to working for myself, philanthropy has taken on a different meaning. I no longer have the ease of showing up for an event on behalf of my employer or checking off a box for my HR representative. Now, I have to be more intentional and deliberate in cultivating relationships with organizations that advocate for causes that I believe in. In light of this, I have uncovered that giving back is not only doable, but quite enjoyable.
Here are 5 ways that you too can be philanthropic as a freelancer:
Volunteer with other Freelancers
One of the reasons that I did not engage in that much philanthropic work when I first started freelancing was because I had grown so accustomed to volunteering in groups, that I did not even know where to begin. Now, I realize that Meetups and virtual communities are great ways to mobilize other freelancers to engage in service, especially if that service is hands-on. Depending on where you live, some community organizations prefer if groups volunteer and they may not accept or have a need for a single volunteer. So, reach out to a fellow freelancer and see if it’s feasible for you to volunteer together.
Or, volunteer your information and contribute your expertise to this blog!
Adopt a Not-for-Profit or Community Group
In 2018, I am adopting a small, independent transitional housing facility called Dayspring Center. By adopt, I simply mean that my team (of contractors and freelancers) will be volunteering there throughout the year. As much as I wish I could whip out an extra-large check with many zeroes on it, that’s not feasible right now. But what is feasible is engaging in sweat equity, including painting, helping to organize supplies, and doing some light maintenance work. We are calling it the Seldon Writing Group Day of Service and its my intent to volunteer a day per quarter.
Dedicate Your Anniversary or Birthday to a Cause
Social media, and Facebook in particular, has made it much easier to engage in philanthropic causes. Facebook will allow you to share your cause with your FB friends, and make donating as simple as clicking a button. It will also keep people updated about how well you are doing in reaching your monetary goal. It is an easy way to raise funds for an organization that you believe in. The cool thing is that you can use your birthday (or freelancing anniversary) as the occasion, so instead of gifts and well wishes, people can donate on your behalf.
Donate your Unused Supplies
If you look around your work space, there is a strong possibility that you have a box, shelf, or file cabinet full of ‘things’ that you are no longer using. While we may not give much thought to these items, there are people within our communities who truly can be blessed by our excess. Shelters for women, places of worship, schools in impoverished areas, and food pantries are places that may gladly accept your donations. Because I believe that all people should be treated with compassion, make sure that you are not getting rid of junk or things that are no longer functional. Before I donate, I ask: Would I want this?
Tutor or Volunteer at a School
If you have paid attention to the state of our K-12 educational systems then you know that many of our students are in great need of positive adult contact and role modeling. One way that freelancers can give back is by sharing our skill sets with younger children. Skills that may come naturally to us—accounting, writing, speaking, drawing, debating, taking pictures—may be skills or areas that a child needs extra support in.
Do note that gone are the days when you can just pop up at a school, so make sure that you call to find out what is required before you can start volunteering. Many school districts now require background checks and even fingerprinting. There may be a lapse in time between when you express interest in volunteering and when you can actually start, so be patient. The wait is worth the joy you will see in a child’s eyes when you help her pronounce a difficult word or show him how to work through the steps for a difficult math problem.
Marian Wright Edelman is credited with saying, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” I have found that pouring into my community and engaging in service has enhanced my life tremendously. In fact, it has made me a better freelancer, business owner, and most importantly, a better human being.