Altruism: What’s in it for me?
One of my New Years resolutions is to give up saving the world. This year Im focusing on making a difference in the life of people around me, here in Tahoe. They call this setting realistic goals in business school.Some people think philanthropy is just about foundations giving away a lot of money, but that’s only one part of the picture. Philanthropy is really about people giving their time and care to causes they care about.Very simply put, philanthropy can be explained as anything you do to make the world around you a better place. Philanthropy ranges from donating money to a charity to creating a community garden in your neighborhood or volunteering your time to deliver meals on wheels.Mother Theresa described it like this: The way to change the world is through love; through personal, individual contact, one person at a time. Pick something you can deal with. Pick something real, something tangible, something personal. Do your best to help that one other person. Leave the rest to God. Then, when you’ve done what you can, look around and find another person to help. Change the world one person at a time. Focus on the immediate tangible problem, rather than waiting to act until you come up with the brilliant systemic solution that fixes everything.For the New Year, I resolved to write checks to organizations serving poor people in our community. I resolved to help friends through difficult times. I resolved to look around and see needs in my own neighborhood. Its probably not going to change the horrors of war or the genocide in Darfur, but I can think of worse things than a tombstone that reads she made a difference in one persons life.
Not that I want to have a tombstone, cremation is the way to go, dont you think?Its hard to keep New Years resolutions. I started right by donating to a local childrens organization in January. I believe in the power of philanthropy to change lives. I believe philanthropy is an altruistic concern for the welfare of others.I was excited to give to this organization. The organization does good work, and I could be a part of improving the life of a kid here in Tahoe. I mailed my check. Nothing happened.Forget about the power of philanthropy to change lives and that altruistic concern. Damn it, I wanted an acknowledgment that the organization received my gift and put to good use. Not to mention that I needed that little IRS requirement, a tax receipt.The acknowledgment letter finally arrived nearly two months after I wrote the check. By that time, my New Years resolutions were a distant memory and I no longer felt good about my gift. Deep, deep down in my heart, I know my donation will make a difference whether or not someone acknowledged my donation but my shallow self wants to be treated as more than simply a bank or an ATM.It is nearly April. This first quarter has already had its share of opportunities to be a philanthropist of time and money. Going forward this year we need to be kinder to those who are working to make our community better. Send a thank you note. Acknowledge that person who spent time cooking dinner for a friend in need. Recognize the good works and deeds of those around us. We are better together.Lisa Dobey is CEO of Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation. Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation connects people and opportunities, generating resources to build a more caring, creative, and effective community. Lisa can be reached at 587-1776 or email@example.com.
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