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Philanthropy Basics: Get Involved, Give Back. It Feels Good.

You want to give back to your community, and you know you want to help those less fortunate than you. The San Francisco Bay Area has thousands of nonprofit charities, so how do you decide which is doing the best work, having the most impact, or fits with your values?

The good news is that San Francisco is home to some of the most innovative poverty-fighting nonprofits around. It also has scores of long-established charities that help thousands of people every year.


Community involvment, volunteering, giving back and philanthropy: Things to consider

Even if you do not live near San Francisco, the philanthropy basics included here can be applied to your own community. Before you give, here are some easy questions to ask yourself:

Who do I want to help?: Children? Families? Veterans? Paroled felons? Recovering addicts? Animals? The environment? Women in the developing world? Disaster or war victims?

How do I want to help?: Food programs, savings programs, job creation programs? With my cash or with my time? Can I get my company or my personal networks invovled in my cause?

Why do I want to help?: To get more involved in my community? To feel better? To develop new skills? To make a difference?

All of these are terrific reasons to get involved. People get involved with charities for so many reasons, and all of them have merit. It helps to know why you are doing it, though, as it helps you find the right organization and kind of commitment to give the most back, and also to find the most reward for it. Getting involved in your community and devoting your time and resources to others feels better than so many other things we do. Serving others feels good, plain and simple.


Why you should give back

There are so many benefits that come from getting involved in your community and "giving back."

Giving to charity, with your time or money or with your time and money, feels good. It really does. There is satisfaction in knowing that you are helping people who are less fortunate than you, that your contributions are making your community, even the world, a little bit better. It doesn't take a lot of time or even a lot of money to make a real difference.

Strong communities are built on people who care about them, and who doesn't want to live in a strong community? Improving your community will improve your own quality of life.

Volunteering can help you develop professional skills or personal skills that will stand you in good stead in your "regular" life. Serving on a nonprofit board is an easy way to gain leadership or executive skills while committing your time and energy to a cause that matters to you.

Donating money to charity and volunteering for a charity are a good way to teach your children valuable life skills — like compassion for the less fortunate, civic responsibility, financial stewardship, diversity, the value of money, and the limits of what money can buy you. There is a real joy that comes from becoming involved in a charity or a cause or your community, from seeing the world through a different lens to meeting new people to promoting a value you hold dear.

Often the "giver" gets the most out of any kind of philanthropic investment!

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