Helping on the Home Front

Photo Upwardly GlobalI have an expansive view of philanthropy, which incorporates all the giving we’re doing right in our own homes and communities, as well as the volunteering we do with outside charitable organizations.

Now that I’m back with my family in Florida these past few weeks, I’ve been happy to be able to give my time to help out on the home front. This busy family schedule had led me to think about the line between helping out our families and more formal volunteer engagements.

For instance, is assisting my teenage nephew with filling out job applications and conducting mock interviews a family obligation or a charitable act? How is this different from volunteering with organizations like UpwardlyGlobal or Dress for Success, both of which regularly ask volunteers to help ready job applicants for the interview process.

09Or how about my twice-weekly tutoring to help my nephew in middle school improve his reading? How does this differ from the program my Mom volunteered with in Florida called Collier Literacy, where she tutored Alex, an electrician from Colombia for four years? Both Alex and my nephew needed extra help to master English as a second language.

Personal Philanthropic Plan

I was a tad concerned that spending more time helping out my family might be taking away time that I usually spend volunteering. But then I realized that it was all part of a broad philanthropic spectrum.

This realization made me dig out my Personal Philanthropic Plan that I created several years ago. In this formal giving plan, I had segmented my support by:

  • Family – Paying for school tuition and healthcare, providing one-on-one help
  • Friends – Supporting fun runs, attending gala events, buying their daughter’s Girl Scout cookies
  • Organizations – Making donations to the social issues that drive me the most: women and girls’ rights, fair wage practices, and access to nutritious food.

Erin Michelson VolunteeringAt the time, the plan helped me outline my giving goals and manage my volunteer commitments. But while the bones of the plan still stood, I realized I needed to revisit it to better reflect the immediate needs of the world around me.

Responsive and Responsible

This, of course, makes sense. Now I’m undertaking the process to update my Personal Philanthropic Plan to reflect these changes in charitable need both on the family front and to better suit the shifting needs of my community which has changed from the international arena, to my local community of residence. This is also an opportunity to reassess my giving ability, in terms of both time and money.

By being flexible with my plan and updating it once a year, I lessened the stress of trying to meet commitments that may no longer make sense for me as the giver or for the recipients. I see this an an opportunity to recalibrate my support in a more thoughtful way.

So the lesson is that if I take the time once a year to be reflective, I can be more responsive to new areas of need and more responsible to myself. A double dose of good stuff!

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This entry was posted on Thursday, October 17th, 2013 and is filed under The Giving Guide.

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