It’s a call of duty for many of us.

When we see problems, both locally and around the world, we don’t see issues that can’t be overcome.

In fact, for every problem, we see a solution—sometimes multiple solutions. We see the role technology can play. We see ways to involve friends and family. We want to make things better.

Frequently, we want to show up and be involved, to use our knowledge, skills and passion to make communities better places to live.

And, of course, we want these changes to be big and fast. The days of thinking small or slow are over.

There is a tremendous sense of immediacy.

I don’t know about you, but I get a text or email daily about signing a petition, calling a representative, or making a contribution to a current cause.

There is an underlying goal of improving on what Baby Boomers have done. Sometimes the issue is local, such as helping struggling children in communities nearby. Or maybe it’s an app that serves as a marketplace to purchase goods from women in small villages from around the world.

Whatever it is, the need is often pressing. Children, refugees, climate, governance—just to name a few of the headlines.

All this happens as we are living lives with multiple moving parts. Jobs. Families. Friends. Homes. Vacations. School. Living the life we want is a full-time job. We are pulled in so many directions.

Money is spread thin. Savings, retirement, and education account contributions make for diminished take-home pay.

Often the desire to improve the world still exists. But, frequently, budgets don’t allow for it. Sure, it’s easy to support a friend’s run for cancer or make a contribution to a child’s school. However, the goal is to make a big difference.

And, financially, it’s tough.

I propose that it’s possible for charitable goals to work alongside personal financial goals and demands. Here’s how:

First, giving doesn’t always have to be about money.

Volunteering allows for both altruism and personal contributions, without breaking the bank. While volunteering, new and perhaps lifelong relationships can form and grow. It’s a wonderful opportunity to expand networks and meet people in different professions.

Just think—where else can an analyst from a small company work alongside the Chief Financial Officer of a Fortune 500 company? Probably while supporting animal welfare on a Saturday afternoon or at a holiday party at the local children’s hospital.

And, what else? While working for free, check out how the charity treats volunteers and staff. Talk to other volunteers about why they support this charity. Find out if they support other charities, too.

Passion is contagious. Take the opportunity to learn more about the people, the charity and the cause.

Here’s another thought: think small.

Don’t hesitate. Get out there. Date a few charities. It’s a chance to make smaller donations and see how the organizations respond. How do they communicate with donors? How do they acknowledge donations?

For smaller organizations, donations of $100–$500 should be sufficient to be noticed. For larger charities, usually $1,000–$2,000 will prompt a call, a note from staff, or an acknowledgment on an event program or website.

How about getting a team together?

A Giving Circle allows like-minded people to come together to make small contributions that are collectively donated to a charity the group chooses. For example, if 25 people contribute $100, together, the group can make a $2,500 contribution.

The benefit is that a group makes a larger contribution compared to a donation made by one person. Local community foundations can provide great guidance.

Pick a path and get out there.

That's my recommendation. Working with different charities allows you to note the dedication, commitment, and excitement of different organizations. It allows you to see where you fit in. Make a note: does the charity’s work match your expectations? If not, don’t hesitate to walk.

Believe me—you’ll know when you’ve found a match. The charity stands out to you. The charity is doing effective work. The charity is engaging donors. These are all good things to think about.

As your work and family life adjust and financial situations transition, you’ll find that your ability to be an active contributor to the nonprofit community will change. Sometimes it’s money, sometimes it’s time. Sometimes it’s writing an email or making a call.

And, as you grow and learn about the nonprofit community, you could switch causes and develop new priorities. This is all good and to be expected.

Regardless, always remember, there is a space for you to help make the world a better place.

Jump in. The water’s great.

About the Author

Diane Manuel is a former UWM advisor. She worked closely with René for 5+ years, helping grow the Smart Women/Savvy Money Club. In 2021, Diane joined Adasina Social Capital as Director, Foundation & Client Relationships, pursuing her passion of creating investment strategies that support racial and social justice. Diane has been active in service and philanthropy most of her life, from her first job at the Watts–Willowbrook Boys’ & Girls’ Club to current roles with the Carter Center Philanthropy Council and the Women’s Foundation of California. Diane holds a BA from USC and a PhD in Psychology and MBA from Claremont Graduate University. She has authored articles in Investopedia, MarketWatch, and Financial Planning Magazine on finance, women, and philanthropy. An LA native, she enjoys 5Ks, the beach, wine tasting, photography, and walking with friends.