I’ve written before that the key to being wealthy involves work, and in particular, work doing something you would do regardless of whether it pays or not.
But giving money away is also a cause and effect of feeling wealthy.
We know we have enough money when we begin to give it away to others. The act of giving it away – philanthropically – signals to ourselves that we have a surplus. When we give philanthropically, however small and however temporarily, our life feels abundant.
We feel our own surplus most fully when our cup runneth over to fill someone else’s cup. If our goal is wealth, then we have to think about philanthropy.
Give of yourself, not just money
Sometimes we give money as a defensive mechanism, a kind of polite “go away” signal.
The homeless man, smelling of last month’s produce, received a little bit of money out of your pocket this week. But really your message was “Please don’t come any nearer.” I don’t think of this as philanthropy.
Similarly, but on a larger scale, I often hear of people giving much larger sums to causes they do not particularly believe in. But because they could not think of a polite way to say no to a friend, or they could not come up with a more effective way to fill a void in their life, they gave a significant amount of money. This isn’t philanthropy either.
Neither the homeless donation – nor the larger check – makes us feel wealthy in the way philanthropy can and should.
Philanthropy starts with the heart and may not involve the exchange of money for a long time.
If you are relatively young, or relatively light in the wallet, you can still start your philanthropic life.
Giving of your time and your expertise to a non-profit cause provides all of the benefits of giving money. You will capture the essence of philanthropy – that feeling of abundance, that feeling of working without expectation of compensation – long before you’re writing big checks to your favorite organization.
Lead with love, money will follow
The personal benefits of philanthropy – in terms of feeling wealthy and feeling the abundance of life – follow from the attitude and actions of you, the donor, rather than from your fortune.
Do you love the cause you support? Do you love the people in the organization? Are you offering something unique that you can give the organization?
Personally, I’m not a ladle-the-soup kind of guy. I have never felt my unique contribution to an organization would be serving food at the soup kitchen.
I know my way around a spreadsheet, however, so I have been fortunate enough to offer a set of financial eyes to my favorite non-profit, my high school for students from around the world.
I love and believe in the school as one of the best hopes for a better world. I have built and sustained deep relationships with people there, both when I attended as a student and now as an adult advisor. It represents for me a source of love as well as a way to access my more generous self.
In my Wall Street and investing days, the fact that I gave time and money to my school helped me feel part of something larger and better. My financial day job – first as a bond salesman and later a distressed debt investor – did not fill this need. Despite the spiritual impoverishment of my Wall Street career, giving time, money, and love to my school made me wealthy.
Please also see next post: On Philanthropy, Part II – Asking for Money
 The best high school in the country, by the way, and I’m serious about that. It’s called the Armand Hammer United World College – USA. I know you’ve never heard of it, and that kills me because it’s the Best. School. Ever. And you know what? You’re in luck. We’re wrapping up the Annual Fund drive this month. Feeling wealthy is just a click away for you!
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