How a Little Can Do a Lot

Charity pictureRecently, billionaires such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates started something called the “Giving Pledge”, promising to give at least half of their substantial fortunes to charity.  For the small-time philanthropist who doesn’t have untold billions to donate to causes, this can feel a bit discouraging.  However, there are plenty of opportunities to contribute small amounts of money to worthy causes, and that money can go a long way.  This is particularly true in the age of social media, where like-minded people from around the world are able to seamlessly connect with each other.  Here are four different ways that you yourself can make a huge impact with a small donation, taken from the personal finance blog bankrate:

Join a “giving circle”: These groups will pool their money and then share the task of selecting which causes they support.  Since the funds are pooled, they can make a much bigger impact than an individual donation.  There are hundreds of these across the country, but if you can’t find one you like, you can always start your own.  

Microphilanthropy: The site pledge4good.com allows users to set up “pledging systems” for friends and family to give small amounts of money to a specific cause.  They allow individuals to easily raise funds from various people to magnify the impact of smaller donations.  

Make a microloan: “Microlenders” don’t actually have to give their money away to causes, they simply lend it.  A $25 loan, for instance, can empower an impoverished entrepreneur in a third-world country to start and maintain a business.  Nonprofit microlender Kiva, for instance, has awarded millions in small loans to impoverished people in remote parts of the world since launching in 2005.  

Toys For Tots: This is a pretty well-known and well-recognized charity, which allows you to make a huge difference without too much money.  The Holiday season is a long way off, but it’s a great way to make a difference for a child without having to pay too much.  

Serve a soldier: The USO Wishbook allows you to make a small donation to help an American military member.  A donation of $15, for instance, will provide a care package for a service member to get through the initial days of deployment.  And $25 provides a calling card for a phone call home.  Small gifts, but ones that make a huge difference.  

Philanthropy Culture

Philanthropy is a great initiative that gets people and corporations involved in helping others and making a change, but all too often it has the connotation of a stand-alone event, a long-standing pledge to donate money, or a means of forced involvement. We need to start viewing philanthropy as a mindset and not just something that higher-ups force upon you. One great way to open the conversation of giving and really engage people on a personal level is to cultivate a “Culture of Philanthropy.”

What is Philanthropy Culture?

Any organization, whether it’s a workplace, nonprofit, or team, has a certain ‘culture’ that defines it to outsiders and helps it operate smoothly — implementing philanthropy culture is injecting the corresponding beliefs and ideals into the organization at its core and letting them bloom and grow from there. Your team needs to see these initiatives not as mandates or policies but rather as ideas worth embracing that will help give more meaning to the work they do on a daily basis.

Focus on the change.

If you deliver a philanthropic initiative to your team as extra work or responsibilities, they’re likely to balk at the task. However, if you present the end results and achievements and show them the difference that the little bit of work on their end can make, you’re going to engage them in a more meaningful way that will help them to internalize the change they’re helping to make.

Engage with your fundraising.

If your team’s philanthropic endeavors require outside donors, it’s a good idea to have everyone do away with any old notions of fundraising and look at it as a wholly engaging experience. If you view potential donors as nothing more than cash cows to get money from, you’re likely going to turn people away before you even get started. Donors are individuals, and if you want their financial assistance you’re going to need to engage them with what they’re funding and where their money is going. Learn who they are as people and how they like to interact and get them involved with your efforts.

Be thankful and practice gratitude.

When working to instate the ideals of helping others and being involved, don’t forget to include thankfulness, too. Through working to promote philanthropy, you’ve undoubtedly received help from other people along the way, and while you’re primarily working on giving help rather than receiving it, you don’t want to ignore the goodwill of others. Implementing gratitude can go a long way in changing your culture from selfish to selfless.

What Does it Mean to Be Altruistic?

Most people, in some small way, do nice things for those around them on a regular basis. Whether it’s holding open the door for a stranger, exchanging pleasantries in an elevator, or buying someone a cup of coffee, we like to go a little out of our way to benefit the lives of others. However, it is much harder to maintain that level of kindness for a sustained period, even more so when you add in the element of selflessness. As difficult as this may sound, it is a reality for the people who have chosen to devote their existences to altruism and truly causing the most good that they can during their lives.

Altruism, by dictionary definition, is a belief set that promotes engagement in selfless practices that seek to improve the welfare of others; the opposite would be egoism. Altruism can perhaps be best understood by looking at some altruistic behaviors of the animal kingdom — take for example bird species that have a danger warning cry. In the event of danger, the birds closest to the predator will sound the alarm warning others while also giving up their positions, putting themselves in danger. Altruism is pure selflessness, where the altruistic person places the wellbeing of others above all else, even at the expense of personal safety.

In society, altruism and philanthropy are often spoken of interchangeably, but actually vary greatly. Consider philanthropy as a passion, something you do because you feel strongly about the lives of others and want to make a difference. On the other hand, altruism is more of a way of life, where the desire to be selfless and help others dictates your life and guides your path.  

The drive to be selfless influences what career altruists have, their home location, their lifestyles, and their salary, as their focus is outward rather than inward. Altruists are often driven towards high-impact, high salary careers, though unlike others they do not do it for the personal payout. The more they earn means the more they can donate or put toward causes they want to benefit; the more power and clout they accrue, the more leverage they have to make a difference.

Altruism is more than simply caring for others. It is more than helping out when you can and trying to remember to incorporate volunteering into your life once a year. Altruism is dedicating your life to being selfless and being constantly on the lookout for lives you can better and change you can effect.

Why People Choose to Give

Many people in this world seek some form of altruism — whether it’s helping someone cross the street or volunteering to build shelter for the homeless, every good deed that is done makes a little bit of a difference. It may seem strange to some people, the idea of giving something for nothing, but everyone has their own reasons for getting out there and helping out. Here are just a few of the reasons why people choose to get involved.

  • They want to make a difference.
    • A lot of influential activists can pinpoint the exact moment that changed their lives, the one that made them choose to take up their cause and begin to spread awareness about a certain issue. Maybe it was a conversation with a man who was homeless that made them realize they wanted to help those who couldn’t help themselves; maybe it was the first time they realized just how much trash was ending up in the oceans that caused them to work towards clearing our waters. Whatever reason people have for being active and involved, they’re hoping to inspire change and fix a wrong or bring an issue to light.
  • They want to give back.
    • Everybody falls on rough times once in a while — it’s just the circle of life. So when people who are used to being on the bottom and trying to fight their way to the top get a hand that helps them rise up, they’re going to appreciate the kindness, remember the gesture, and likely try to do the same for someone else that was done for them. Like the expression, “pay it forward,” some people are inspired by the help they were given during dark times and seek to help others as well.
  • It makes them feel good.
    • One of the most ‘selfish’ reasons why people volunteer is that they like how it feels when they help people. Studies have shown that giving to others causes the same hormones and chemicals to be released in the brain that are released when we eat junk food or do something pleasure. Further research and studies have shown the numerous health benefits that giving has on the giver, including lower blood pressure, less stress, and an overall increased sense of wellbeing.

Whatever the reason why people choose to give, the important thing is that they’re working to better their community and the lives of those around them. Look for ways you can start helping out in your local area and start giving back, too!

Virtual Volunteering – Is It Right For You?

With the evolution of the internet, job opportunities have flourished over the past years. One such job is that of volunteering for which workers are either paid or work on a volunteer basis. Virtual volunteering offers a wide range of jobs that anyone can do easily.

What Is Virtual Volunteering?

Virtual volunteering which is also known as online volunteering, online mentoring and cyber service is when an individual chooses to apply or do some work through the means of the internet. Many individuals chose to work from their home for many reasons and look out for different types of volunteering work for getting paid and for passing the time.

Virtual volunteering allows anyone from to any age group to contribute time and expertise to different types of organizations. Organizations such as schools, government offices or non-profit organizations are usually in need of volunteer services.

What Are The Benefits Of Virtual Volunteering?

The first reason why most people apply for virtual volunteering is that it is flexible and less time-consuming than more traditional methods. Volunteering work online enables anyone of any age to choose work of their choice and volunteer on their own time to complete the task that is set in front of them. Another beneficial feature of volunteering online is that the network is vast, so there aren’t geographical limitations for working online.

Virtual volunteering is skill based. Most of the jobs that are offered online require applicants to have particular skills. For example, the job for writing content online requires the applicant to be proficient in the English language, or whatever language is necessary for the job. The other requirement is to be a good researcher. Volunteering always feels effortless if the job is within the skill set of an individual.

The online base gives a wide opportunity for individuals to explore a wide range of jobs that are both similar to what the volunteer is used to and offer them some room to explore new options. Connecting to different companies and with different people enlarges the horizon of opportunity for individuals.

Virtual Volunteering – The Right Choice?

For any individual who wants to volunteer online, they should search for a job that is in line with their skill set, pays according to their needs, and is perfect for them. There are millions of jobs that are available on the internet and finding one is not a problem. Several companies outsource their work and projects to individuals.

Those who want to earn money through a part-time job, or a full-time job, online volunteering is a good way to work. Because of the advantages of online volunteering, most people opt for it.

The 4 Most Charitable Businesses in America

American businesses rely on their consumer base for their profits and their livelihood. As a result, many choose to give back to those who’ve supported them and look for ways to better not only their community, but the globe.

 

There are some companies who have gone simply above and beyond in their efforts to effect positive change. The 20 businesses on the Fortune 500 list who gave the most in 2015 gave a total of $3.5 billion dollars to help fund various initiatives and aid certain groups. Here are the top 4 charitable donators ranking on the 500 list.

  1. Gilead Sciences
    1. This biotech firm based in California is an active participant in global philanthropy, working to promote better health and lives around the world. In 2015, the company reported that a bulk of their giving went towards working on HIV/AIDS treatments as well as liver disease. Just a few years ago the company was ranked 250th on the Fortune 500 list, but over the past two years, since it broke into the Hepatitis C market, it has now risen to the 86th spot. In 2015, Gilead donated $446.7 million.
  2. Walmart
    1. You know it as the supercenter that stocks just about everything you could ever need, but Walmart is so much more than just a corporation. In 2015, it pledged to help retail workers increase their economic ability with a $100 million commitment, $10.9 million of which went towards nonprofit organizations that specifically help those working in retail operations. Walmart continues to hold the top position on the 500 list, and gave $301 million in 2015.
  3. Wells Fargo
    1. This financial institution gets its employees involved with community work and volunteering by offering them two days a year to volunteer during paid leave. In 2015 they also donated $25 million to a nonprofit that supports financial education called NeighborWorks. Their aim is to donate between 1.2% and 1.5% of its total profits each year, and in 2015 Wells Fargo donated $281.3 million. They’re currently holding the 27th spot on the Forbes 500 list.
  4. Goldman Sachs Group
    1. Goldman Sachs’ giving has increased over the past decade largely in part to the efforts of Dina Powell, former member of the George W. Bush administration and current Deputy National Security Advisor to President Trump. She joined their team in 2007 to take charge of the corporation’s philanthropic endeavors and social investments. Goldman Sachs is currently 74th on the Forbes list and gave $276.4 million in 2015.

Is CSR the Solution Your Company Needs?

Every day we work hard at our jobs, and it looks like we’re working harder as time passes on. With downsizing, streamlining staff, and the higher pressure on performance, workers are feeling overworked, tired, and underappreciated. Americans work harder than any developed nation in the world, and it’s been increasingly getting worse; from 1970 to 1990, the time Americans spent at work increased by about one month per year. In 1999, about 20.5% of the workforce (approximately 25 million Americans) reported working a minimum of 49 hours per week, with approximately 11 million of the 25 million said they worked longer than 59 hours each week. Then, in 2014, the Washington Post reported that the average work week had increased from 40 hours to 47 hours for full-time workers.Is CSR the Solution Your Company Needs?

People are spending more time now than ever at work, and are getting little in return as reward. According to the Harvard Business Review, the longer work weeks are making employees less productive and causing them to feel disconnected from their employer and their job.

So how do we rekindle the passion employees feel at the inception of their career? How do we reconnect them to the work they do and help them see the bigger picture of how their work can have a larger impact? One solution is Corporate Social Responsibility.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a business strategy that looks outside of the business itself and into how the actions of the business can work to deliver better benefits to investors socially, environmentally, and economically. It focuses on a push towards sustainability, whether it’s for health, working conditions, human rights, or others, and looks to effect positive change. While this might appear on the outside as a PR stunt to garner attention, CSR is about promoting positive change from within. If done well and correctly, it can revitalize your employees and give them a sense of purpose in the work that they do.

For a great example of CSR, take a look at Google: through their project Google Green, they’re making strides towards using resources more efficiently and finding alternative (renewable) means of power. And they’re practicing what they preach. The Google Green effort has helped Google see a 50% reduction in power usage for its data centers. The money saved through this initiative can then be reabsorbed into the company to fund other efforts or redistributed to shareholders.

If your employees are feeling overworked at a dead end job, you need to reconsider your approach to employment and operating a business as a whole. If you give your employees something positive to work towards and their efforts a higher purpose, you’ll see employees who are more engaged at work and more productive as well.

How to Get Your Business Involved in Giving

As a business, you exist in a symbiotic relationship with the community that surrounds you. The community supported you and assisted you as you were in the process of growing, and eventually it’s your turn to return the favor. There are countless ways for your company to get involved; it’s up to you to decide how to best give back in a way that will make your employees feel more connected to the business and the community as a whole. Here are just a few ways to get your team involved.

  • Employee volunteer days.
    • Plan large events and gatherings that will bring your employees together in pursuit of a common goal. Take a day once a quarter to go clean up up an overgrown cemetery in the community, rake leaves in the park, volunteer at a nursing home, or find another way you can best help your community.
  • Clean up the roads.
    • Although the littering rate has dropped 61% over the past 40 years here in the United States, we’re still producing more than a quarter million tons trash each year. While it’s unlikely you and your staff alone have the time and resources to clean the entire ocean or reduce your city’s carbon footprint, you can make a difference at home by helping to clean up the litter and trash in your community. As a business, you could Adopt a Highway and take a day or two each year to walk alongside the road and clean up the trash gets tossed from car windows. You could also potentially save a fellow commuter a lot of financial burden and stress; just take a look at the damage bottles, cans, and plastic bags can cause.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
    • Food is one of the most basic human needs, but for some people constant access to it is a luxury that they do not have. That’s why community food banks exist; to make sure people who are struggling to make ends meet are able to put food on the table for their families. Have a day each week when employees go volunteer a few at a time on rotation. Organize food drives to collect more resources for the banks. Find ways that you can relieve the burdens the organization feels.
  • Sponsor a charity.
    • Do your employees have incentives for reaching their goals each month? Each quarter? Do you set aside money for company happy hours or bonding exercises? Why not set aside one quarter’s earnings to sponsor a charity? Have the employees decide collectively which charity to give to and set a goal to reach; benefiting a cause they’ve chosen to help will be their incentive to work hard and meet goals over the next three months.

How to Build your Professional Brand

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Whether you are on a job hunt, a student, or a veteran within the field, it is always important to think, act, network, and plan like a business leader. With the surge and popularity of social media and the wide range of competition within the job market, it is absolutely imperative that you establish a strong presence with your professional relationship.

When it comes to your personal and professional brand, it is all about who you are and what you want to be known for. In the grand scheme of things, it is your ever-lasting professional legacy. While the overall topic can be pretty broad, you want to make sure you cultivate a strong foundation that highlights your overall work ethics, beliefs, and personal and professional experiences.

To do this, you need to start with a simple question: What is your theme? With many college graduates leaving their alma mater with different majors and unique backgrounds, you want to make sure you create a story of self that is representative of the jobs and careers you want to be involved with. Having that professional theme will allow you to shape your resume and social presence in a more optimal manner. Take for example two candidates coming out with their perspective colleges, one with a finance degree and the other with an engineering degree. While they can, in turn, end up at the same company, their overall layout of their resume will differ greatly. For the finance candidate, they want to make sure their resume highlights their knowledge and skillsets. Having ‘Camp Counselor’ as an example may not be the best thing to showcase their leadership. Instead, various executive positions from clubs and extracurricular activities can highlight their leadership skills along with their classes and knowledge. In comparison, the engineering candidate may want to focus more on their academic background and various positions that meet their criteria. Jobs that deal within their field is essentially the best bang for their buck than applying for a finance or accounting job at any of the big financial firms in New York City. Whatever is the case, play to your strengths and the only way to do that is by establishing that professional theme.  

Once you have a theme in mind, it will be your job to create a story out of it. I call this the story of self. For many hiring managers and recruiters, they are looking for strong candidates that can answer the questions of ‘why this company’ or ‘why this position.’ For this to happen, you want to make sure you are able to connect the dots with your previous positions. Even if the positions differ greatly such as an education background and marketing, you want to think of various ways in which you can incorporate your theme throughout each position. To do this effectively, try thinking of specific transferable skills. This can be some related to leadership, organization, management, public speaking, customer and client communication, etc. Knowing those skills and the strengths that you have adopted from each position will give you that leg up over the other competing candidates when developing your professional brand.

After you have crafted that story, reflect again on your personal and professional strengths and weaknesses. Many hiring managers will look to ask about this and will want an answer. For your professional brand, it is important to have a strong grasp on your holistic strengths and weaknesses. By understanding and internalizing what you can and cannot do, you will be able to discuss what you can do for said company and what they can do for you. Remember, growth should always be a part of your story. Companies want to know that they can add value to your resume as much as you add value to theirs.

Once that is all done and said, begin thinking about the various fields, positions, and companies that match your vision and goals. If you know you want to get into marketing, think of the specific marketing companies such as Coca Cola or Nestle and why they intrigue you. Then go back to your resume and determine how you can connect the dots; the strong the connection, the better.

Now, before you apply, you want to make sure you have a strong presence both online and in-person. I’ll speak more about online since in-person will deal more with the interview stages. With the world moving more around the value and presence of the Internet, you want to make sure you are taking full advantage of what is at your disposal. This brings us to the social media platform LinkedIn. With your LinkedIn account, make sure you fill out all of the information. Think of this as an extended resume. The only difference is that you are not limited to the one-page limitations that a resume holds for applications. Fill out your work experience and be sure to highlight your successes within each position. Remember to go into this process with your theme in mind. Think of your main goal and where you want to be. This may make the difference in whether or not you will land that interview or even that position.

Now you are ready to apply. The process will be long and incredibly taxing. But by preparing your professional brand in this manner, you will be one step ahead of those other individuals who are fighting the good fight for that dream position.

How to give Constructive Feedback at Work

When it comes to success, the growth and overall development of a person is the highest calling of leadership. Our growth both personally and professionally depends on our ability to internalize your strengths and weaknesses and plan strategically and objectively for various ways of improvement.

As a business leader, one of the most critical skills about the job will be your ability to give strong and constructive feedback to your employees. Entrepreneurs and leaders have a sense where they want to go and how they want to get there. In order for you to achieve these intrinsic business goals, you have to make sure everyone is on the same page. To do this, you as a business leader will need to provide a developmental conversation. This is a particular conversation that focuses on the skills, capabilities, and attitudes of those around you. It is, in itself, similar to that of an employee evaluation, but still implies a bit of direction and improvement for the betterment of their growth.

But before I continue, I have to speak loudly to the beneficial effects of how strong purposeful feedback can be on an employee. To start, we have to understand and internalize that strong positive feedback is not one that points out the strengths and flaws of a worker. Instead, it often involves having some fundamental objective within the course of the conversation. At any notion, it helps to outline the principles and philosophies of their goals and that of your company. In addition, it very much helps sets up a plan that can track and follow a person’s progress.

As beneficial as it is, many employees and workers are oftentimes hesitant to have these conversations. One of the thorniest aspects of giving this level of critical feedback is that many people feel that they are in the hot seat when it comes to these situations. As frustrating as it can be, having these conversations is an integral part of your growth as a professional within said-field. To optimistically think you are performing at a high ability may be great confidence-wise, but to overlooking areas where you can improve will be one of the biggest hurdles in reaching ay type of success. In addition to the employee’s personal feels, some of the problems of constructive feedback can oftentimes fall on you where many of your comments can be vague and unspecific. When you are giving feedback, do not speak in generalities. Instead, provide specific examples within their day-to-day. Highlight moments where they have succeeded and areas where they can improve for the better. The more clear and precise you are, the better.

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Now, as stated above, constructive feedback is very similar to an employee evaluation. Do not make the mistake of not explaining the consequences. Good managers and business leaders are clear about potential consequences if problems are not fixed. Make sure you explain these consequences. Yes, this can build tensions and anxiety for the individual. But if they are unclear about their work or the extreme consequences that can lead to their lack of progress, you will be doing them a disservice as a leader. While it is probably the toughest part of the job as a manager, it is absolutely necessary if you want to see change.

So the question comes down to this: How can you give strong and constructive feedback to your employees?

When giving constructive feedback start with a goal. Every employee works differently and each individual person has their own personal and professional strengths and weaknesses. Because every conversation will be different, make sure you outline a specific and unique goal that they can work on. This can be a positive goal where you want to see them in a more leadership position or a more concerning goal where you need to see progress and consistency. Whatever is the case, make sure that is the one thing they can walk out of when the conversation is over.

Now, as hard as these conversations may be, you want to understand that it is not about the character; it is about the behavior and the work. Many employees in this situation feel that they are personally being attacked. To avoid that type of negativity, tailor the conversation more towards their work. At the bottom line, you need to think about the bigger picture. In order for you and your company to reach their goals, they need to improve their work ethics so that every party can see benefit from the progress.

To help with this process, make sure you are specific as possible. Do not generalize when it comes to your feedback. Be specific and use concrete examples to make your points. Now, when it comes to your goals, try not to ask for too much. Witnessing a day-and-night situation is incredibly rare. Instead, set realistic tangible goals. The worst thing you can do is overwhelming them to a point where they are unable to work. This is a progress. With your guidance, you will be able to shape and cultivate them into a better professional.

That leads me to my last point; make sure you show them your support. Supplying feedback and suggesting a course of action can come off as authoritative. To alleviate the talks, create a plan and follow up with various conversations and steps of how ‘you’ can help them develop within the field.