In these hard times, there are some new and exciting ways to do good for a cause, for yourself and for the community.
Some call it the new face of philanthropy, and it expands the notion of giving from just writing a check to giving of your own talents and becoming part of something bigger than yourself.
Gifts from billionaires such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates may make the headlines, but those gifts remain less than 1 percent of all giving to nonprofits. In fact the biggest gifts are falling off sharply while people such as you and I are stepping up.
Along the way, our gifts can pay off for us in important ways, such as strengthening community bonds and letting us learn something new.
As someone who has given substantially for four decades, I can offer my own road map for helping in the “Help Wanted” era. Here goes:
First off, where might you give? Consider joining a “giving circle,” an idea that is the newest thing in national philanthropy.
Tucson offers many options, from the University of Arizona Galileo Circle in the sciences to the Rebounders at the athletics program. You might choose a circle that helps a cause you believe in, where you have personal contacts.
Giving circles promote smart, systematic giving and also let you be appreciated where it counts. In my case, I began to help out the UA in small ways as soon as I could afford to. I joined the President’s Club when I was just a $30,000-a-year employee. Now my spark is finding opportunities to promote research to keep the United States competitive.
With a target in mind, consider these three categories of philanthropy:
• Giving your talents.
• Giving your wealth.
• Giving your time and ideas.
By talents, I mean the areas in which you have real expertise. You may be an accountant, an attorney, a designer or in real estate. Imagine doing something “pro bono,” which means for the public good.
As a commercial real estate expert, I’ve helped UA by doing real estate studies, negotiating, collecting market data, setting the value of property or building.
Giving your wealth has an extra benefit. It lets you do more as you offset each gift with a tax deduction, so a gift of $10,000 is actually an out-of-pocket cost of $7,200 or even less, depending on your tax bracket.
Again, check out those giving circles, such as the UA sport interest groups with delightful names such as the Dugout Club and the Lungbusters. They make it fun to contribute.
The third kind of gift – your time – sometimes is overlooked. You can volunteer to be on a committee and help improve an organization. In my case, I started volunteering to help UA athletics but became hooked on research after I met Joaquin Ruiz, the superdean of the Faculty of Science.
These days, I donate my skills in real estate to find facilities for biotech research and have learned to understand biochemistry and lunar and space sciences.
Not so long ago, a woman in Seattle named Patsy Bullitt Collins followed a multifaceted formula for philanthropy. At first, she gave of her time and ideas to civic causes, and then, living very plainly, she quietly gave away more than $100 million in a family fortune she had inherited.
She was asked if she was trying to give back to society. She replied, “I don’t give back. I give forward.”
That’s it exactly. Find something in Tucson that energizes you enough to give, either on your own or in concert with others, to its future.
Bob Davis is senior vice president of Grubb & Ellis Co.
For information on University of Arizona sport interest groups, go here.