Joy of Giving week: Assessing the resources at your disposal

The time, resources and money you can contribute to the cause you believe in, will differ according to the phase of life you are in

Updated: Oct 4, 2017 11:37:06 AM UTC
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The Joy of Giving week started on October 2, and will go on till October 8. In this daily blog series, we will take you through seven habits of effective givers, one habit at a time, to help develop a culture of giving.

Cut the coat according to the cloth, or as the Hindi translates: “spread yourself according to the size of the blanket”. Knowing your capacity of giving time, money and connections is an important element in deciding your approach to your philanthropy.

For most of us, the best way to begin is to arbitrarily allocate some amount of money or time that we can comfortably afford, to get started. As covered before, what you start with is not where you will eventually end - it is just the first guess you are making. The initial amount of time or money that you can invest will vary depending on the stage of your life.

If you are a student, time is available aplenty and you can aim to spend at least 8-10 hours a week. As a homemaker it could vary between 2-40 hours a week, depending on your responsibilities at home. As a retiree, that number can easily be between 20-30 hours a week. As a busy mid-career professional or a business person, the number can vary from 2 to 20 hours a week. The ranges are wide, because circumstances dictate the exact amount. One good benchmark for starters- 33% of the time you spend every week on TV/social media.

And what about money? As a student, depending on your circumstances, you will probably be expected to pledge none or a very small amount of money out of your pocket expenses. As a retiree- whatever you feel you can comfortably set aside after meeting your basic needs and reinvesting enough to cover inflation. You could also think seriously about how much of your wealth you can give away, and what you’d like to bequeath in your will for the cause you believe in. If you’re in the earning phase of your career, setting aside a sum that you are comfortable with - anything between 1 percent and 10 percent of your monthly income is a good number to start with.

Club this with the cause you have chosen to focus on, and the learnings you have gleaned from the time you would have spent learning about your cause. You will find that over a period of time, you will keep reassessing how much resources you can commit to your philanthropic work. We will soon see in Habits 4 - 6, that apart from money and time, those resources will soon start including the connections, relationships and networks that you can bring to the table.

For most people, the resource allocation process is a ladder. You start at 'x', and will soon find yourself at '2x', '5x' or even '10x' - both in terms of time and money. The joy and sense of purpose you will find on the giving journey will easily be more than what you get through other sources - travel, entertainment, socialising, and so on.

Volunteering also helps you pick up skills (both hard and soft), build networks and grow. I have several fellow #DaanUtsav volunteers, who all started off expecting to spend two to four hours a week, but found themselves spending a lot more time volunteering in a day.

When you give money and get involved, the impact of the money is so quickly visible that the opportunity cost of not giving more starts becoming awkwardly high. You realise that a dinner is going to cost you a cataract surgery you could have sponsored, a foreign vacation for the family can cure 100 cases of children under five years suffering from cancer. Or that a Starbucks coffee is a year’s worth of education supplies for the child studying in a government school.

People who start with giving less than 1% of their income, graduate to 2 - 5 percent and in many cases, well beyond 10 percent.

A senior managing director of one of India's private equity funds, also a dear friend, has even moved part time and devotes 50 percent of his time, which is more valuable than 90 percent of his income that he now gives away, amounting to several crores a year.

An active stock market player, and another good player, routinely volunteers four - five hours every day and takes out four - five days a month for his philanthropy projects. His giving runs into crores of rupees while he lives the life of a person earning in lacks of rupees.

Apart from the quantum of time and money you can contribute, the manner of contribution is also important - is it a uniform monthly sum or will it be two-three chunks in a year (For example, when you get your bonus or incentives)? For some, setting up a monthly contribution as a direct debit could be a good idea. In terms of time, is it a few hours every week on a regular basis, or a “once a year break” where you can give a week or more at a stretch?

For many of us, a critical resource we can bring to the table is our network - friends, colleagues, relatives who can be encouraged to support the cause you are working on. In monetary terms, this could be a crowdfunding campaign where you reach out to all your connections and request them to contribute to a project you are supporting, or roping in CSR departments of the corporates you are connected to. In skill terms, it could involve leveraging your network to provide human resources, finance, accounting, strategy planning and other skills to the organisation you support

Another approach to the allocation of time and money is to start from the cause: what does it require to solve the problem you are (or the organisation you are supporting is) trying to solve? That might help figure out how much you can contribute and how you can help pool in the rest, working along with the rest of the team.

Make a habit of revisiting these periodically. And once you have a sense of the numbers (money-wise and resource-wise), it is useful to go back to review what you want to focus on, and what impact you can hope to achieve.

ALSO READ: Joy of Giving week - Getting Started

ALSO READ: Joy of Giving week - How to stay focussed to your cause

Daan Utsav, the Joy of Giving week begins on October 2, till October 8. Over the next week, we’ll delve into each of these habits and help you with tips and methods to become an effective giver.

The author set up GiveIndia in 2000, to create a "giving culture" in India and, in 2009, he, along with several other volunteers, conceptualised and launched DaanUtsav, a festival that aims to bring India together to celebrate giving.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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