It’s been said that 80% of life is just showing up. While real life is certainly more complicated than that, showing up is actually what charitable organizations value most. Showing up demonstrates that you care about what the institution has done for others—or for you. Showing up can mean volunteering, advocating, or making a small annual donation—you don’t have to be a major donor. Showing up can even be simply adding your name to a nonprofit’s list of supporters; you are strengthening its message and ability to ask others for support since it is the size of the list that creates the charity’s funding leverage.
My first employer taught me the value of giving a part of my salary, however small, to those in need or to those who had helped me on my journey. Charitable giving was practiced at all levels and was a core value of this large oil company, which retained its “small town” values.
When I moved to the “big city” in 1974 with Callan, a smaller firm, I found the same culture of charitable giving. Our founder Ed Callan never missed a United Way kickoff campaign meeting and was a faithful Tocqueville Society donor for the 35 years that I knew him. His “showing up” was both inspiring and appreciated; Ed posthumously received the E. Morris Cox Lifetime Achievement Award from the United Way of the Bay Area.
Callan continues to have a vibrant United Way workplace campaign. Our goal for our associates is to “show up” by participating in the campaign or volunteering; success is not measured by the amount of individual contributions. Our San Francisco and New Jersey offices have both received awards for the participation in their respective campaigns. And I am privileged to have served as a United Way Board member since 2008. It is the most rewarding nonprofit experience I’ve had, and I will continue to serve the United Way long after my term on the board ends.
Like many things that may seem difficult at first, giving gets easier the more you do it. Focus on showing up, even in small ways—especially for your friends and family. You can cast a modest, but wide, net over charities in which you, family, or friends have some interest or connection. By casting this net early, you will ultimately be able to identify a handful of charities you want to support in a more meaningful way while never forgetting to continue to show up for others.
Showing up creates lifelong social networks where the giving goes both ways. Look at the wonderful people on almost any nonprofit board, the admiration and respect they receive and the many connections they have in our communities. They didn’t just start their giving and advocacy yesterday. Most of them likely have been thoughtful givers their entire adult lives.
Just like compound interest, starting your giving early magnifies the overall impact on the charity as well as the enjoyment over your lifetime. And there is a bonus: If you show up for others they will show up for you!
Learn more about our charitable giving and community impact efforts here.