Giving Back Doesn’t Always Mean Giving Away Money

Michael QuanBeliefs, Giving, Habits, Misc, Personal Development17 Comments

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Giving Back Doesn’t Always Need to Be Green

There was a time not so long ago when I thought giving money was the best action I could take to give back.

I was wrong.

While money is certainly helpful and a generous gift in itself, there is actually something much more we can give.

I’m talking about your time and your heart.  (It also doesn’t cost a penny!)

You may be asking, what does that mean?  Here’s what it means to me…

My Favorite Volunteer Experience of the Year

I just spent the entire last week volunteering as a youth coach at GYLS (Global Youth Leader Summit) at the University of California, San Diego (my alma mater!).

GYLS is essentially a summer camp that focuses on leadership for ~300 kids.

Too often today kids are labeled with negative names and/or descriptions.  If they hear this B.S. long enough, they might just start believing it.

So, we are there to help inspire, teach, and guide teens each year to love themselves exactly as they are.  When they are able to tap into their authentic self, the world is a much better place for them and everyone nearby.

It was incredible to see their transformation from the first incoming day to the final day just 5 short days after!

Win – Win

Here’s the funny thing though.  Giving back is a WIN-WIN.  By immersing myself into this program and shepherding kids, I was able to take so much back for myself.

Our head coach, Carolyn, really inspired us to lead with our hearts first.  If we can do that, then everything else will fall into place.

We also learned hands on practical strategies for influence through the use of questions, matching and mirroring, and framing focus.

We call this the “triad” and it’s incredibly powerful!

For example, there were times that certain kids didn’t feel like participating.  So instead of forcing them to do something they didn’t want to do, we first would try to better understand their world and where they were coming from.

Sometimes the kids not participating were tired, felt self-conscious, or home sick.  We’d try to sit with them to build rapport, and slowly bring up their energy.  At the same time, some of the other youth leaders would be coming around trying to get them back involved.

I was happily surprised to see the majority make a shift and re-engage with their groups.

Creating a Ripple Effect

The beauty of touching lives directly is that you never know how it’ll impact someone else.

One of my favorite quotes I heard this past week was – People will forget what you tell them, will forget what you do, but will NEVER forget how you make them feel.

All you need to do is touch one life and their trajectory can shift dramatically.

Taking it Home

My final reward in addition to seeing the kids blossom is hands on experience which will benefit my own children.

In fact, I’ve already used some strategies to maintain my patience at home and redirect angst in ways I wouldn’t have known how to do before.

Not only that, but I came back home with dozens of new friends too!

In the end, it really does come full circle.

Final Thoughts

Well, it’s taken me a few decades to finally figure out the power of giving fully from my heart.

I’m sure you’re much smarter than I am, and I also encourage you to do it more and often.  It’s addicting!

Readers, do you have any examples or stories when you gave something other than money?  What results did you encounter?

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17 Comments on “Giving Back Doesn’t Always Mean Giving Away Money”

  1. Supporting charities is definitely more appropriate for high-income individuals as they have more to share. However, volunteer work proves that you don’t have to be rich to give back. You get to save money for more urgent expenses and at the same time, share your time, talent and energy to your chosen community.

  2. Great points! I agree with you. I think reflecting on this, I think the reason why sometimes money is the go-to solution is because money is easier. That may sound weird, but for many people it’s just simply easier to dole out the cash than to actually participate and “give” of yourself. Thank you for sharing, and I think it’s great that you spent some time building up the next generation of leaders!

  3. I belong to Philly Bike Share, Indego.

    Last year, I volunteered to help adults learn to ride bikes. It was the most fun I’ve had in awhile. Watching students finally have a Aha moment and start riding was priceless! 🙂

  4. Great point! If you have a heart for helping others, it doesn’t mean you have to spend money. If you can’t spare the extra cash, your time is just as important of an asset to charities.

    1. Yes, MPP, our time can be a huge asset to organizations that do good works. However, not all organizations are run the same. I do recall volunteering a couple of times at a soup kitchen and over half of us were just standing around! 😉

    1. That’s incredible, Erik. You definitely can make a huge impact being so young as you’ll naturally be able to connect with the students.

  5. Thanks for sharing! I generally prefer to give back in the form of volunteer work. I love getting to know the people what support the organization and spending some time with them. Sounds like you had a great experience!

  6. This sounds like a great experience! I have found that times when I am actively volunteering or helping others, the impact of giving is not only much more meaningful for the recipients, but for me as well. I was a volunteer teacher for a high school aged class at the church near my college. I think I learned more from them than they learned from me, but I hope that my presence each Friday night provided some type of positive example/influence in their life.

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