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At one time, philanthropists were generally wealthy individuals who gave large sums of money to charity or devoted their time and energy to raising money for a cause. These days, however, there are a wide range of philanthropic opportunities available to individuals of even the most modest means. Even more importantly, even philanthropists of modest means have opportunities to engage in creating real change in the world around them. Here are 3 ways to be an effective philanthropist.

Pick the Right Cause to Focus on

Every day, we are surrounded by a word of need. So much so, it can become overwhelming. The more overwhelmed you feel, the less empowered you will feel to do anything about it. Being an effective philanthropist means focusing on one or two areas where you feel you can effect change and letting the rest go. The more scattered you are – or feel – the less effective you will be.

Accept that you can help alleviate problems or effect change but you cannot solve them

Poverty will always exist in some form. It is not something you can simply eliminate entirely. If you feel like your role is to solve the problem, you will burn out faster than a cheap birthday candle. If your goal is simply to effect change, however, you will most likely be far more effective over the long haul.

Set Personal Goals

One thing that is difficult for many people to grasp in a number of areas of life, is that you have no control over outcomes, only your own input. If you are like many people, you may set giving goals, such as the amount of money you want to give or the number of hours you hope to volunteer. Even then, however, just simply giving a certain number will not help if you don’t feel that number is having impact. What might be better is to say “I want to help this organization update their accounting system” if you are an accountant or “I want to invest 30 hours this month in helping improve recruitment strategies for volunteers.”

Do the Proper Research

Some people prefer to work with large, established national organizations such as Habitat For Humanity, while others prefer to work with smaller, local organizations. Before you get involved with any organization, however, you want to do your homework to ensure they are a legitimate registered 501(c)3 organization (or that they are upfront about not being one) and that they practice financial transparency. Too many people end up walking away from philanthropy entirely when they get burned by organizations they didn’t take the time to vet carefully.