In our first Power of Philanthropy article, we talked about some ways in which the power of philanthropy is changing the quality of life for those on the receiving end. Now we’d like to talk about the very substantial benefits to those that are on the giving end of these philanthropic efforts. In past blogs we talked about a number of principles that enrich our retirement experiences including: find meaning in life, cultivating a wide variety of friends, giving rein to our curiosities and passions, and engaging in continuous learning. Let’s look at how volunteering for philanthropic work is a great way to exercise those principles. Notice we said volunteering, this implies that we are not just giving money, but more importantly, our time, energy and passion.
Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning said that the primary human drive is not pleasure or power but rather the pursuit of meaning. We typically find meaning in our jobs and in raising our families during our preretirement years. But the drive for meaning does not go away just because we retire. Engagement in philanthropic efforts is a very satisfying and socially important way to fulfill this need. We can select philanthropic organizations that are aligned with our values and interests and can apply the skills and experiences that we developed in our working years. Everybody wins.
Often times, most of the people we associate with during our careers represent a fairly narrow social, economic , generational and educational range of experiences. One of the great joys of volunteer work is that it brings us in contact with a very diverse range of people, many of whom become important friends to us. While we may share a passion for the mission of the philanthropic effort at hand, we probably come from a great variety of life experiences. Very importantly, it also brings us shoulder to shoulder with people much younger than we are and whose perspectives can be very enlightening and inspirational to us. This diverse exposure brings great richness to this stage of our lives.
Given that we have the freedom to select the organizations that we want to work with, we can indulge our passions in a way that is fun and educational for us while benefitting the greater whole. This gives us the potential to take our passions another level or two deeper in terms of our understanding and enjoyment. It also gives us an opportunity to explore curiosities. And as we know, curiosities sometimes, though not often, can evolve into passions.
One of the things that we learn as we age is that the thrill in life comes not from what level we have achieved in any particular endeavor but rather what is our slope, i.e., to what extent are we getting more skilled or smarter in that endeavor, to what extent are we continuing to learn. Volunteering for boards or other philanthropic duties truly puts us in the category of “humble students”. At this stage of our lives, we have the confidence of applying skills and experiences that we developed during our working careers to applications that are totally new and different to us and, therefore, require us to learn many new things. Best of both worlds!
Selfishly, we personally derive many benefits from volunteering for philanthropic work that greatly enrich the retirement experience. Altruistically, there has hardly been a time in our history where it was more important for each of us to step up and maximize the donation of our time, energy, experience and resources consistent with our ability to give.
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