You’ve listened to all the pleas and seen all the advantages and you’ve decided to stay in Metro Detroit. You live in a beautiful home, have a successful career with a promising future, and you’re dating that perfect someone, all before turning 35. You are the creative class and through whatever effort, or divine intervention, you have been attracted and/or retained. Now it’s time to give something back.
Philanthropy is not just a means for the wealthy and privileged to assuage their guilt for being wealthy and privileged. It doesn’t take a check book, gray hair, and a black-tie to make a real difference in Michigan’s social and cultural non-profits. As a young person you have something equally as important as money, and perhaps even more critical. You have your time.
Earlier in the week I pointed out how valuable your labor capital was. Unencumbered by the responsibilities or accountability of the older, there is a lot you can do with the potential 80+ hours of labor capital you may have in any given week. A donation of your time to a not for profit has a valuation just as tangible as a donation of cash or an in-kind service may have.
I know the idea of donating your Saturday to pick up trash on the highway or read to strays at the Human Society sounds like something a court would order. For those I ask that you approach the time you donate much like you would approach the hours you spend at work. You don’t type out your e-mails with the end of your pencil or make copies of important documents with an egg of silly putty. Make your contribution to a non-profit as efficient and as measured as your rock it in your professional life. Volunteer to serve on a board or committee.
You would be surprised how easy it is to have a profound impact with your new ideas and your youthful energy. Most boards I know are hungry for some new blood and committed change. As our state’s population ages at an even more accelerated rate than the rest of America, it is critical that non-profits, like companies, are prepared for the dramatic shift in demographics. Your time spent at the conference table will plant seeds of change. Throughout your tenure those seeds will blossom and bring to fruition the tools and business practices that will guarantee the survival of institutions that helped shape and define Michigan since its inception.
All those museums, theaters, those social support and advocacy groups that keep the quality of life going where the government and private sector fail, all those will die with their current donor base in a few decades or less if the young don’t step up to steward direction and establish relevance to the next generation of givers and appreciators.
When you serve on a board what you get in return beyond the feeling that you did something moral good and right is the opportunity to showcase your unique talent to others older and more successful than your current network of contacts or business associates. When you serve on a board you show everyone else around the table just what kind of work you can do and how beneficial that labor capital could potentially be to their companies in their own arenas.
The quickest shortcut to the chairman’s office in your own job is having powerful and influential allies and customers singing your praise due to your astounding performance on the board which they serve on with you. I’m a real estate salesman who serves on over a half dozen non-profit boards and commissions. My fellow board members just happen to be presidents and CEOs who have turned out to be some of my best customers and professional contacts over the years. Who said altruism is dead.