As my days seem to get busier at a steady rate, I find myself asking more frequently, “What is the purpose of what I am doing right now?”
Answering this question from time to time helps me to focus on what I am trying to accomplish and where I am attempting to go. It helps me to sometimes say “no” and to try not to do everything. It helps me to be more effective. I cannot say that I will ever master this method, but it makes me think about the role of purpose in other areas of life beyond work.
Do you feel that you have purpose behind your charitable giving? Being confronted with a specific case of someone in need (e.g., on a street corner, via a compelling email from a friend, or maybe a story on the nightly news) can move us to take immediate action. We may send a few bucks or donate some items to help the situation. This kind of giving certainly helps the person in need and makes us feel good about making a difference, but beyond that we may not have a broader purpose. Even so, it is part of what makes us human to feel compelled to give in these cases.
How can you add purpose to your giving? Consider making the effort to go beyond the cases that are right in your face. Think about how you can have a broader impact. For example, if we hear a story about a child who is struggling in school because he is homeless, how do we both help the child and take action to prevent other children from ever being in the same situation?
It is that second piece, the prevention and early intervention work, that takes more time, expertise, collaboration, coordination and funding than solving individual cases. The work is difficult and purposeful. When done correctly, it is also incredibly impactful for the community. For example, there are currently a handful of collaborative efforts in La Plata County to help youth succeed through truancy reduction, behavioral health supports, positive adult role models, promotion of healthy choices and more. These efforts might not always be foremost on the public radar, but they need our support to get to those large scale achievements.
At United Way of Southwest Colorado, we spend a lot of time seeking those effective community efforts that help to prevent those cases that tug at our heartstrings from ever happening. The hard work of the prevention/intervention programs help people to live better lives overall. Our 36 local nonprofit partners have been chosen for their exemplary efforts and outcomes in this work.
In addition, we work with at least six local coalitions (groups of nonprofits working together) that are going above and beyond to solve long-standing community struggles.
Think about adding more purpose to your giving – a combination of giving with your heart and your head is likely to do a lot of good that you can feel great about. Thank you for Living United!
Lynn Urban is president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Colorado.