In many of my conversations with business and life coaching clients, we discuss how they can give back or play a part in contributing to social change.
This often leads to them sharing with me that they would like to have a defined Give Back Policy (whether it be private or public) – but are uncertain about what to include in this policy as they cannot afford to give large sums of (or sometimes even, any) money to charity and causes.
I often remind them that giving back, isn’t just about money – that sure, giving money is of course helpful, but there are other ways that you can ‘give back’ too.
In this post, I will take you through the steps and questions that I ask myself when creating (and updating) my Give Back Policy (or what I prefer to call my Dream For Others® Policy).
Obviously, my Give Back Policy is created from the context of someone who owns an online business, blogs and hosts a podcast – however, whether you are in business or not, you can easily take yourself through the same steps in creating a policy of your own.
1. Get clear on WHY you want to give back. What is your intention?
Before you begin to create a Give Back Policy, it is important to reflect on why you wish to create one in the first place.
- What is your intention?
- What values do you hope will be reflected in your Give Back Policy?
- What changes or contributions are you hoping to make by giving back?
For me personally, the reason I created a formal Give Back Policy was to endeavour to:
“Use my platform, passions and uniqueness to live and work in alignment with my values, speak up about issues and causes that matter to me, and contribute to progressing political and social change.”
I wanted a formal and public Give Back Policy to feel grounded in, and help hold me to account to, this commitment.
2. Identify the causes or issues you are passionate about
I know that many of my clients struggle with creating a Give Back Policy because they are multi-passionate and want to contribute to a number of causes. Having only limited resources, they begin to feel cause overwhelm, because they feel they cannot possibly support them all – especially since they view many as equally important.
I can resonate with this.
When I was trying to choose one cause to champion – I found it to be impossible.
I felt a pull toward causes that had impacted my personal life (e.g., cancer, mental health, suicide awareness, body image, love for animals, etc) or that I had learned through my studies that due to my privilege would unlikely experience in my personal life (e.g. racism, poverty, off-shore detention, etc). I also felt pulled toward causes or issues that might impact my son and future generations (e.g., climate change).
I gave up on the idea of choosing just one cause. Instead, I wrote a list of all the causes, charities and issues that felt most important to me – and then I looked to see whether there were any themes.
When I did this, I could see that my drive to give back was primarily driven by four broad themes (i.e., Social Justice + Human Rights, Socially Conscious Entrepreneurship + Platforms, Cancer Research + Prevention, and Environmental Impact), of which then a number of specific causes, charities and issues were situated under.
If you are someone who is passionate about one specific cause – excellent, choose that. However, if you’re like me and are passionate about many causes and are unable to choose just one – try to identify up to four ‘themes’ or ‘buckets’ that can serve as an umbrella for your passions and interests. This will help you feel more focussed in your efforts to give back.
3. How can you educate yourself more about these issues?
When I thought about how I could contribute to creating change in the focus areas I identified, I realised that in order to do so effectively, I needed to become more informed in those areas. This is why for me, one of the most important first steps that one can take in giving back and dreaming for others that is often free or low cost, is to think about how on can become more informed on those issues.
This makes me reflect on Barbara J. Love’s (2010, p.602) Liberatory Consciousness model. Although she was specifically focusing on how we can develop a Liberatory Consciousness, the four steps she suggests in doing so, can also arguably be applied more generally to our efforts to create change in the areas you may have identified. These four steps, in brief, are: awareness (i.e., consciously becoming aware of what is happening), analysis (i.e., becoming more informed in order to make an analysis concerning what has been observed, why it is happening and what could change it), action (i.e., taking concrete steps to create change) and accountability/ally-ship (i.e., holding oneself to account for the action and inaction of self and community).
In this stage of creating a formal or informal Give Back Policy, we can focus on becoming more aware and informed on the issues we’ve identified and our role within them:
- In what ways am I helping or hindering these causes at the moment? How can I become more aware in my life, family, community, work etc around where we are and are not living and working in alignment with what needs to be done to advance these causes?
- How can I become more informed on these causes? What books can I read, podcasts can I listen to, course can I do, documentaries I can watch, and other resources I can absorb on these issues? Who are the experts, activists, public figures, etc that I can follow to broaden my perspective, worldview and knowledge on these issues?
- How can I commit to become more educated on what I and others need to do to help advance these causes?
In developing our Give Back Policies, we are often quick to jump to the areas of donating money or time, but are not so quick in reflecting on some of the simple ways that we can become more aware and educated on the areas we are hoping to change.
4. How can you personally take action in your life and work that is aligned with the causes or issues you’ve identified?
Another often free or low cost way that we can give back or help advance the causes we are passionate about, is to think about what action we can take in our daily lives or work to help progress these causes. As articulated by Barbara J Love (see above), as we become more aware and make an informed analysis, we are often able to then see what actions we can take to create change.
So ask yourself: “What actions can I take to instigate change in these areas?”
If you are passionate about environmental issues – what can you personally do in your life and work that is more environmentally friendly?
If you are passionate about ending Islamophobia or racism – what can you personally do in your life and work to support our Muslim community or People of Colour?
And if you’re not sure yet – make researching what action you can take part of your homework for Step 3 above.
Taking personal responsibility for what you can do to help advance the causes you care about – beyond donations – is an important step that we sometimes ignore in creating our Give Back Policies.
5. How can you bring your sphere of influence along with you?
Your sphere of influence captures your personal reach when it comes to influencing change. It obviously begins with yourself – you are the one who you can generally influence first and foremost. It might also then include your family, friends, university, workplaces, social media followers, neighbours or local community. If you have a business, it might include your mailing list, staff, clients, podcast listeners, the people you speak to at events, or those who come across your website or social media accounts.
In this phase of creating your Give Back Policy you might ask yourself:
- How can I bring my sphere of influence along on this journey of creating change in this area with me?
- How can I potentially raise the awareness and knowledge of those in my sphere of influence on these issues?
- How can I use my voice (and/or platform) to help advance these issues?
6. What volunteer or pro bono work could you do?
Another great way to contribute to causes and issues that matter to you, is to do volunteer or pro bono work.
How can you use or donate your services or skills to assist organisations or people in need?
I personally, for example, try to have at least one pro bono or Pay What You Can client on my books at a time, as it’s one way that I can support those who cannot otherwise afford to coach with me. I have also done pro bono speaking, have volunteered in doing website work for a peak body I was passionate about, and have helped out as a volunteer for not-for-profits and charity events.
7. Can you afford to give money within your means? If so, how can you financially support the causes you’ve identified?
Although I have been underscoring that donating money is not the only means of giving back, it is still of course an important way to do so, if you can. These days, not-for-profits are generally finding it increasingly difficult to raise significant funds – with reduced government funding and abundance of charities and causes for the public to choose from.
You might not be in the position to donate as much as you would like, but every little bit of course makes a difference. In reflecting on how you can make financial contributions to charities and causes that matter to you, it can be helpful to ask the following questions:
- How much can I afford to give that’s within my means?
- Can I give a percentage of my income each year or pay cheque?
- How else could I raises funds for this cause or charity? Could I run a fundraising event? Could I create a product where part (or all) of the proceeds go to charity?
- How else could I financially support causes and charities I care about? Can I buy gifts from their stores? Can I share their donation pages or stores on social media? Can you support activists or social justice writers on Patreon from $1 per month?
8. When will you review this policy and reassess?
I think it is also important to schedule a reminder in your phone or calendar for when you plan to return to your formal or informal Give Back Policy and review whether any changes need to be made. I try to do mine at least bi-annually – in fact, it’s due for an update about now!
In conclusion, try to think broadly about how you can give back – rather than restricting yourself to the boundaries of donating money only.
If you would like support in giving back within your means, and am a business owner or entrepreneur, this is something that we will be focusing on in our Gentle Business Mastermind this year. Click here to learn more.
Love, B. J. (2010). Developing a liberatory consciousness. In M. Adams., W.J. Blumenfeld., C. Castañeda, H.W. Hackman, M.L. Peters., & X Zúñįga. (Eds.), Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (pp.601-605). Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2mDGqes.