by Lydia Dean, GoPhilanthropic Foundation Co-Founder

I took a trip and it was very moving. What do I do next?

How can I help? What is needed most?

I’m not quite sure how to get involved. Where should I start?

I want to do something, but what should I do?

These are seemingly basic questions and phrases on the surface and ones that we at GoPhil encounter very often — questions that we never take lightly.

The questions reflect a longing, a searching, a draw to offer something of ourselves. The change-makers and humanitarians that GoPhil supports around the world have no doubt asked themselves similar questions at critical junctures in their lives. No matter what the circumstances, the questions reflect being on remarkable journeys of discovery — of self and our connection to a greater whole.

And what exactly is the search for? Ah well, that’s probably the million dollar question, but for the sake of simplicity, maybe we can refer to it as a response to a call. A calling to connect to humanity — a pilgrimage to make a difference, to matter.

Creating the sacred space where this can be brought to life is part of the muse at GoPhil. But the hows, whens and wheres of this process unfolding for each person are so very different. Then there is the mystery of universal timing that also comes into play – the wind in the air. For many there is a moment, an event, a day when we feel we cannot wait any longer to get to it. When the meaning of life crystalizes and you simply know in your gut — ok, it is time.

Channeling these special wishes is a bit like catching butterflies in a net. It is not something that can be controlled or forced. It requires a delicate touch and tremendous care to safely guide these intentions to global gardens where they can find their home, where they can take flight.

When I think back on my philanthropic journey, it began with a growing discomfort from the gap between what was happening out there in the big world, and me building my secure and comfortable life. They were two parallel realities that never seemed to cross. I did what many of us do — I shied away from getting genuinely personal with it. I put up logical barriers and made excuses, not because I didn’t want to contribute, but because I honestly didn’t know where to start. Ok, and then there was this little voice in my head that kept telling me that maybe, whatever I had to give wasn’t really going to be enough. Not enough time, not enough money, not enough strength to change what was so wrong with the world.

When my ‘giving back’ finally did begin, it stopped and started, waxing and waning with the pressures of work, finances, and raising a family. I dabbled here and there with some volunteer jobs but the experiences never felt like they went anywhere — it never felt personal. It took decades to take my first step, and then what seemed like an eternity to feel like I was walking soundly on a path of contribution. Sound familiar?

Many years later I found my way to GoPhil, as so many others have, and I was able to take that big sigh of relief, knowing that the search to become more involved in the world, with humanity, was over. I was home. Members of our community have described a similar sense of comfort.

You are in a hot and sticky room far away from your daily life, listening to someone who had the courage to stand up to life’s injustices. Maybe you look around at a group of people you have never met before. They might be wearing different clothes, practice a religion you aren’t so familiar with and lead very, very different lives. You look at your fellow travelers, people who only days ago were strangers to you and you feel an overwhelming sense of warmth and connection with everyone in the room — a oneness with all. Suddenly everything is put in perspective. Everything feels complete and whole. The search is over.

Imagine if we could multiply this currency of togetherness?

We think about this quite a bit at GoPhil as we don’t want anyone to waste time getting to this beautiful place. And when they do, we hope that a safe net appears — be it the GoPhil net or another, so the desires to share even a small part of ourselves, can find a safe home.

Maybe in order to do so, we need to be more aware of the process by which all of this unfolds and better about offering the clear and easy ways for it to naturally take place. We have had years to see it evolve in ourselves, our community members and also within the vast spectrum of other amazing people, programs and organizations all investing in a better future for this world.

Create Your Philanthropic Journey
Learn It, Live It, Give It

While the terrain will be different for each one of us, we have discovered the philanthropic path involves distinct phases — periods that need to be honored and explored in their own way and in their own time.

LEARN IT: Start With a Deeper Understanding

Most pilgrimages typically start with a readiness to know more, an initial opening up, where a profound listening and learning begin, and in this case, never end. There is certain level of cluelessness (perhaps naiveté is a better word), to becoming an active humanitarian. None of us at GoPhil knew anything, or much, about child labor, human trafficking or the unjust treatment that goes on within ethnic minority communities around the world. If you want to engage in the world’s problems, you have to learn about them first. It is humbling and necessary.

For some of us it starts with simply reading books and articles about global issues that spark an interest and draw us in. It can involve showing up to events and gatherings. For others the starting point is travel as it has this powerful way of providing us with a real-time global classroom. Travel forces us to open our eyes, hearts and minds to the realities of the world. Either way, our paths to giving need to be well grounded in awareness and understanding if we want our contributions, whatever they may be, to have the most positive effects.

Click here for an infographic of things you can do.

LIVE IT: Dig In and Do

When we are inspired by what we have learned, lived, and experienced, we are often confronted with our beloved “what’s next” and “how can I do more” questions. We have become aware, moved, even upset and uncomfortable, with issues that we now understand more fully. It is at this point that we want to see change and be a part of it. It is one thing to not understand something, but when we do, we feel a readiness and a responsibility to act.

We know this juncture is not only about writing a check because if it were, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Does this step involve contributing financially? Yes, oftentimes— but there’s much more to it. The motivation to give, the energy and intention behind and around that act of contributing, is the golden nugget.

When we look at GoPhil, everything that it IS and DOES is made up from a series of actions borne out of the “now what?” questions, the need to make a move. Some people devote their time and talents to the daily work within the Foundation, others share their resources, open their homes to events, begin memorial funds, help guide trips or offer services from their businesses. The collection of ways in which our community shares of themselves is pretty endless — there is no one way of doing something in our butterfly garden. The common denominator is that a step was taken.

It is actually simpler than we think to jump in, to dig in and do. We can spend way too much time putzing about, worrying and wondering in this spot. If we listen carefully, an idea will emerge, a thought will come to mind. But this is often where we delay, where we get stuck. It might require that we compose an email, make a call, write a check, or have the lunch meeting for the idea to take flight, but nothing will happen unless we do.

And there’s an important ingredient that can’t be missed at this juncture. The key to this digging in and doing step is to ground it in ourselves, our interests, our loves and passions. It seems counter-intuitive and “me-focused” but it is the secret sauce. When our giving is created from the foundation of who we are, things begin to unfold, to fly on their own.

Click here for an infographic of things you can do.

GIVE IT: Expand & Amplify Your Ability

When we finally begin to feel really comfortable and centered in this personal active place, where we are funding a project, giving our time, hosting events, whatever it may be, a very special shift often occurs. The ideas, projects, and efforts begin to naturally multiply and expand. The desire to share more has us reaching further into our own networks, establishing connections to resources beyond our own. What was a very personal experience in the first two phases, seems to spread and broaden beyond us, yet still comes from us.

We have seen examples of this within our longer-term donors who are ready to become ambassadors for the world’s change-makers. They create their own campaigns within their own networks and affiliations and spearhead events to invite others to understand how they too can make a difference. We have seen family foundations who have been making grants for many years become ready to see their contributions make broader, more far-reaching impact. Either way, this stage involves a widening of the wingspan and an amplification of what has been learned along the way.

Click here for an infographic of things you can do.

Where are you on the spectrum?

If any of this tugs somewhere inside, see if you can place where you are. Does the desire to be more connected, more involved, still feel tucked away in a private place, yet to be explored? Are there some fears that might be getting in the way – a sense of not having enough to give? Might there be some intimidation about the commitment that this might demand? Or have you really found your stride and you want to share it with others so they can find theirs too?

Our Message: BRING IT ON!

The world needs you and the GoPhils of the world need you. Wherever you are, don’t stop. Continue to search, to respond and to act.

A Final Thought:

It may be assumed that those who work in this space daily have made our way through the phases. Why then do I find I am right back where I started? The eyes might be a little wider, I might know a little more, but I most certainly am at the beginning again. Maybe this highlights that there isn’t a true start or end to this search, this call to gather our common threads and care for one another. Perhaps it’s not about ticking a box, getting a gold star and saying I’m done — I’ve done my 1-2-3.

Hopefully for all of us it will continue to evolve and begin again, from a different place, each time with a rich new set of possibilities. Wherever we are, it’s just fine. But let’s agree to not put any barriers up in getting there. Let’s continue to tug each other along when we get stuck. That’s what GoPhil is really all about — a safe place where we can help each other see the importance of what there is to do and what we each have to offer.

If you are interested in becoming more involved at GoPhilanthropic, please feel free to reach out to any of us at anytime.

[one_third extra=”” anim=””]Email Lydia Dean, Co-Founder[/one_third][one_third extra=”” anim=””]Email Linda DeWolf, Co-Founder[/one_third][one_third extra=”” anim=””]Email Tracey Morrell, Co-Founder[/one_third]

When our giving is guided by learning yet fundamentally rooted in our truest most personal values, passions and interests, we will be lead to opportunities that require action. When we respond, these actions will naturally create momentum and that eventually expand well beyond ourselves.