If you’ve logged onto any form of social media this week, you have doubtless encountered videos of ALS Ice Bucket Challenges. As of yesterday, the ALS Association has raised 62.5 million dollars, about 60 million more than this time last year. I am excited that philanthropy is everywhere right now. In a month filled with violent tragedies, it’s good to see people bonding through a positive act.

While the ALS Association has gained 1.2 million donors this year, I am concerned about what happens after the trend dies out. Will these new donors stick around next year? Regardless of our feelings on the ALS Association, we should take this challenge to start socially investing in some way. Philanthropy shouldn’t be a one-time offering, but a lifetime habit. Wikipedia differentiates philanthropy from charity in this way: “charity relieves the pains of social problems, whereas philanthropy attempts to solve those problems at their root causes.” That old cliche of teaching a man to fish is something I am deeply passionate about, and is the basis of my microfinance nonprofit, Tricord Global. Tricord Global gives me the opportunity to invest in those below the poverty line by giving them education and opportunity. With those two things, they can start and maintain a business that gives them and their family a better life.

  • Donate or Serve—The Ice Bucket Challenge is a relevant example of this. Donating or serving is the quickest way to get involved. If you have a heart for children in the trafficking/sex trade, then donate to organizations like Destiny Rescue or International Justice Mission. If you’re physically active, join a walk or race like Race for the Cure or the Walk to Defeat ALS. Or put in weekly time volunteering at your local rescue mission or homeless shelter.
  • Microfinance—As a loan program, microfinance goes a step beyond charity and empowers the receiver by giving them the opportunity to pay it back. The basic form is giving someone who has no chance at receiving a bank loan start-up cash for their business plan. And in developing nations where this can really change the environment, a start-up loan is something anyone can afford($20+). Check out Tricord Global or other organizations like Kiva.
  • Impact Investing—Tricord Global also offers opportunities in impact investing. Check out the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) for more ideas. Impact investing is going to be more complicated than the previous two. GIIN explains it as “investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.” Basically it’s philanthropy that connects to a self-sustaining business model.

I hope that you feel inspired to get into a philanthropic habit. If you have qualms about the ice bucket challenge or where money is being spent at the ALS Association, then find a different organization or cause to invest in! Let’s take this trend as a reminder to invest in our world and the people who live in it.

What cause or organization do you invest in?

We will be posting a new blog every Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Come back tomorrow to take a look at the world of entrepreneurs!