Noble Obligation

We were taught we were very fortunate and had many opportunities that most people didn't, and that we should consider that we have a responsibility comparable to our opportunities.
- David Rockefeller

When I began Mannersmith 8 1/2 years ago on a folding card table in a corner of my home, the phrase "noblesse oblige" was nowhere on my mind. I had first heard the term several years earlier while supporting a corporate foundation as part of my human resource work. I was very impressed with the commitment that the corporate CEO (and his entire family) had to the world of philanthropy. The foundation director explained to me that the CEO had been taught by his father that those who "have" always had a standing obligation to those who "have not." Although on a much different financial level, I was also raised to believe in giving back to the community. Over the years I have spoken at philanthropic fundraisers and donated my services to a number of local non-profit organizations.

While you may not be in the same income position as Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey or Michael Bloomberg, below are five things you can do to fulfill your "noblesse oblige."

Your Time or Your Money ~ Most non-profit organizations regularly solicit for your money. If you can donate, that is wonderful, please do. If you are on a limited budget, consider donating your time instead. There are many ways to become involved. Consider your time frame. Do you have one day a year to participate in a walk-a-thon? Or do you have 5 hours a week to commit to chairing a committee or fundraising event? Talk to the organization; let them know what you are willing to do and they will gladly put you to work.

Make Way For the New ~ As you replace things in your office or home, consider what items are in good enough condition to pass along. There are groups that will appreciate clothing, furniture, file cabinets, computers, appliances, and will even gladly tow away your old car.

Little Lincolns ~ Find a place near your door for all of the pennies that collect in your pockets and purses. Save them until you hear about a local penny drive and then donate your penny collection to help children learn about helping others.

Write It Off ~ As readers of this column know, I am a huge proponent of thank you notes. Lately, I have been buying donation cards from philanthropic organizations. These cards are between $2.00 and $5.00 each. On each card is information about the organization. This way, when I write thank you notes on these cards I know I am being polite and philanthropic at the same time.

Beyond The Grave ~ You may not have time, material items or money to give now, but that does not mean you can not give at all. Philanthropic organizations nowadays can be named as beneficiaries of special life insurance policies. Contact your favorite philanthropy to see if they offer such a plan.