In 1997, on a trip to India, Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, began the journey that has changed the world. This particular excursion was his first on behalf of the new foundation he and his wife, Melinda, established, a foundation now infamous for its global impact in areas of health and education. Since 1997, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given away over $40 billion in grants to projects around the world. They have offices in Seattle, Washington DC, London, India, China, and two in Africa. According to their website, all of this stems from the fundamental belief that every life has equal value:
Literally few people in the world have the resources of Bill and Melinda Gates. But significant need exists everywhere, and every person, no matter their financial worth, has the ability to do what they can with what they have.
FOUR WAYS TO CHANGE THE WORLD
What impact would you like to make in your world? As a physician or dentist, the well-being of others clearly matters to you. But where - outside of your medical practices - might you also make a difference, especially with the financial opportunities available to many in the medical profession? Here are four easy ways to begin a life-long journey of turning your financial resources into real change for people who need it most.
1. OPEN YOUR EYES
Making an impact starts with awareness. We tend to find what we're looking for, so if you are intentional about finding and meeting needs in your community, you're more likely to be successful than if your eyes are closed. Every community has unique needs. What are some in the community where you work and live? If you aren't sure where to begin, here are some ideas:
visit a local city council or school board meeting
participate in fundraisers for community organizations like a 5K race or silent auction
go to a nearby church, synagogue, or mosque and ask the pastor, rabbi, or Imam where they serve
volunteer at a soup kitchen or food bank
read the local newspaper
if all else fails, Google it!
At White and McGowan, we give to local organizations that benefit children in foster care. We contribute toward this work because we believe a world without any children waiting in foster care systems is possible. Here is a quick video about Walk for the Waiting, an annual fundraiser in Little Rock that benefits three organizations that help children in the foster care system:
2. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Can you name the top-3 record holders for 3-pointers made in a single NBA season?
1. Stephen Curry - 402 - 2015-2016
2. Stephen Curry - 324 - 2016-2017
3. Stephen Curry - 286 - 2014-2015
That's right, Curry holds all three of the regular-season records for 3-point shots made! He's an expert at the long-ball because he has shot millions of 3's over the course of his life. 10,000 hours is the commonly-held standard for becoming an expert in any craft, and Curry has certainly given his 10,000 hours and then some.
Generosity is no different. It is a habit we improve with a consistent posture of service toward others and the daily practice of meeting needs when we see them. The best practice is to consistently meet small needs. Help someone carry a heavy box. Hold the door a few extra seconds for the person behind you. Let the car merge during rush hour. Over time, these small gestures create a reflex in which your first reaction is to serve wherever you see a need. Then, when big opportunities arise, generosity is not a question of "If," but "How much?"
3. ACT LOCALLY, THEN GLOBALLY
Local needs are a great place to start. Your resources can help a multitude of needs in the community where you live. But don't stop there. Globally, people face extraordinary circumstances. Diseases like malaria and polio are still active in parts of the world. Millions walk miles for small amounts of clean, drinkable water. Education is a luxury for children in some developing countries, ensuring repeated cycles of poverty. Slavery and human trafficking have received much attention over the past decade, yet the problem still persists.
If you really want to open your eyes to the vast humanitarian needs, carve time into your annual calendar for a trip to some part of the world where people experience great need. Offer your medical expertise to villages in the South American mountains, or volunteer for a month at a clinic in rural Africa. Go see places for yourself. Personal encounters like these transform our minds from seeing "problems" to seeing "people." When we give names and faces to issues like water shortage or human trafficking, we see the deeper impact of our investments.
No problem mentioned above has a single solution, and no single person can solve them. But enough people pooling enough resources can begin to make way in eradicating these issues. And someday, if enough people pitch in, future generations will live in a world in which these are distant memories.
4. ACTION STEP: OPEN A DONOR-ADVISED FUND
Not everyone is in a financial position to make a deep impact in organizations that serve the less-fortunate, but if your assets can make a difference, consider a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) for charitable giving. A DAF is a simple way to invest so that every dollar goes toward charitable organizations of your choosing. It's simple:
Make a tax-deductible donation to your fund
Instruct your advisor on the organization(s) to which you want money donated
Your advisor distributes the money to each organization per your instructions
The benefit of a DAF is that your donations are invested in the market and then donated to a charity or organization of your choice. That means every dollar you contribute to a DAF grows along with the market, so a $1 donation into a DAF could become $2 or $3 for the charity to which you donate in the future as the fund increases.
This is one helpful option for charitable giving that many physicians and dentists have found both convenient and effective. There are plenty of ways to give; the important thing is to see your money as an opportunity to affect change in the world, and use it accordingly.
Here is a short video that explains more: