In the realm of people skills, it seems to me that to do things for charity is generally a much appreciated set of behaviors. This gets me thinking about whether charity activities are truly that good by themselves, or it depends on how exactly you do them.
Some friends of mine recently got involved in some volunteer work, planting trees as part of an ecological project. I respect the intention a lot, but I started wondering about this kind of work in relation with myself: Is this the best thing for me to do for charity? Is using a shovel the best I have to offer?
Let’s look at some of the popular things to do for charity: planting trees, collecting garbage, handing-out flyers, building stuff and feeding people. They all involve a lot of hand work and a blue-collar type set of skills.
Now let’s look at the profile and skills of people who do things for charity: they are often smart, responsible, well educated, and financially stable. They have professional, white-collar type skills like accounting, sales, management, HR, training, PR etc.
Do you see an incompatibility here? These friends of mine I’m talking about, they have some very good professional and people skills. But they do not involve digging, moving heavy stuff or working in the cold. Yet, like a lot of people who do things for charity, they opt for this kind of stuff, instead of something which is connected with their skills.
Why? This, from my perspective, is impractical. If the point of charity activities is to help others as much as you can, then it makes sense to choose things to do for charity which you’re very good at. The smart way to do charity involves these steps:
- Know your top strengths and skills, know how you can provide the most value;
- Identify charity activities which make use of these strengths and skills;
- Do those as charity instead of following the pack.
I know that a lot of times, skilled people end up volunteering in work that doesn’t mach their skills because they believe these are the kind of things which charity is about. But this is a false presumption. You can do charity and help other in a lot of ways.
Think of rock stars that don’t do charity by planting trees, but by doing charity concerts and using their top skills: singing, entertaining. And they raise a tone of money. Think of people who just give money for charity and they spend their time working in something they’re good at, making those money.
My version of doing things for charity is that every once in a while I coach, train or speak for free at different events, for various organizations, on topics gravitating around people skills. This is what I know best. But I don’t go out there moving sacks of cement from one place to another, which a 14-year old could do better than me.
In the area of people skills, doing things for charity is truly a mastered skilled if you do it in the right way, the efficient way. Then, you’re truly helping the people in need to a great degree, instead of just doing stuff so you can feel good about yourself. This is for me, what charity is all about.