Pursue Your Passions Outside Your Profession

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I love to read. I was a literature major in college. When I was in law school, I was doing a lot of reading, but no novels - just cases. When I graduated from law school, I had to learn once again how to read for pleasure. Throughout my legal career and raising a family, there were similar drought periods - when I just couldn't find the time or energy to read. Nonetheless, I found that I needed to make time for reading in order to be the kind of person that I wanted to be. And now in retirement, I have the time to read to my heart’s content and reading does make my heart content.

I feel the same way about philanthropy. According to Independent Sector, approximately 63 million Americans - 25 percent of the adult population - volunteer their time, talents and energy to making a difference. I love the feeling of contributing to my community. My parents were both lawyers and they showed me that lawyers didn't have to spend all their time on the law - it was important to be committed to causes outside your profession. But my attempts at philanthropy met the same challenges I met when trying to pursue my passion for reading - where do I start and how would I find the time and energy to be involved? I have come to the realization that everyone should consider themselves a philanthropist and pursue their philanthropic passion regardless of what phase of life they may be in. Here’s a few strategy’s that helped me find the right balance.

Prioritize

In school, there were community projects that were fun – and the blood drive was a yearly thing. Once I graduated and began working, it was clear, if I didn’t really focus on including philanthropy in my life, my work and home schedules would shut it out. The answer for me was to make the decision to be engaged in philanthropy and to be alert for opportunities that made sense for a full-time attorney and mother of four children. If the time I had was the time to write a check, that’s what I did. I tried to find opportunities where I could be more hands on, but controllable and where the commitment was knowable in advance. Being involved with non-profits gave me perspective on my life, even if it was only for a limited time.

Purpose & Procedures

It’s imperative to find the philanthropic organization that speaks to you and ask yourself the following questions: Is it important to choose something that aligns with my career? Do I prefer to learn in-depth about one institution or do I want exposure to several nonprofits at one time? What types of projects do I want to see funded and will I be directly involved in that process? I considered these questions and decided that I could meet my philanthropic needs by participating in a giving circle. I chose Impact 100 Greater Indianapolis because I was interested in learning about a variety of nonprofits and I wanted to be directly involved in the process. It also gave me options with regard to my level of involvement.

Point-in-Time

By necessity, Impact 100 Greater Indianapolis starts from zero each year. Our 12-month grant cycle allows us to be "ahead of the curve” and work with on-the-ground organizations to start funding solutions to problems before they become front page news. I like the instant gratification that comes from creating sustainable change in my own community on an annual basis.

For those seeking a philanthropic outlet that allows for differing levels of involvement, find an organization that permits you to pace your involvement and meets you where you are at in that point in time. For the past 12 years, I have been involved with Impact 100 Greater Indianapolis in every capacity from simple check writer to board member to current president of the board. My role has varied from year-to-year along with the other commitments on my time. Now that I’m retired, I am fortunate to be able to spend more time in the world of philanthropy and that has made retirement even more enjoyable. It’s like getting lost in a good book!

Terry Mumford is the president of the board of Impact 100 Greater Indianapolis and a retired partner at Ice Miller.

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