Skip to main content

By the time the winter rolls around each year, I find myself operating at full tilt with the day-to-day running of my business, preparing for Project Winter Survival, our annual charity initiative, and spending time with my family.

It's not easy. But as cliché as it sounds, what keeps me going – despite all the late nights and endless to-do lists – is the feeling that I'm making a difference. Regardless of your background, here are some reflections on the art of giving back in a way that's meaningful to you.

1. Giving back feels good. Some people will tell you that giving back should be a selfless act; that giving back should have no benefits for you. We're all busy – with demanding jobs, families to look after, and a million things demanding our attention. Taking time out of our busy schedules often requires finding motivation. The truth is that giving back feels good – and for me that's one of the biggest motivators. It connects us to others, to something bigger than ourselves, and helps us find meaning in our lives. When time is often our most precious resource, how do we decide where to spend our efforts?

Story continues below advertisement

2. There's always a need. It's easy to get anesthetized to the charitable 'asks' around us: canvassers knocking at our doors, charities asking us for donations, volunteers stopping us on the street. All of those asks can become overwhelming, and sometimes it's easier to just shut it all out and disengage.

My advice for those facing this predicament is to find a cause that's meaningful for you. Choose something that interests you and that you feel strongly about; something where you can make a difference, or learn something new. It might be raising research money for an illness that's affected a loved one, or protecting the woodlands near your home, or perhaps a human rights initiative in Africa that somehow appeals to you.

3. Giving back creates community. Starting a charity on top of running a business and raising a family might seem like risking all-out burn out, but I have found that it has had the opposite effect. A huge part of giving back for me was engaging the people around me: staff, clients, family and friends. This has contributed to a strengthened the sense of community at our workplace, a meaningful experience and important set of values I can share with my children, and so many new and meaningful friendships.

4. Start where you are. Amidst the overwhelming number of social causes out there, I recognize that it can be difficult to figure out where to start. There's a quote from professional tennis player Arthur Ashe that speaks well to this point: "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." I encourage you to reflect on what you have to offer, how you want to contribute, and to take that first step. By just diving in, you'll help the community, broaden your horizons and feel good knowing you've made a difference. I promise, you won't regret it.

Jody Steinhauer is an award-winning entrepreneur, non-profit advocate and mother. She is the founder and CBO of Bargains Group, a national discount wholesaler, and has been a member of the Toronto Chapter of Entrepreneurs' Organization since 1997. She founded Project Winter Survival and Project Water in 2000, two community initiatives under her charity Engage and Change.

Follow us @GlobeSmallBiz and on Pinterest
Join our Small Business LinkedIn group
Add us to your circles
Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

If your comment doesn't appear immediately it has been sent to a member of our moderation team for review

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.