Winston Churchill famously said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

But in this season of giving, it’s easy for philanthropically minded people (like this one) to feel utterly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of opportunities to give. What, where, and how much start to make what should be a joyful act of giving into an agonizing one of choosing.

Initiatives like Giving Tuesday  encourage individuals and entities to focus on philanthropy after the chaos of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Such efforts go a long way toward helping us to channel our altruistic energies, but there are still bound to be far more worthy causes than corporations to support them.

In a creative industry like advertising, we have options to go beyond the corporate balance sheet and make a connection to a cause in a meaningful way. Agencies nationwide are embracing new and different approaches to support charities that speak to their people. When contemplating your options, consider some of the following:

People want to give back to the community.

Studies show that most employees, particularly in more competitive markets, consider an agency’s corporate social responsibility platform when deciding where to work — and how long to stay. If your organization is connecting in a real and meaningful way with causes that resonate, you are communicating, clearly, what you value and where you are willing to invest your donations.

Which causes resonate with your agency population?

Do your people have a direct connection to a particular group or cause? At one local agency, several members of the population were breast cancer survivors, so supporting women’s cancer charities felt real and relevant and employees felt a significant and vested interest in the work that they did. They were able to share first-person anecdotes that helped to galvanize the organization around fundraising efforts because they felt a personal connection to those affected.

Ask for contributions of skills, not dollars.

Here at RPA, we’ve donated our time and creative skills to several worthy causes over the years, and this year felt a true resonance with the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. Through our Imaginary Friend Society initiative involving more than 20 other creative partners from around the world, we designed a series of animated films that simplify difficult cancer topics and help reduce fear – such as “What is an MRI?,” “Feeling Sad” and “Finding Out You Have Cancer.”

Get people hands-on and directly involved.

For so many philanthropically minded folks, giving their time and energy to a cause feels more direct and personal than writing a check. So find opportunities for employees to show up and give back. Organize a trip to a soup kitchen, gather winter coats for donation to the homeless, or invite employees to “adopt” a family and fulfill their Christmas wish list. Allowing employees to connect directly with a cause or with the recipients of their charity makes it feel more immediate and satisfying.

We can make holiday giving an exercise in box checking, or we can make it meaningful and something that communicates to our employees and clients about what we value and support. Making charity meaningful is good for us, our people, and the charities who need and deserve what we are able to provide.

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