Though we sacrifice much in the name of success, deep down we desire something more meaningful--a genuine sense of purpose and fulfillment. It's possible to experience this sense of purpose without giving up the pursuit of success. How? By serving others.
A big misconception about giving back is that it requires a substantial investment of time or significant contribution of money. I once thought this same thing, but have since realized that there are many ways I can serve others without breaking the bank or taking time off.
The options are endless, but just to get you started, here are seven ways you can easily serve others. Many of these anecdotes are from people in my circles who have inspired me to make service a priority in my life. You can use them as inspiration to find ways to give back in your own way.
Much like startups, nonprofits survive on funding and cash flows. You can make a big difference by donating to an organization whose mission you believe in.
For example, I donate to Empowering Lives International, a nonprofit in Los Angeles and Kenya that transforms the lives of orphans by providing education, shelter, clothing and a strong message of worthiness and empowerment. For less than $100 a month, the young man I'm sponsoring is receiving the farming education he needs to own and operate his own farm in Kenya.
You can even use your company to donate proceeds to worthy charities. My friend, Karina Harris, and founder of Waffles & Honey, donates 10% of her holiday season profits to a homeless shelter in San Francisco. She shared that pledge with her customers, and together, they raised enough money to become the shelter's top donor last year.
Avoid the trap of believing you don't have enough money to make a real impact. It sounds cliché, but every dollar counts.
2. Feed the hungry
Los Angeles resident, LaRayia Gaston, started a nonprofit called Lunch on Me to help alleviate the starvation epidemic in LA's notorious Skid Row neighborhood. Gaston recovers extra food that would otherwise be wasted, transforms it into meals and then personally distributes it to the homeless. Her work is galvanizing the local community to get involved.
You don't need to start a foundation or nonprofit in order to make a difference. Many nonprofits rely on daily volunteers to help prepare meals and assist with distribution. Even volunteering one day or evening per quarter can make a profound impact.
3. Donate your product
Another great way to give back is by leveraging the product or service you've already built or developed.
Treehouse, an online programming school, is working with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and sponsor companies to provide free programming classes for young adults. Their CEO, Ryan Carson, is a conscious leader using a platform he's already built to make a fast and powerful impact.
Mentoring others in your field is a fun way to give back by paying it forward. An hour-long fireside chat filled with personal advice and candid experience can inspire and empower the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Accelerators and incubators are great places to start. I give a candid "founder's talk" to each new batch of entrepreneurs at a hardware accelerator in San Francisco. I share the good, the bad and the ugly - and I assure my listeners that they're not alone in the journey.
5. Volunteer your services
Many nonprofits need your talents just as much as your financial support.
Melissa Drachand, a friend and occupational therapist, volunteered at The Living Room International hospice center in Kenya, where she cared for terminally ill patients for two months.
If you can't do that much, it's perfectly fine. You can quickly help a nonprofit by building a website, setting up their Mailchimp account or making an important introduction. There are countless ways to help.
6. Make service a company mission
Follow in the footsteps of TOMS and Patagonia by making service part of your company's mission. Fitppl, an Austin-based fitness company that creates health foods in packaging that reduces plastic waste, organizes "Active Cleanups", which combine a free community workout with an organized plastic cleanup effort afterwards.
Take their lead and organize your own corporate service day or commit to support a non-profit that is aligned with your company's goals.
If that sounds overwhelming, consider organizing a one-time team bonding session while volunteering. This will create stronger connections amongst your team members through a shared experience of service and fulfillment.
7. Take advantage of corporate matching programs
Many companies will match your donations to a nonprofit. This is an easy way to increase a nonprofit's cash flow without adding additional expenses on your end.
If you feel the urge to give back in some way, and you don't already make service a part of your life, realize that you don't need to save the world to be useful. Instead, find the example on this list that works for you and take the first step. Every journey starts with a first step. Even if you do one great thing every month, you'll make a difference.