Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen and "Giving 2.0": How to Give More with Less

Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen is hoping to have a ripple effect on the world at large. "My personal passion is inspiring, educating, and empowering others to make the most of their giving," she said in an interview with Yahoo! Shine. "As philanthropists, the most powerful legacy we can create is one that keeps on giving."

The author of the New York Times bestselling book "Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World," Arrillaga-Andreessen grew up in a family of philanthropists. "My own first inspiration came from my family, and in particular my mother," she writes in her book. "Frances Arrillaga was my best friend, my mentor, my soul mate."

Her mother sat on several non-profit boards, co-founded two nonprofits and ran the family foundation she and Arrillaga-Andreessen's father created, all while raising a family of her own, and her illness and death in 1995 gave Arrillaga-Andreessen a new sense of purpose in life. "I saw her purpose, her passion, and her peace," Arrillaga-Andreessen writes. "And I wanted to live the life she'd led."

"What mattered, I discovered, was not achieving the next goal for myself, but making life better for those around me -- whether I knew those people or not," she explains. "Through the terrible experience of losing her, I gained the deep understanding of suffering, compassion, humility, and selflessness that is the force behind my giving."

You don't need to be wealthy in order to be a philanthropist, she says. The key is not to give more money, but to give more efficiently.

"I wrote 'Giving 2.0' to inspire, educate, and empower all individuals to be more effective philanthropists," she told Shine. " 'Giving 2.0' redefines and democratizes what philanthropy is."

Here's a condensed version of our conversation:

Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, author of Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, author of Shine: How do you define "philanthropy"?

Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen: A philanthropist is anyone who gives anything -time, money, experience, skills, or networks-in any amount to create a better world. The word philanthropy derives from the Greek word philanthropus-"love of humankind"-which actually makes no mention of money. Anyone with generosity of mind and spirit can take action and be a philanthropist.

Shine: What was your first ever philanthropic act?

LAA: In the 7th grade, I organized a school-wide food drive for a local emergency food nonprofit organization.

Shine: Please share a few ways people can give more, even when times are tight.

LAA: When incomes and bonuses decrease, revenues falter, and businesses stumble, it's more important than ever to give-not necessarily more, but in a way that matters more. When incomes are down and wallets are stretched, the effectiveness of our giving is what really counts. To make the most of what you are giving, you must shift your giving from reactive to proactive, sympathetic to strategic, and from isolated to collaborative. By balancing personal passions with social needs, engaging in research, and pooling resources with others, you can make the gifts of your time, skills, networks, and limited funds stretch beyond their independent impact to more effectively meet the needs of the organizations and the people you are trying to help.

Shine: How can parents help their children become philanthropists?

LAA: The most powerful legacy we can create is one that keeps on giving -- teaching our children to give. Take your children on a site visit to one of the nonprofits you support or one with which you are considering getting involved. Give your children an allowance increase-if they give the additional amount to charity. Spend a week or weekend and have your family help build a school, hospital, or orphanage for a community in need. The perspective and sense of achievement gained from such an experience could make the vacation one of your family's most memorable.

Shine: What is the most helpful or most successful gift you've given?

LAA: One of the gifts of which I'm most proud was my gift to Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY), which works to reduce repeat-offender rates among young people coming out of the juvenile justice system. I could have made a gift allowing more children to go through the program. That would've been very emotionally rewarding for me. Instead, I asked the organization what it needed. It turned out it had no phone system. Staff used personal cell phones, but there was no landline number for young people to call if they needed to speak to someone. What it required was not more money for programs-it was basic technology to help to run the existing program more effectively. I decided to fund the phone system. Although it wasn't a glamorous gift -- I couldn't point to a specific teen I'd helped - it is one of the gifts of which I'm most proud. By meeting a tangible need in its operations when no one else wanted to, I'd helped an organization with a tremendous track record increase its ability to serve its community.

Shine: What is one of the least-successful gifts you've given?

LAA: I consider a gift unsuccessful if I don't understand the ultimate impact that the gift has on the organization and on the lives of the individuals that I hope to touch and transform. It's this deeper understanding of the gift's impact that enables me to make every gift an opportunity to give more effectively the next time.

Shine: What's your own favorite way to be a philanthropist. Is it by giving money? Your time? Your expertise?

LAA: I believe the best philanthropists give in multiple ways simultaneously, with their time, expertise, networks and dollars. Furthermore, the most successful philanthropists I know balance their personal passions with public needs. I also find it important to balance near-term and long-term needs by making some gifts to meet immediate needs, while simultaneously making other gifts to invest in the longer-term solutions.

Shine: Can giving also benefit the giver?

LAA: Giving not only makes us happier, but it may also be correlated with better health as well. According to the 2010 "Do Good. Live Well Survey," people who volunteer through their job rated their physical and emotional health more positively than non-volunteers. In addition to giving you emotional fulfillment, volunteering can also help develop your personal and professional skills, expand your personal and professional network, and strengthen your family relationships.

Shine: Before donating time, energy, or money, how can one make sure an organization or cause is legitimate?

LAA: We need to approach our social investments with the same level of seriousness that we approach our for-profit investments. Just like you would not buy a stock without researching the leadership and financials of a company, I would never give a philanthropic gift without thoughtful research. After all, with philanthropy, it's not personal gain, but rather individual lives and our broader society that is at stake.

Shine: What's the single most important message you want readers to take away from your book?

LAA: Globally, 2.6 billion people live on less than $2 per day and do not have access to basic sanitation. Nationally, 1 of 15 Americans lived below the poverty line in 2010. Now, more than ever, we need to give the most and make the most of what we have to give. "Giving 2.0" offers givers of all income levels, ages, and backgrounds, a state of the art GPS system to make your giving matter more.

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10 amazing products that give back to charity
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