investing on the homefront

How to use your time and money to build wealth in your community

tax break to boot. Talk to your company’s corporate affairs department about donating equipment and the like.

Volunteer your time. What type of things are you good at and what do you like to do? Professional skills, hobbies and recreational interests can all come into play. The better you are at identifying exactly what you can offer, the easier it will be to find the right type of volunteer work for you, advises Susan J. Ellis of Energize Inc., which produces ImpactOnline (www.impactonline.org), a resource on volunteer opportunities nationwide. If you can cook, consider spending time at a neighborhood soup kitchen. Some volunteer positions require specific skills, while others need someone with people skills. Again, find organizations that support causes or issues that matter to you. See if your area has a volunteer center or bureau, which is a clearinghouse for information about volunteering.

Find a family volunteer project. Like most people, you may feel there are not enough hours in the day, given the demands on your time from your boss, spouse and children. If you are pressed for time, consider volunteering with your family (parents, children and extended family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles). Not only are you giving back to the community, but also you’re finding another means of spending quality time with loved ones, says Ellis. Identify a particular project or event that you can work on together. If your child is active in a youth organization, sports team or civic group such as the Girl Scouts, you might consider volunteering as a coach or chaperone for group trips.

Sponsor community activities. You can serve as a sponsor for charitable organizations and worthy causes. Start by contacting professional, social or fraternal organizations in your area about upcoming events, including conferences, seminars and award ceremonies. Request a sponsorship package, which often spells out the levels at which you can give, from in-kind donations to title sponsorship. This Christmas, consider spearheading a toy drive for such groups as Toys for Tots. The Council of Better Business Bureaus (www.bbb .org/re-ports/charity.html) offers some advice on philanthropic and charitable giving. The Minnesota Council on Foundations offers information on black philanthropic efforts (612-338-1989).

Serve as a mentor. One of the best contributions you can make is to serve as a mentor to a young person, says Bill Hart, executive director of Philadelphia-based Temple University’s Student/Alumnae Mentoring Initiative. People learn by example. “By serving as a mentor you can gauge right away how your contribution is helping someone else,” adds Hart. Don’t overlook such groups as Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Moreover, if your company doesn’t already have an internship program in place, talk to human resources about hiring students during the summer. Contact local colleges: many students will work for course credit.

Sit on community boards. Use your business experience to serve as a member of the board of advisors for a community group or nonprofit organization. An advisory board is an informal committee that typically operates as a roundtable discussion group. Because you are not serving

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