[This blog talks about digging deep to find our personal cause, choosing a charity, and reminds us that where we shop matters too.]

Last week we talked about the fact that one person can make a big difference in this wild world of ours. Today we are here to talk about how one can do so.

As a person who has various passions and a lot of heart and soul, I know how challenging it can be to just choose one charity. One charity! Out of all the amazing work that’s being done out there?! Seems impossible.

It’s not. But it requires some work, self-awareness, and mindfulness.

Here is my brand new, broken down mindfulness model of how to choose a charity.

Step 1: Finding what makes you tick

(skip this step if you are already sure of your #1 cause)

People in my life ask me how I seem so sure about where I want to help. For me, it came down to exposure – when I saw things that I couldn’t unsee in areas of the world like Africa and India.

IMG 0945I have two causes that are extremely important to me. One is food security. Food is a basic human right. I have travelled and seen the detrimental cases where our food systems are being manipulated. I want to ensure that every family has access to natural food systems for years to come. Another cause I care about more than anything is education and literacy for women and girls. I grew up as a total bookworm and I know it was the doorway to my life of freedom, gratitude and abundance. Every girl deserves that chance.

So let’s dig deep and find your cause.

Get out a sheet of paper or a journal. Grab a pen and close the door to your office / study. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Clear your mind of noise and chatter. Don’t attach yourself to the thoughts in your head, but rather let them float by like clouds. Imagine yourself below them, watching them float by if they arise. Bring yourself back to your breath every time you get taken away somewhere – take a big breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Once you have cleared your mind and moved past daily thoughts, you can begin to think and feel more deeply about life in general. Observe what images tend to come up in this space. Do you see animals? Or children? Try to recall a moment in your life that moved you to tears. Did it involve reading? War and refugees? The environment or nature? Almost always, if you set an intention at the beginning to really let something that matters to you come up, it will. Maybe you even just see your family and want to help other families in need. Or do work with infectious diseases and health related causes. Allow yourself to think freely of any cause that comes up.

After sitting for 5-10 minutes, slowly open your eyes and begin to write. Write about what you feel matters to you or how you would like to see your world improve. It doesn’t have to be international. It could be as simple as seeing your daughters’ school improve communication. Or seeing your neighbourhood plant a community garden. Just allow yourself space to write for 5 minutes about what matters to you and reflect on what came up in your mindfulness moment.

There are so many causes out there, but I believe if you begin to do this practice, perhaps a number of times over a week or even a month, it will start to become really clear to you what you would like to help with.

Step 2: Research Research Research

Congrats! You’ve done the tough work of digging soul deep to find what cause resonates with you. Now is the time to get involved with this cause.

It’s always easy to start with a Google search in your local community by simply using your city/town name and the cause i.e. “animal safety Chicago”. Within moments you can have the names of any local NGOs or charities doing work in that area. Read their websites and see if any resonate with you. Make a list in your journal of the ones you’d like to reach out too to learn more.

I do believe wholeheartedly it’s great to start local. But sometimes we don’t find exactly what we’re looking for and in this case, let’s search on a more national or international scale. This could simply be revamping your Google search with “animal safety America” or “animal safety NGOs worldwide”. You’re going to have a much broader list, but take special note of any that seem to jump out at you.

Alternatively, a great way to seek out organizations that are doing good work in your area of interest is to become more involved in the community. Often, cities have websites devoted to local volunteer opportunities. Find one that mildly interests you and get involved. I swear, the more people you get to know in the industry, the quicker you will find YOUR organization to help with. So just get out there – volunteer an hour or two each week – and ask questions. You’ll find so much knowledge by simply listening.

We are actually pretty lucky in that we live in a time that makes it so easy for us to find others that are doing good. My advice is to start now, and give what you can (volunteer time especially at this phase) and you’ll eventually find your path to the organization you really want to work with. Next week, we’ll discuss different ways to incorporate giving into your life once you know what and who you want to support.

Finally, let’s not forget that how you purchase items can relate back to your cause as well. So many companies now are supporting various causes and it’s worth a moment to research the companies you buy from on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to see if there are alternatives whom are supporting worthwhile causes. Conscious consumerism is a whole new blog that we’ll dig into on another day, but it’s important!

Happy searching!