Give away your time

By Dan Kadlec, contributing editor


BILLIONAIRES: Sit on nonprofit boards.

YOU: Give your time to your favorite cause.

For the rich, generous gifts often lead to a seat on the board of directors and a real say in how a charity is run. You can get close to the inner workings of your favorite cause by offering your time and talent.

Don't underestimate the value of what you can provide. A typical volunteer hour at, say, a soup kitchen or in your parks department is worth $20.85 to the organization, according to Independent Sector, a group that tracks nonprofits.

If you have professional skills -- medical, legal, accounting, tech -- your time is worth around $100 an hour, estimates Social Venture Partners International, a nonprofit that supports philanthropy.

Volunteering is most valuable when you are dependable. Commit to at least four hours a month for one year, and shoot for a role you're prepared for so the charity doesn't have to train you, says Heisman of the National Philanthropic Trust.

You can't write off the value of your time on your taxes, though any expenses you incur, such as office supplies or building materials, are deductible. You're not likely to reap giant tax savings from volunteer work, of course. Says Heisman, "Charity is about more than the tax benefits."

Additional reporting by Ryan Derousseau. To top of page

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