By Tracey Mendrek, Senior Consultant @TraceyMendrek

The Chicago Tribune, in their ongoing profile of local executives, dedicated a large portion of their Business section today to Ann Lurie, the acclaimed Chicago philanthropist.  One cannot argue that title as it relates to Ms. Lurie and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Foundation, which has given over $331 million to a variety of charities over the last 20 years.  That number alone must put them at the top of anyone’s list of potential donors.  But there is something else that struck me about Ms. Lurie’s giving and that is her gift of time and her sense of ownership to the organizations she supports.  The article which you can read yourself (https:///,0,724401.story) mentions her fingerprints, her voice, her hands-on approach and her time.

We could all learn a lesson from Ms. Lurie – and no it’s not about the amount of money she donates – it is about the approach she takes.  Yes, there are those major charities that have large staffs to facilitate all the various activities, but then there are the smaller ones that need simple fingerprints, voices and hands to make ends meet. 

Charity Navigator, https:///, a website with some excellent guidelines for volunteering, suggests that per year the average American spends “52 hours on their volunteer endeavors”.  Those are hours that have nothing to do with the checks they write. This begs the question – Only 52 hours, one hour a week?  Of course we volunteer in ways that are largely impossible to measure; the volunteer soccer coach, the volunteer band uniform organizer or the volunteer driver.  But do we really put our imprint on the charities we support or do we simply write the check and check that off the list?

In the age of social media and the internet, it is without question, easier to “check” on the charities you support.  Following them on Facebook, Twitter or subscribing to their blog posts makes it so much easier to see what your favorite charity is up to.  But nothing beats the chance to be hands-on. 

At Culloton Strategies, we support several charities, but at a recent fundraiser we had the chance to touch and feel the artwork of the kids, shake their hands and talk to them about their experiences.  Of course there is the sad fact that no matter what we do sometimes the result is heartbreaking, but what was clear is that hope truly springs eternal.  The chance to offer our fingerprints, our voices and our time to a charity makes our monetary gifts that much more meaningful and fulfilling. 

While we may never have the capacity to affect a charitable organization the way Ms. Lurie has, we have the unlimited capacity to model her gift of time and attention.