Career Tips

How To Advance Your Career By Being An Intentional Philanthropist

By Lisa Dietlin

Being An Intentional Philanthropist Is Easy And Has Returns: Do Something Every Day that Makes A Difference to Someone Else and See Your Life Change.

“The greatest contributions are the ones you leave behind…”, is a line from famed country music singer and songwriter Alan Jackson’s hit song titled Small Town Southern Man.  It’s a sentiment much echoed by those who have been successful, especially entrepreneurs.  I have heard many of them say, “…to those that much has been given, much is expected.”  I would say regardless of your socioeconomic status everyone should do something every day that makes a difference to someone else for no other reason than it simply is amazing to be able to do it.

What I have come to realize is that it really doesn’t matter where you are at in your life and its journey, you can give back and make a difference no matter what is happening in your life.  Think about all the little ways you could do something for someone else.  You could offer to watch a neighbor’s child/children so they could have a night off or out.  You could mow your neighbor’s lawn, rake their leaves or shovel their driveway.  You could take a food or a meal to someone for no other reason than you simply wanted to do this.  You might visit a pediatric ward with ill children to play games or simply visit.  You could donate your “already read” magazines to a nursing home, hospital or domestic abuse shelter. The lists of things you could do every day is simply endless.

Three things that I personally try to do each day is to write a piece of personal correspondence to someone, say a kind word or compliment to another and pick up a piece of garbage placing it in its proper receptacle.  By doing these three simple things each day, I am making a difference in the world.

Recently, I learned from a new friend about an activity a friend of his does.  It seems his friend read that one of the most cited reasons people who are contemplating suicide don’t go through with the act is that someone paid attention to them, noticed them, smiled and waved to them.  This simple act of smiling and waving his friend learned prevented people from taking their own lives.  So, he began waving and smiling at everyone he meets all day long recognizing that he might be saving a life or lives on a daily basis.  A small gesture with potentially a huge benefit.

Throughout my life, I have heard many stories from people who have simply been doing something for someone else and seen their own life changed.  Sue Ling Gin is a perfect example of this.  I asked Sue how she came up with the idea to pitch the airlines that she could prepare the food for their customers (note this was when food was served on planes).  She said she didn’t pitch the idea.  Sue then shared that even when she didn’t have money she volunteered to help others.  At an event for which she was volunteering, she was seated next to a man who happened to be the head of one of the major airlines.  As they began chatting she shared that she had a catering business and voila – Flying Food Fare was born!  When you talk with Sue she quickly shares that if she had not been giving back or doing something for someone else, in this case helping a cause she cared about with her time, she would never have had the business model she has today.  As a side note, her company now prepares food for all the Starbucks stores in this country.

As you might suspect, I believe it is important to give back!  Many people believe that what you give back will return to you tenfold.  I am not sure if that is true or not, but I do know that giving (and in some cases receiving) are two important components to a successful life.  When you look outside yourself and your circumstances, your perspective and ultimately your life can change.  By doing giving back and practicing the Power of Three in your life now, in other words doing three things a day to give back to others, you will witness how your life is changing, too.

Facts About Giving

  • In the United States, there was $410 billion donated in 2017 – an increase for the eighth year in a row – basically more than a $1.12 billion a day is donated.
  • Individuals accounted for 70% of all donations made in 2017. When you add bequests and donations from foundations controlled by families, this number jumps to 87%.
  • Corporate giving (corporations and corporate foundations) in 2017 represented only 5% of the total charitable donations.
  • Giving by individuals increased by $14.27 billion over 2016 for a growth rate of 5.2%.
  • There are an estimated 1.6 million charities registered in the United States.
  • 63 million people volunteer annually which is 25% of the adult population valued at $24.14 per hour.

(This post is an excerpt from Lisa’s book, “The Power of Three: How to achieve your goals by simply doing three things a day.” Used by Permission.)


Lisa M. Dietlin is an internationally recognized expert on philanthropy, charitable giving and transformational change who, as a leading figure in the American nonprofit sector, is a highly coveted keynote speaker, media personality, philanthropic consultant, coach and facilitator.Ms. Dietlin has provided her expert advice and structured counsel to entrepreneurial individuals, corporate leaders as well as nonprofit organizations to develop strategies that facilitate transformational change.

Ms. Dietlin has provided her services to over 1000 organizations nationwide, including the Alzheimer’s Association, BMO Harris, Kiwanis International, Aetna, VolunteerMatch, Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Junior League, Zonta and Feeding America. She has been a keynote speaker/presenter or facilitate discussions for several organizations and corporations including Navigant, UBS, Big Ten Development Conference, Alpha Gamma Delta, Morgan Stanley, Northern Trust, Stout Risius Ross, Sigma Kappa, Metropolitan Capital Bank and Trust, Merrill Lynch to name a few.

Ms. Dietlin’s decades-long experience in the fundraising and nonprofit arenas, groundbreaking research on giving patterns, and influential ideas on transformational philanthropy have led her to become one of the most trusted philanthropic advisors in the nation. She is a frequent presence on several TV and radio programs, including NBC, CBS, Oprah & Friends Radio, WGN, The Weather Channel and WCIU in Chicago, FOX News and National Public Radio. She is frequently quoted in national publications such as USA Today, Marketwatch, Reuters and The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Crain’s Chicago Business, CS Magazine and regularly contributes to The Huffington Post on her blog “Making a Difference®: The World of Giving.”

Ms. Dietlin is also the author of four books on the subjects of charitable giving and enacting positive change: Transformational Philanthropy: Entrepreneurs and Nonprofits, Making a Difference: 365 Tips, Ideas, and Stories to Change Your World, Making A Difference II: More Tips, Ideas and Stories to Change Your World, Making A Difference® III: Still More Tips, Ideas and Stories to Change Your World.

Her fifth book, The Power of Three: How to achieve your goals by simply doing three things a day was published in June 2014 and is available in 7 languages including English, Spanish, Italian, French, German, Korean and Mandarin Chinese. Her sixth book was released in September 2015 is titled, I Got Hit By A Taxi, But You Look Run Over: Life Lessons about Happiness and Joy based on her real life experience of being hit and run over by a taxi in the loop of Chicago. All of her books are available for purchase on and on the Amazon Kindle.

Ms. Dietlin holds a Master’s Degree from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and an undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and Alpena Community College. She has served or serves as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University as well as DePaul University and North Park University. She is the Founder of The Institute of Transformational Philanthropy ( as well as several other companies.

Ms. Dietlin resides in Chicago. She is originally from Alpena, Michigan.



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