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updated: 11/13/2017 6:53 AM

Creative approaches to philanthropy

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When it comes to managing our financial lives, we should also consider philanthropy, or investing in others. Merriam-Webster defines philanthropy as "an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes." There are many facets to philanthropy besides contributing financially. We have numerous opportunities to support important causes -- in Chicago's suburbs, the city, and beyond -- and not all involve money. You can donate items, give your time, or share a talent.

Sharing your time and talent

Millennials, especially those just starting out in the workforce, face financial obstacles. According to the Federal Reserve's 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, 43 percent of young families have education debt averaging $33,300. Many millennials lack the financial resources to support charities. There are opportunities to help worthy causes, however, by donating your time and your talents. Organizations that need help are all around you, but how do you find the right fit?

Since it was established in 1960, The Volunteer Center has been a wonderful resource for those seeking the opportunity to share their time and talents. It brings together volunteers and organizations that need help. The Volunteer Center has expanded its reach over the years and currently works with 153 nonprofits and 15,000 active supporters and volunteers.

According to Barbara Tubekis, executive director, " The Volunteer Center engages compassionate and energetic volunteers helping them identify impactful service opportunities."

On their website,, you can search nonprofits in need of volunteers by numerous categories -- mental health services, seniors, global needs, disabilities, emergency relief, families in need, etc. You can also search based on skills you have to share -- legal, accounting, advocacy, tutor/mentor, etc. The Volunteer Center also hosts special community wide events, such as Make a Difference Day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Thanksgiving Share Your Bounty, and Kids Against Hunger. Giving your time to worthy causes is meaningful. Finding just the right fit for you makes the experience even more rewarding.

Your wardrobe can make a difference

Like The Volunteer Center, the North Shore Exchange is another philanthropy "win win." The North Shore Exchange ( is the only luxury consignment shop in Chicago that donates all profits to charity. Many of us have been inspired by New York Times best-selling author Marie Kondo and are embracing The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. As you go through your home, you may find a designer item that is in beautiful condition, but you no longer wear it. The North Shore Exchange will allow you to sell your item and give a portion of the proceeds to charity. Since it opened four years ago, the organization has donated $1 million to human service agencies that serve the poor.

When you consign your item with the North Shore Exchange, members of their fashion committee research and price your item. The committee is both knowledgeable and selective, which draws in shoppers who appreciate the quality of the merchandise. The North Shore Exchange is competitive with other luxury consignment shops while also supporting worthy causes that are selected by the philanthropy committee. The model works because of North Shore Exchange's large team of dedicated volunteers. Like the Volunteer Center, the North Shore Exchange is expanding and opened its second location at 900 N. Michigan Ave. in Chicago.

According to President Wendy Serrino, North Shore Exchange's loyal customers also play a crucial role in supporting the mission. "Shopping, donating, and consigning with us simply feels good."

• Nancy Doyle is the founder of The Doyle Group and the author of Manage Your Financial Life: A Thoughtful and Organized Approach for Women. Visit and follow her on twitter @nancyfinance.

A graduate of Georgetown University, Doyle received her MBA from the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, and holds the Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA®) designation.