Approaching Philanthropy, Part 4: Contributing Your Time and Expertise

Do you have time and expertise that you can contribute to charity? Whether you see yourself as a frontline volunteer or a leader on the board of directors, most charitable organizations would be happy to have you on the team.

We have seen people start out by giving financially and then progress to volunteering in a hands-on fashion, then to sharing their expertise by serving on committees and then to taking on a governance role as a trustee on a nonprofit board. Some eventually even decide to create their own nonprofit group around a cause that is near and dear to them.

Here are some thought-starters on how you might be able to contribute time and expertise to an organization that you care about.

Become a volunteer

Volunteering your time is great because the barriers to entry are often very low. You might hear of volunteer opportunities from friends or family. Or you could simply reach out to a charitable organization and ask how you can help. Most organizations know precisely where they are lacking resources and will use their volunteers in those times and places.

Family tradition is a common driver for many philanthropists. Volunteering is wonderful in this situation because it is often suitable for people of any age. That means it is something you can do together as a family as a way of making a difference and teaching children and grandchildren the value of giving back.

Join a committee

Going one step further, some people will focus their volunteer efforts on joining a committee. Organizations typically assemble committees to provide more focused or specific help.

For example, the charitable galas, auctions or golf days you may have attended are typically planned with help from development, finance and events committees. We often see committees provide support to both the staff and the board, and they can act as a liaison between the two.

As a committee member, you have an opportunity to bring your personal areas of expertise to an organization. Let’s take the development committee, for example. This is the committee that’s formed to assist with fundraising. If you have a business development role in the for-profit world or a strong personal or professional network, you could potentially be a great fit for a development committee.

You might also have critical tools and relationships that the organization would simply lack without you. It’s said that many hands make light work, and this certainly rings true with committees. It’s the coming together of diverse backgrounds to bring ideas to life

From the organization’s perspective, committee members are often looked at as potential future board members. Committees can essentially serve as a farm team for board recruitment, and it’s a great opportunity for organizations to get to know the folks who are passionate about their cause.

Take a seat on the board

As a board member, you provide a high level of oversight, develop strategic plans and become something of an ambassador for the organization. You may also have serious responsibilities around governance, which means ensuring that human resources, financial management and other critical functions are conducted in a legal and ethical manner.

Depending on the size of the organization that you’re working with, you may also be providing leadership to a development team or other committees within that organization.

Active board participation is essential to the long-term stewardship of an organization. For anyone who’s been on a nonprofit board, you know that you’re an ambassador to the community and a fiduciary for that organization.

Stepping up to a board position is something that should not be taken lightly. In our view, you have to be truly passionate about the cause you’re working with because there can be a lot of responsibility and time commitment.

However, many of the people who work their way up to a board role have already demonstrated a significant commitment through volunteering and participating in committees, and that’s part of the reason this hierarchy of approaches exists. It’s perhaps best for all parties when levels of commitment develop over time.

One other thing to note about board members: they are often some of the biggest direct donors and/or some of the most prominent fundraisers for the organization. So, you might find that it is a role best designed for those who are able to make a commitment from both a time perspective and a financial perspective.

Your philanthropic path will likely depend on many factors, including your life experiences, your family values and the needs of your community. It will be shaped by what gives you personal meaning, the amount of time you have available, your unique skillset, your past experiences and your financial resources. A Corient Wealth Advisor can help make sure that your wealth management strategy and estate plan work hand-in-glove with your desire to give.

Other topics in this series:


Lesley Draper, CFP, CTFA

Lesley Draper, CFP, CTFA

Partner, Wealth Advisor

Lesley Draper is a Partner and Wealth Advisor. She is responsible for managing client relationships, advising families and individuals on financial planning, tax planning and investment management. She received her BS from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA). She is currently studying for Charitable Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP) designation. She is passionate about giving back and co-chairs RegentAtlantic's Neighborhood Nonprofits team and serves on multiple charitable boards, including P.G. Chambers School and Morristown Festival of Books. Prior to joining RegentAtlantic, Lesley was a Vice President at Citi Private Bank and subsequently spent 11 years at U.S. Trust Company of New York in the Financial Planning and Family Wealth departments. Lesley enjoys golfing, fly fishing and resides in Montclair, NJ with her partner Bob, two German Shepherds and four rescue cats.

James Sonneborn, CFP, CFA, MBA

James Sonneborn, CFP, CFA, MBA

Partner, Wealth Advisor

Jim has over 35 years of experience managing investment portfolios and providing financial advice to individuals, families and charitable organizations in the New York metropolitan region.

As a Wealth Advisor and Co-Chair of the Firm's Neighborhood Nonprofits Group, Jim works with a wide range of clients and has a particular specialty in philanthropic strategies. For donors, Jim works to construct strategies that align with the client's philanthropic goals. In the nonprofit sector, Jim focuses on helping organizations strengthen their financial position through endowment management and planned giving consulting. Jim currently serves on the boards of The Rippel Foundation and the Environmental Endowment of NJ.

Jim holds a BA in Business from Western Colorado University and an MBA in Finance from Drexel University, as well as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER, Chartered Financial Analyst and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst certifications.


This information is for educational purposes and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, accounting, legal, tax, insurance, or investment advice.  This does not constitute an offer to provide any services, nor a solicitation to purchase securities. The contents are not intended to be advice tailored to any particular person or situation. We believe the information provided is accurate and reliable, but do not warrant it as to completeness or accuracy.  This information may include opinions or forecasts, including investment strategies and economic and market conditions; however, there is no guarantee that such opinions or forecasts will prove to be correct, and they also may change without notice.  We encourage you to speak with a qualified professional regarding your scenario and the then-current applicable laws and rules.

Advisory services are offered through Corient Private Wealth LLC and its affiliates, each being a registered investment adviser (“RIA”) regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).  The advisory services are only offered in jurisdictions where the RIA is appropriately registered.  The use of the term “registered” does not imply any particular level of skill or training and does not imply any approval by the SEC. For a complete discussion of the scope of advisory services offered, fees, and other disclosures, please review the RIA’s Disclosure Brochure (Form ADV Part 2A) and Form CRS, available upon request from the RIA and online at We also encourage you to review the RIA’s Privacy Policy and Code of Ethics, which are available upon request.

Our clients must, in writing, advise us of personal, financial, or investment objective changes and any restrictions desired on our services so that we may re-evaluate any previous recommendations and adjust our advisory services as needed. For current clients, please advise us immediately if you are not receiving monthly account statements from your custodian. We encourage you to compare your custodial statements to any information we provide to you.