Why You Should Become a Philanthropist

By Alan Olsen

Life is full of opportunities. There are opportunities to start something new, like a business or a family, as well as opportunities to make a difference. Many of the world’s wealthiest people start their road to success and wealth with the single objective of making a lot of money. Obviously, without this drive and focus it’s very difficult to achieve those kinds of goals. However, as time passes and the money continues to roll in, many high-net-worth individuals discover that there is more to life than making money.

Well Known Philanthropists

This realization can occur for several reasons. For some, it’s a matter of finding a new cause or a new motivation. Others experience life-changing circumstances that send them down a new path. Still for others, especially the ultra wealthy, it’s simply the realization that they only need so much money to satisfy their needs while the rest is just surplus and can be used for a lot of good elsewhere. It’s no secret that many of the world’s richest people have already donated much of their wealth to charitable causes, or that they plan to when the time comes. Billionaires such as Warrant Buffet, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, to name just a few, have made many headlines with their philanthropic efforts and donations.

Anyone Can Become a Philanthropist

While these are some of the most notable examples, the fact is you don’t have to be a billionaire to be a philanthropist. The truth is anyone can get behind a good cause and become a philanthropist, or at least help out in philanthropic causes. I recently sat down with Wally Hawley, one of the a co-founders of InterWest Partners (1979), one of the larger venture capital partnerships in the United States. While Wally was extremely successful in business he eventually felt like he could do more for others because he realized life was not just about him. So I asked Wally what caused him to make this shift from business to philanthropy? “I began to think about how it really should be about others, and it shouldn’t be about me. When it becomes being about others you just don’t do it to make more money for yourself.”

Finding Satisfaction in Philanthropy

Wally also explained how his transition wasn’t an overnight change, but more of a gradual process. “I was transitioning in part into nonprofit and charitable things even while I was still at InterWest. And the more I did that the more I realized that this had much greater satisfaction than just doing another deal.” Wally said he receives the most satisfaction by helping others, whether it’s for business or for philanthropy. He says his efforts are not about him, but rather about the people he works with and when they have success that makes him happy. Ultimately, for Wally it was a matter of finding more meaning in life, which for him came through working for good causes, rather than through sealing another big deal.