By Kristi Knous, President, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines

Originally published in LiftIowa on June 5, 2017

Recently in my community we celebrated the critical role charitable giving has in strengthening the city I call home.
 
As United Way of Central Iowa and the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines each celebrated their successes of the past year at our respective annual luncheons, I was once again struck by something I have long known about the Greater Des Moines area.
 
In Greater Des Moines, as I'm sure it is in other areas, giving back is not just the icing on the cake -- it is one of the key ingredients in baking the cake that we call our community. Leaders set the bar high by creating an expectation that whether giving of your time, talent or treasure, getting involved is really the best way to pay your civic rent. They are right, and our city has benefited from their sage examples.
 
As I meet with new leaders in my community or young professionals hoping to grow in their career, I'm often asked where to begin. What does giving back look like, and where can one start?
  • Volunteer: Giving is about more than money. By giving of your time you can make a real impact and support the causes you care about. Additionally, you never know who you might meet or connect with as you become more involved with community causes. The person serving beside you might just be the connection you were looking for to advance your career. If you're in Central Iowa, take advantage of the Volunteer Opportunity Hub maintained by United Way of Central Iowa to connect with a cause you care about and start serving today.
  • Lead: Whether you are looking to further develop your leadership skills or looking to share your expertise with an organization in your community, nonprofits are looking for leaders. In the Greater Des Moines area, take advantage of LeadershipLink, a tool that allows you to find out about open board and committee positions at local organizations. Simply share your interest in serving with a participating organization to start a conversation about how you can each benefit from your gift of service.
  • The Joy of Giving: Charitable giving comes in all sizes, and each gift makes a difference. It can be as simple as setting three jars on your counter and labeling them spend, save and share. From there you can discuss with your family the areas you are each most passionate about and the needs you see in the community that could benefit from your share jar. This is a great way to pass on the joy of giving to future generations while giving back. If you are interested in growing your giving, consider utilizing your local Community Foundation. You can establish a Seed Fund and add contributions each year until the fund grows in size to where you can be making grants to the causes you care most about. Your charitable giving fund can act as way to create your charitable legacy in our community for generations to come.
Let's remember to keep charitable giving in the mix. One of our board members at the Community Foundation often says that giving of your time or treasure is like a hug. A hug works in both directions; so does charitable giving. As you get involved you will quickly learn that you gain so much more than you give.
 
Kristi Knous   
is president of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, where she leads the work of the Community Foundation in promoting charitable giving, connecting donors with causes they care about and providing leadership on important community issues. Kristi received the Forty Under 40 Alumnus of the Year Award in 2015, has been honored with the Drake MPA program Distinguished Alumna Award for Outstanding Community Service and was named a Woman of Influence in 2010. Kristi and her husband Lauren have two adult children, Abbey and Jonah.