Lisa Dietlin, President and CEO of Lisa M. Dietlin and Associates, Inc. serves her clients as a philanthropic agent, assisting entrepreneurial individuals and nonprofit organizations in developing transformational philanthropic strategies. Lisa is also a regular contributor to Huffington Post’s Impact column addressing the world of giving and philanthropy.  In 2007 Lisa was named Charity Contributor to CBS 2 Chicago and appeared regularly to share information and ideas regarding how everyone can be involved in charitable work. She has also been featured on Oprah & Friends Radio as well as WGN and WCIU in Chicago, FOX News and National Public Radio. She is frequently quoted in many national publications including USA Today, Marketwatch, Reuters and The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

This impressive connection to the philanthropic world has inspired me to introduce our L+C readers to Lisa.

How did I meet Lisa? I came across her profile on Huff post Impact after reading: The World of Giving: U.S. Charitable Giving in 2011 Paints a Fascinating Picture. I knew right away, Lisa is someone to follow and learn from. I quickly hit the follow button to receive her RSS feed, and from there I knew I needed to connect with her, interview her for L+C Magazine, and so I said hello to her on twitter – @lisadietlin, and the rest was history.

Check out my interview with Lisa, the lady of impact and learn about what it really means to be a philanthropist!

1. Lisa, how did you discover your passion for philanthropy? Over the years, many people have asked me that question. I believe it always begins with one’s experiences in life. There is a story in my family that when I was about two or three years old, I was hospitalized and my parents had to work so they would visit me during their lunch and other breaks.  My mom said that one day when she arrived there was a net over my crib.  It hadn’t been there before and my mom could not understand what had happened.  One of the nurses on the floor told her that I had climbed out of the crib that day and taken toys from the toy box and slippers from a drawer and delivered one of each to the other children on the floor.  It seems I thought that if they had slippers and toys they could come and play.

When this story was recently shared with me again it occurred to me that since my youngest days I have had an innate sense to help others and make a difference.  I would say I was born with it but have had a blessed life that has afforded me many opportunities to work in this amazing field for almost 30 years!

2. Why do you feel it is important for individuals and businesses (other than the obvious reasons) to give back? You know that old saying, “You can’t take it with you”?  Well, it really is true!  Whether it is money, your time, your dedication or energy I believe you really need to give it away.  I think that it really doesn’t matter how much you have of any of these when you die; what is important is whether you used them to help others.  For individuals, it is a matter of seeing someone or something in need in your community and truly wanting to help to make a difference.  For businesses, there are two reasons it is important to give back.  The first is to support the community that supports or patronizes the business and the second is to work to improve that community in which the business operates through involvement and financial donations.

3.  As a writer and go to expert on philanthropy for Huff post Impact and other influential media platforms – what insight have you gained from your audiences? The most fascinating insight I have gained is that almost everyone really does want to make a difference – but they often don’t know how to do it!  Or they think it might be too hard, too much work, take too long, etc.  What I tell them is that you just have to start…take one step such as volunteering one hour and you will be on your way to changing things!  Another observation is that most people think that what they could offer is so little that it couldn’t possibly make a difference.  I tell them that everything you do to help someone or something else really does make a difference.  It is not the size of your contribution, the amount of time you give or the quantity of work you accomplish; it is all of us doing our part to work together to improve our world.

4.  From your research, what are the philanthropic patterns of individuals and business owners, and how can we inspire friends and colleagues to achieve this way of living? My research and interactions with individuals and entrepreneurs show four patterns.

First, they see a clear difference between philanthropy and charity and most want to do philanthropy.  While they see a need for charity, it is recognized as something that is a short term solution to a problem.  Individuals and entrepreneurs would rather be involved with projects and programs that are long term and long lasting.

Second, most wished they had become involved in the philanthropic world sooner.  I believe individuals, and especially entrepreneurs, can be overlooked as possible sources of financial support because many nonprofit leaders and volunteers are focused primarily on writing and securing corporate and foundation grants.

Third, many of the entrepreneurs I meet and interview say the more money they give away, the more money they make.  It is an unintentional outcome of their efforts to change or improve something for others.

Finally, most said they learned about giving back while their watching their moms doing something around the holidays to make sure neighbors and those less fortunate had food.

Additionally, women I interview also say that philanthropy is more than simply giving money; it is also about doing things like helping someone carry in their groceries, holding a door open, mowing a neighbor’s lawn, shoveling the snow from the front steps of an elderly person’s home or simply offering a smile to someone.  So the question is how can we inspire our friends and colleagues?  I would offer the following 5 tips:

  • Lead by example; show others how easy it is to become involved and give back
  • Invite your friends and colleagues to join you when you are doing something to make a difference in your community
  • Start talking about philanthropy and charitable organizations as well as issues at the dinner table
  • Instead of giving presents and gifts for birthdays and other celebrations, make a donation in someone’s name to your or their favorite charitable cause
  • Add a tagline to the signature line of your outgoing email messages about the causes and/or nonprofit organizations you support; this is a simple but effective way to tell others about what is important to you; a link to that organization’s website could also be included

5.   How do you define a philanthropist? A philanthropist has been defined as someone who loves humanity.  I would update this definition and offer that a philanthropist in the 21st century is someone who uses the resources at their disposal to make a difference in someone else’s world, often without them even knowing.

6.  If you could provide three takeaways for our readers to launch their philanthropic lifestyle, what would they be? Get started today!  Think about what you care about; then make a plan to become involved using your time, your money or both! Set an annual budget for what you intend to give away, but also have some money set aside for those unexpected requests from family and friends who are raising money for their favorite causes, especially as they participate in charity walks, runs, galas, etc.! Volunteer!  Make a plan to do something each month that will help someone else.  It could be done formally through a nonprofit organization (i.e., volunteering to work at a food bank, library, your child’s school, etc.) or simply something you do to help someone in your family or circle of friends (i.e., offering someone a ride, carpooling, babysitting someone’s children, visiting a shut-in, etc.)!

Get a little of bit goodness each day with Lisa’s Making a Difference tip of the day when you connect with her via Facebook (Lisa Dietlin) and Twitter (@LisaDietlin).