TRUCKEE, Calif. - That advice from Sir Winston really hits the mark. We work hard to be successful. Our careers become our focus, but one thing I have learned is that in the end what really matters is relationships and family. What you do for others.No one is going to stand up at your service and tell your friends how you were the best worker in the office. The lasting stories told will be how you made a difference. What you have done with yourself and for others. When someone tells me they don't get involved because whatever they do won't be enough to make a difference, I quote Betty Reese (whoever she is): "If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito." The littlest thing can a difference.I had occasion to hear President Bill Clinton speak earlier this week. No matter your politics or opinion of him, Bill Clinton is dedicating his life to the William J. Clinton Foundation and is helping less fortunate folks around the world.University EndowmentsI read an article by attorney Martin Kimel in the Los Angeles Times, titled "Don't Waste Your Charity on Rich Colleges." Interesting perspective. Kimel's piece describes the university "endowment races that suck scarce philanthropic resources from underfunded charities." Harvard University recently had an endowment of $32 billion, that's Billion. In 2011, the endowments of the 10 richest American universities were worth over $128 billion. Donate LocallyThe point of charitable giving is to benefit society, not to build massive endowments and university facilities to attract famous faculty and enhance the prestige of the university. That's my take anyway.Here's how you make a difference. Donate locally.Universities and large organizations have alumnae and a whole nation to pull from for their charitable dollars. Our local organizations only have a small region to support them. For example, Project MANA has an annual budget of around $300. Believe me, they make a difference. For what they do, you would think they have a budget 10 times that.Sierra Senior Services and Meals on Wheels operate with an annual budget around $350,000. They are lean and effective. Tons of volunteers. Some of these universities have annual fundraising budgets of hundreds of millions. If your heart tells you to give to your alma mater, then by all means do. But if you want to get more "bang for your buck," keep your charitable dollars local.Bang for Your BuckA friend of mine has a policy of only giving within thirty miles of her home. She likes to see her money at work.I remember working with a local woman who wanted to make a donation to help unwed mothers and young girls who never had a chance to go to college. In the end she left all of her considerable assets to the University of Southern California. Like they need it. Her contribution will be a drop in the bucket and will likely never make it to unwed mothers. What a shame, as that money could have benefited young girls in our community. Owners in Lahontan took a different tack. They formed the Lahontan Community Foundation under the wing of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation and have awarded over $1 million into our local community since 2002. And Martis Camp is sharing its wealth through its Foundation. Local CharitiesOur own Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, started in 1999, controls assets of more than $20 million and has given hundreds of grants totaling $20 million, mostly local - to dozens of worthwhile organizations and causes. $20 million is a staggering number - the result of generous locals and second home owners.Some give for the passion. Others for tax breaks; they save money giving it away. Donating to the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation makes sense, as it works in a wide range of areas of interest. They will find a match for your interest. So if you want to help seniors, TTCF can steer you to Sierra Senior Services. (Disclosure: My wife Marianne is on the Senior's board. I am affiliated with TTCF.)Want to benefit families? Consider the North Tahoe Family Resource Centers in Kings Beach and Truckee. Or the Humane Society of Truckee Tahoe. These nonprofits are on shoestring budgets and focused on their missions. And there are lots more like: Tahoe SAFE Alliance, Kidzone, the Tahoe Forest Health System Foundation, Sierra Nevada Children's Services, the Truckee Donner Land Trust, the Truckee River Watershed Council and the Tahoe Fund. These folks and many more do tremendous work on modest budgets. They make a difference in our community.These nonprofits urgently need our money especially during these hard times. Give locally and change a life - and by doing so - define your own life. Year end is approaching. Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. He was the Governor's appointee to the California Fair Political Practices Commission and McPherson Commission, both involving election law and the Political Reform Act. Jim's practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, foreclosures, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the firm's website, www.portersimon.com.
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