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Did you ever use a magnifying glass to start a fire as a middle-school kid? I can distinctly remember when I was about 13 or 14 years old the thrill of doing just that on a bright sunny day. I thought starting a fire with a leaf with a magnifying glass was so amazing! Realizing all I had to do to spark a fire was use the sun, a leaf and hold the magnifying glass the right way was truly enlightening.

So you may ask, what is important about the story? How does it relate to being an aspirational philanthropist? Let me explain.

In my Donors Fundamentals course through Aspire to Give Academy, I share the 5 keys needed to be an effective philanthropist. In order to be a useful giver to causes greater than you, three things need to align. Those three things are our passions, personal strengths, and a sense of meaning. Aligned together these enable us to clarify and possibly achieve a defined goal with a clear impact. You see, this example of using a magnifying glass to start a leaf on fire is a perfect representation of the intentional alignment we need to have to be an effective and impactful donor or philanthropist. For that matter,alignment of these three things is necessary for achieving most anything in our lives.

Let's break down the magnifying glass situation as it relates to intentional alignment.

The sun:

The sun, and more specifically, the bright sunlight we have is the energy needed to light the fire. Relatedly, this energy, this light, is the passion we have to make a difference, to be effective with our generosity, and to make an impact on the world around us.

The magnifying glass:

As a tool, the magnifying glass symbolizes the personal strengths we have to affect positive change. Our personal strengths refer to our gifts in our giving wheelhouse that are our talents, time, financial resources, or trusted ties or connections. Once we recognize that our gifts from our wheelhouse are our tools, we can relate it holding the right magnifying glass (a “tool”) the right way start the fire.

The leaf:

The leaf is the object which we want to start on fire that is a defined, specific goal. We take the energy of the sun and with the proper tool magnify the energy on the leaf. To state the obvious, the object must be flammable and chosen with care. For example, the leaf must be dry and capable of being lit on fire with the concentrated energy provided by the magnifying glass.

So, there you have it. My backyard middle school experiment led to great joy in achieving the goal of starting a fire. Hence, the analogy to what happens when we intentionally give. Like the magnifying glass, if we take our personal strengths, and effectively use them as tools to affect positive change by channeling our energies, like the rays of the sun, we can focus them on something very specific that needs to be changed. We can light the fire of positive change by concentrating and aligning our strengths and passions for a targeted impact. We can magnify our own light to make a difference. We can, each of us , serve, as a magnifying glass to bring about positive change!

As one final thought, while we are magnifying our own light; let's go out and recognize, appreciate, and encourage others to do the same. Help them magnify their own light with their own unique strengths and passions to serve something greater than themselves. So, go magnify your own light and the light of others!

Let's do some good!



©2020 Aspire to Give®. All Rights Reserved. Greg Doepke is a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® and a Certified Financial Planner®. Greg serves on the Board of Directors for the International Association for Advisors in Philanthropy and as the Philanthropist in Residence at Auburn University’s Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies. As the founder of Aspire to Give® Greg educates and equips individuals, families, business owners, and foundations with both traditional and leading-edge philanthropic tools and techniques for smart, meaningful, and impactful giving. You can contact Greg at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Disclosure: Greg Doepke is the founder and principal of Aspire to Give®, a social enterprise that donates 100% of profits to charity.
The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are not representative of the views of ACG Advisory Services, Inc. or the Actuarial Consulting Group, Inc. of Midlothian, Virginia. Each client and prospective client agrees, as a condition of precedent to his/her/its access to Aspire to Give®’s website to release and hold harmless ACG Advisory Services, Inc. and Actuarial Consulting Group, Inc., their officers, directors, owners, employees, and agents from any and all adverse consequences resulting from any of his/her/its actions and/or omissions which are independent of his/her/its receipt of personalized advice from Aspire to Give® or Gregory W. Doepke.