Participating in a charitable cause can be a satisfying way to connect with your community and demonstrate your personal values while contributing to important social causes. Charitable work can provide an opportunity for you to put your skills or funds to good use and has the added benefit of allowing you to meet people who share your interests.

The question is: Which causes should you support, and how? The following tips should help you make your decision:

> Align your cause with your interests
By choosing a philanthropic venture that is important to you, you are more likely to sustain your interest and commitment to the cause, says Shauna Trainor, marketing manager with the Covenant Group in Toronto.

Think about an issue or organization that is important to you or has helped you in some way.

For example, if your young child has benefitted from the services of a local hospital, you might show your appreciation by helping to organize fundraising activities or donating your time in other ways. If you happen to serve families with young children in your practice, this activity might help deepen your relationships with those clients by demonstrating that mutual interest.

> Find a way to donate your skills
If you are a relatively new financial advisor and are just starting to develop your business, you probably lack the funds to make a significant financial donation. Offering your talent and time is a good way to get involved, Trainor says.

Whether you are a rookie or a veteran advisor, you excel at managing money and planning others’ financial futures. These are talents that would be welcomed by many charitable organizations.

You can volunteer to be treasurer for a local charity or offer to provide presentations to the members of non-profit organizations. For example, you might offer to talk to a youth club about saving for post-secondary education.

> Be realistic about what you can offer
“Don’t commit to [donating your skills] unless you’re prepared for the time and commitment it’s going to take,” Trainor says.

Ask the charitable organizations how much time and what level of commitment they will expect from you. Be clear about whether that responsibility can fit into your schedule, and make sure the organization understands the extent of your offer in terms of time and services. It is better to ensure both sides understand each other than to have to drop out after a few weeks.

If you find you are unable to sustain long-term involvement in a community organization, find a more flexible way of donating your time, such as participating in a sorting day at the food bank or joining a walkathon for your chosen charity.