Now, one thing I always do is read what is sent to me and listen when people explain to me why their cause is important. I cannot tell you how many times I have learned something new, have met someone whom I find interesting and want to stay in touch with, or have even been convinced to give a donation I thought I would not give.

Take the organization Opus 118. At first glance, it is a symphony, and I do not normally fund them. But Opus is a symphony for children living in Harlem. And because programs for at- risk youths are at the top of my list, Opus 118 fits my giving platform. Most of the time, though, I use my own gut instinct to decide how I'm going to allocate my resources and which causes I connect with. After all, when it comes down to it, you can't force somebody to care about something that you care about.

Look, hard as he's tried, my husband can't force me to get interested in baseball—I just think it's boring! I just cannot make it through a game, especially one that goes on and on into extra innings. I am always like, "Can we go home?" But that's another thing I can't feel guilty about. We are who we are, and we give how we give. The most important advice I can ever give you is to be passionate, smart, and educated about your choices.

Excerpted from If It Takes a Village, Build One: How I Found Meaning Through a Life of Service and 100+ Ways You Can Too by Malaak Compton-Rock, foreword by Marian Wright Edelman. Copyright © 2010 by Broadway Books. Reprinted by permission of Broadway Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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