How to Pay it Forward: 5 Ways to Make the World Better

How to Pay it Forward: 5 Ways to Make the World a Better Place

Medical professionals as a group have power to change the world.  We are highly educated, fairly well-respected individuals with good to great compensation and plenty of resourcefulness. 

In what way do you want to impact the world? What is your legacy going to be?  The impact can be individual, through donations and kindness, or by joining together in advocacy groups, we can be even more influential.  

  1. Donate effectively
  2. Use your time to improve the world
  3. Form environmentally friendly habits
  4. Make your immediate world a happier place
  5. Leave a legacy

1. Donate Effectively

A lot of doctors would love to spend time performing humanitarian work, but life’s commitments mean this is unrealistic for many.  Twice the doctor  has a powerful idea – donating a day of earnings to charity can be a more effective way to make an impact with your time.  

Choose a Charity

There are over 1.5 million non-profit organizations, which makes choosing one to support overwhelming.

Instead of donating to random tin shakers or Go fund me pages, I like the idea of researching the choice to ensure my donation makes a real difference.

For charities that will make the most positive impact, Give Well and Effective Altruism have shortlists that provide maximum impact per dollar donation.  Their methodology is outlined on the websites.

Others want to donate to particular charities, due to personal interest or in honour of a loved one. Change path  has a tool that will shortlist charities based on your preferences.  You can’t get much easier than that!

How to choose a charity

Check the Charity is Legitimate

Before you donate to a charity, it is important to check its legitimacy. Unfortunately, many unscrupulous individuals have defrauded charities, posed as collectors and even faked illness for Go Fund Me pages.

Australian charities should be registered with the National Charities and Not-For Profits Commission (ACNC).

For lesser known charities, or those based overseas it is worth checking Scam Watch.

Check the transparency, financial sustainability and privacy behaviour of your favoured charity at Change path

I‌ find it very annoying, and stop donating to a charity if it pesters me with phone calls.  Consider asking on your social media page if anyone has experience with the charity you are considering donating to.

Make sure it’s tax deductible

Choosing a charity that is a tax-deductible gift recipient allows you to donate a lot more to your worthy cause.

To receive a deduction, it must be claimed in your tax return for the income year in which the donation was made. You cannot receive products (eg charity calendar) in exchange for your donation if you wish to receive a tax deduction.

Consider A Donor Advised Fund Before Retirement

For those about to permanently step down in to a lower tax bracket, look in to donor advised funds.  These allow a one-off donation of at least $10,000 in cash, shares or property. The donation is eligible for immediate tax deduction in the current tax year and rate, but funds are allowed to continue growing, to be donated to chosen charities every year.

should I sponsor a child

Should You Sponsor a Child?

Child sponsorship is appealing to many due to the personal relationship developed between sponsor and child.   It seems a more relatable way to introduce children to charitable giving - and helps them appreciate the privilege they were born in to.

There have been controversies surrounding child sponsorship, including concerns that the favouring of a single child in a family or community may lead to resentment and relationship breakdowns.  Most charities have moved away from providing a single child with financial support in favour of using donations to improve conditions for the community and family in which the child lives. 

It is important, if a personal relationship is developed through letters, that this continues until the end of the program (when the child turns 20 or 22).  The positive benefits of hope, and the comfort of knowing someone elsewhere in the world cares about the child would be devastated should the sponsor lose interest and stop writing.

It is also vital letters written are sensitive to the child’s family – including the other members, and culturally appropriate.

Compassion is a Christian organisation providing old school individual child sponsorship through‌ Africa, Asia and Central/South America.  The University of San Francisco undertook a study in to the outcomes and found children sponsored by Compassion were 42%‌ more likely to finish secondary education, 83%‌ more likely to complete university, were more likely to become leaders in their communities.  

ChildFund and World‌Visionhave a hybrid approach.  They still allow the personal side of sponsoring a specific child, writing letters between sponsor and donor.  But sponsorship funds are pooled for the whole community.  Both organisations allow supervised visits for sponsors and donors to meet, fully funded by the sponsor.  

Donate Your Car

Kids Under Cover collect donated car from Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Townsville, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, and Hobart (and may collect from outside these areas if you call and ask).  

They sell the cars at auction and use profits to prevent youth homelessness. You can tax-deduct the sale amount or if your car has a market value of more than $5,000 are eligible for a tax deduction based on an ATO valuation.

Doctors who volunteer

2. Use your time to improve the world

The Medical Evacuation Response Group is a group of doctors advocating for refugees with urgent health needs.  The bill to repeal the legislation is being debated this month, but regardless I suspect the group will continue to passionately advocate for refugees with health issues.  Contact the group through the website if you are interested in joining the fight.

Have another issue close to your heart? Find like minded people and start your own group.

Voluntary work is something many of us would love to do, but feel we can’t commit to the usual requirements because of jobs and families.  Médecins Sans Frontières is the best known volunteer organization for doctors.  Volunteers must be able to commit to a minimum 9 month placement and meet their eligibility criteria.

There are volunteer organisations that offer much shorter trips, possible to go in your annual leave.  YMAM‌‌ Ships  visits PNG‌ on short tours (2 weeks), working with local health services to offer quality training and medical care.  They even accept a limited number of families of volunteers on board. 

Australian Doctors International organise doctor volunteer placements in Papua New Guinea for 2-6 months

Non-medical volunteering is another option – helping at your child’s school, at your local library or online.

Consider how your career can help you change the world in a positive way.  Some junior doctors aspire to be public health specialists for this reason, but no matter what you’re interested in, there is likely a way you can use your expertise and experience to improve the world.

Fred Hollows saw an opportunity to help and his organisation has saved the sight of over 2.5 million people to date.  What a legacy!

3. Form environmentally friendly habits

I know many of us would like to do more help the environment.  It’s probably easier to think about one area of your life, form new habits that are more environmentally friendly and then move on to the next

Doctors environmentally friendly

Grocery Shopping

Plastic bag bans are in for good- so remember your reusable bags or put the food back in the trolley unbagged (I often leave mine in the car).  Collapsible crates/boxes kept in the car are an alternative to bags.

Despite the plastic bag ban, there are still plastic bags in the produce aisles, find some bags at home, make some out of fabric around the house, or do without (fine for larger items)

There is also PLENTY of plastic wrapping in every aisle of the grocery store.  Avoiding packaged food is good for your health, your wallet and the environmental so try and avoid packaging wherever you can.

Try and actually use all the food you have brought – thinking about land clearance to grow food, transportation to the supermarket and your home, it is extremely wasteful to buy food and throw it away when it has gone bad.  Work out a meal plan (recurring weekly or fortnightly plans make life easier), use leftovers originally (frittatata, pie, omelette).  I have a labelled “Leftover” shelf in the fridge so its easy to see what needs to be eaten and food doesn’t get lost.


Labelling new trendy products with “Eco-friendly” sells well, but clearly is far less environmentally friendly than using what you already have.

Pause and consider whether your purchases are really necessary.  Try and use items until they are truly worn out.

When you do need something new, can you give a used item a second life?  Buy used when you can, and donate items when you no longer need them (Kids clothes and toys!)

Borrow when you only need something for a short time – the library is a wonderful community resource.  Try sharing rarely used items with neighbours so you don’t each have every item to store.

Use Less Fossil Fuels

Walk or cycle instead of driving when you can.  Buy a fuel-efficient car and try not leave the car loaded with heavy items you don’t need 

Turn the lights off at home when no-one is using them, turn electrical items off at the wall rather than leaving them on standby. 

Solar panels are expensive to put in, but could save you money long-term if you are staying in the same residence for 5-10 years. 

When you have to replace appliances (when they are broken, not because you have refurbished the kitchen and want to burn some extra cash!) consider the energy star rating

Remember to bring your keep cup and water bottle!  Label with your name and form habits so you don’t lose it every week and have to buy another!

Recycle – do you have a functioning system for recycling at home and at work?


Sustainable living have a few tips on how to improve your traditions to make them more environmentally friendly.  

4. Make your immediate world a happier place

At home, conversations with our spouse and children can become very functional.  It only takes a few moments every day to strengthen your connection and brighten someones day.  Remember to appreciate your spouse, spend extra playtime with your children, and talk to them about their day, their thoughts and interests (no matter how ridiculous).

At work, be the happy face everyone is pleased to see (even if you don’t feel like it), take the extra minutes (when you can) to chat to your lonely patient rather than getting a coffee, and find out a little about your colleagues.

In the rest of life, give way more when driving, spread kind words regularly. Challenge yourself to make someone else’s day every day!


5. Leave a Legacy

You can bequeath a percentage of your assets to your favourite charity. Charitable gifts in Wills of property, stocks and shares are exempt from capital gains tax.

Organ donation is probably the greatest gift you can give, with the potential to save several lives.

Register on the donate life website (or check you are registered) and talk to your family about the decision

Hopefully this article has given you some new ideas (or reminders) of how you can make a positive impact. I’m still working on many of the habits!

Do you belong to an advocacy group you would like other doctors to know about? Or have a favourite charity you wish to share?

Add your comment below with your great ideas

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