By Diana Aviv, Independent Sector

Diana Aviv, Independent Sector Passions are born of diverse impulses, experiences, and associations. My own burst into consciousness came about as a pre-teen after seeing how the racist policies of the South African government demeaned most of its people. It broke my heart and, as serendipity would have it, a group of my friends felt the same way.

In our teen years we talked a lot, imagined what we might do, and later on worked with others to bring about change in that terrible system. I’m not sure if I found this issue or it found me, but I do know that my emotional association with the subject and deep moral commitment to a different way were the underlying driving forces behind my actions.

If you are in search of meaning and impact, I say begin with finding an issue, a cause that makes you passionate.

What is it that gets your juices flowing in a way that animates you to make a difference? It may at first be a small idea and interest. It doesn’t matter; follow it, and see if it inspires you to want to do more. For without it, the obstacles might discourage and dissuade you.

Then, as genuine as these initial discoveries may seem, spend some time in this space to learn more about it. Talk to others who are already involved. Volunteer; check it out. Find out who is doing what about it.

Lean in a little, or even a lot.

If it turns out to be the right issue and space for you, seek and surround yourself with peers and organizations that care, too. Their motivations and origins may be quite different from yours, but what you will share is a common cause around which you can organize.

It’s hard to move a mountain alone, but, as Margaret Meade said, Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Diana Aviv is president and CEO of Independent Sector, the national leadership network for America’s nonprofits, foundations and corporate giving programs. She has testified before Congress and been quoted in national media on trends and issues for the philanthropic sector. At MCON14, she’ll join three other experts for an in-depth discussion with Q&A.