Lucas Liu, Morgan Stanley’s philanthropy lead in Shanghai, describes how volunteering has become a way of life.
Lucas Liu considers himself lucky to have participated in five of Morgan Stanley’s Global Volunteer Months since joining the firm in late 2009. As the philanthropy lead in Morgan Stanley’s Shanghai office, Liu has witnessed increased interest among colleagues in volunteering, and works closely with partner organizations in China to foster more opportunities for employees to give back to their communities.
What is your earliest volunteering memory? What or who instilled in you the value of giving back to the community?
Five years ago, I was designated as the philanthropy lead for our Shanghai office. Through this role and the work organizing various charitable efforts with numerous nonprofit organizations, I have been exposed to countless individuals whose care for others goes far beyond their own well-being and who are looking for ways to give back to those in need. Through these interactions and my own increased involvement in volunteering, the spirit of giving back has been instilled in me.
My five years of philanthropic involvement with Morgan Stanley makes me strongly believe that giving back is embedded in the firm’s DNA. Across the firm, employees volunteer year after year to send the clear message that giving back is deeply rooted in our culture. I have seen the drive to volunteer increase in my time here. In addition to Global Volunteer Month events, we have several members in the Shanghai office who are personally involved with local charities—either through board or volunteer service. The longevity of partnerships with nonprofits also speaks to how we embrace making a lasting impact. Many of our programs and volunteer efforts have been underway for more than five years, showing true commitment to helping to improve our communities, and these efforts continue to grow each year.
My favorite volunteering experience is a trip I took with Operation Smile China to Yingjiang County, a beautiful small town in Yunnan province in southwestern China. Ahead of the trip, I had organized a charity auction in Shanghai, which raised around $20,000 to sponsor the free medical surgery they provided to underprivileged kids in Yingjiang County suffering from cleft lips and other facial deformities. While on the trip, I was able to witness how this organization and the selfless service of doctors and nurses help children and their families regain their hope in life. It was a life-changing experience that strengthened my belief in continuing to make volunteering part of my life.
Volunteering should be accessible and sustainable, enabling individuals to be involved over the long term, so they can see how volunteering has a lasting impact. Diversity of activities also helps ensure that there is an opportunity that matches everyone’s personal interests in giving back. Volunteering cannot be limited to fundraising events or times of disaster relief. While those are important, ongoing volunteering opportunities, like protecting the environment or encouraging kids to be more active, can engage individuals over a longer period of time.
Volunteering gradually grows into a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that can help you witness acts of charity happening around you that you would otherwise miss. Volunteering also brings you into a community of kind people gathered together to make the world a better place. It is about being a cheerleader for people who may have lost hope to tell them to hold on—that they are not alone. Volunteering doesn’t need to come in the form of a big check, but can be smaller efforts that offer support to those in need.
I would encourage those who want to start with volunteering not to limit their vision, not to wait only for the perfect opportunity that’s both noble and easy to contribute big. Never underestimate your contribution as an individual. Always embrace a new opportunity and learn more about volunteering by getting involved. Just have a heart full of appreciation and passion, and volunteering will open a new door, behind which is a whole new world and a whole new self that you can get to know.