The door to my sheltered life started to peek open in 6th grade. I grew up playing hide-and-seek in orange trees with the neighbors in rural California. I had five TV channels to pick from (assuming the antenna was facing the right direction) and no shortage of people making sure my head was screwed on straight. Life was simple; it was good.
One Saturday morning before darting outside to play, my mom insisted I help her with a clothing drive. Easy enough. I grabbed clothes that no longer fit, tossed them into a bag, and ran off to find my neighbors.
Monday rolled around, and I headed to school. After putting away my lunch, I walked to my desk and froze. There was my jacket . . . the one I tossed in the bag. The new girl was wearing it. And she looked a lot like me.
This image is still chiseled in my memory, 30 years later. It was my “aha” moment—when I realized that life isn’t fair. That everyone has a unique story. Some of us, like my friend at school, face financial challenges and need help. Others, like me, were born into more comfortable lives, with enough food and clothes to go around and a nice roof over our heads. Either way, we’re in this life together—and we ought to help each other along.
Yet the path to giving can be challenging. Some people need a weed-whacker to find the path. Either they think they don’t have the means or they're lacking the right opportunities, and they need help to clear the way. For other people, it’s simpler, and they can just grab a walking stick and start moving.
I took my walking stick and decided to make a career out of giving and receiving. After college, I started my career in nonprofit (the receiving side) and foundation work (the giving side). As I walked alongside nonprofits that were tirelessly putting a dent in social issues, I witnessed great need. I also saw wealthy foundations working hard to carve out their giving strategies to ensure they made the greatest impact with their dollars. And as I grew older, I started to hear stories from friends whose salaries are increasing and who want to help chip away at social issues but don’t know where to begin.
I’m part of Generation X. We are the next generation of givers. We get to decide how we leave our mark. Research shows we are already donating differently than our Boomer parents. We want to connect and see our money at work a bit more than Boomers do. But between work, family, travel, health surprises, and binge watching TV, we don’t always prioritize giving. So we close our eyes and hope Bill and Melinda Gates will take care of the big problems for us.
Giving is sensitive and personal. It shouldn’t be something we just react to or scramble to do at year-end. Figuring out our giving path, however, and which nonprofits align with our values can be incredibly rewarding. Knowing our giving path also frees us up to say no to other nonprofit requests we receive that don’t match the issues we stand behind.
My family did a “giving regroup” a year ago (more on this in a future blog post) because we found ourselves in a giving slump. The exercise was so eye-opening that it prompted me to share my experience, knowledge, and network with others who might need help.
From this experience, Give Greatly came to life. It exists to do two things:
Inspire - Give Greatly is designed to inspire those of you who are already giving at your max amount for your income level. I want to encourage you with stories and tips to remind you that your giving matters. Even if the amount feels small to you, it’s not to someone else. (Just don’t forget to do it.)
Activate - For those of you who are seeing your salary increase and feel in your gut that it’s time to stretch your giving budget, I want to help you act. It’s scary to “go big” with donating. You don’t have to be Mother Teresa, though. I firmly believe that when you connect with the right nonprofit(s), you will have your own “aha” moment and understand why supporting their work is critical.
The path to giving is full of weeds that nonprofits are out there trying to pull. We can gripe about the overgrowth, or we can set down our walking stick, reach down, and start pulling weeds alongside them. Part of working with nonprofits involves giving our money, not just our time. Money matters, especially when you’re thoughtful and consistent about where it goes.
So let’s do this. Let’s Give Greatly.
In the coming months, I’ll share advice and tips for giving thoughtfully. Just “like” Give Greatly on Facebook to learn more. Or, if you’re ready to figure out your giving path and need some help, click here.