Giving & #GoodSpotting as a Millennial this Holiday Season

Holiday card for service member
Holiday cards for military members at the White House.

After working in the nonprofit sector for my entire professional career so far (nearly six years for those of you keeping track), giving back is pretty much a part of my everyday life now. In my first job, I became invested in the issues of my clients at the agency I worked at, and at my second job at the UN Foundation, I was all about preventing malaria and empowering adolescent girls. At my current job at the Case Foundation, I am dedicated to our mission of bringing philanthropy to everyone through technology, and inspiring people to change the world in fearless ways. And of course right now in the holiday season, I’m always on the lookout for opportunities that could be highlighted as #GoodSpotting — my friends have even started getting in on it too, and my mom (winning!).

Like many Millennials, volunteering isn’t the first thing I think of when I want to give back. And like most Millennials, I don’t have thousands of dollars to spare each year either. But I have technology that makes it easy for me to send of a quick $10 or $25 donation through platforms like Razoo or organizations like Donors Choose, Girls Write Now, and Girls on the Run. I use social media to spread the word about issues I care about like fitness and nutrition, education, and technology for good. It’s easy to grab a couple of items from my pantry to drop at the box in my apartment building’s lobby for the Capital Area Food Bank, to bring some unused school supplies to the donation drive at my office, or write holiday cards to our service members that the American Red Cross will send.

So what’s the incentive here? Why do these ways of giving work for me?

They’re easy. They’re fun. The resonate with me. They are part of everyday behaviors (I already have the food, I already like writing letters and cards, I already have leftover office supplies, I already use social media) that make it a no-brainer for Millennials like me who are on the go, are bombarded with so many asks each day, and who only have so much time or money to donate at any given time. And somehow, all of the outcomes of these donations are clearly visualized in my head, even if I never get a nice note back from the charity or the recipients. I can picture a family eating the food I contributed, imagine a soldier reading my Christmas card in Iraq, or see a student using my old notebooks in class. I don’t need a fancy report telling me what happened, and I don’t need an infographic spelling out the impact. The story is in the smiles and the warmed hearts of all of the people that receive my gifts, and I don’t need proof — I just know it works.

When Hurricane Sandy hit, I made a quick donation via text message. When #GivingTuesday came around, I donated online to a friend’s campaign, because he asked. As we near the end of the year, I’ll continue to give when I feel it in my gut — when the story inspires me, or when the act is part of my day anyway, or when it’s right in front of my face and would be silly to ignore it.

For people like me, it’s not about because we have to, or because we’re supposed to, it’s because we want to, and because we like to. It makes us feel good, so we do good. How will you give back this holiday season? If you’re a Millennial, do you think you give of your time and money differently because of your age or technology? Share your story in the comments and one person will receive a Razoo Gift Card to use this holiday season.

A little gratitude, today and every day

Corgis & Turkey — I’m thankful for that!

On Thanksgiving, the focus is on acknowledging what we’re grateful for (okay, and on food and football) — it’s family, friends, loved ones, our health, and so on. We start saying our thanks out loud around the table from an early age, right before we begin the big meal, and into adulthood, the ritual continues, although now the list of things we’re grateful for isn’t just spoken within the intimacy of our homes, it’s out in public for the world to see, on Twitter and Facebook, and in blogs like this (as I write this, I see the hashtag #WhyImThankful on the screen during the National Dog Show).

As the holiday season officially kicks off today, so does a season of giving thanks and showing our gratitude, generosity, and love. In fact, there is now a nationwide movement to celebrate it even more, called Giving Tuesday, happening for the first time on November 27. Although we have a holiday all about giving thanks in America, we’re seeing a concerted effort to acknowledge our gratitude year-round, not just on one day, but every day. The concept of gratitude journals has become a common way for people to show thanks, for the big things, the little things, and those in between. Everyone from Oprah to therapists are encouraging our pursuit of happiness and sense of content by writing down one thing or a few things each day that we’re grateful for, whether it’s for a delicious meal, a good day at work, a healthy prognosis at the doctor’s office, or new-found love.

So in addition to the thanks I gave today with my family around the dinner table, here’s a peek at the things I’ve been jotting down in my own gratitude journal…what’s in yours?

  • The opportunity to be able to fly across the country to spend Thanksgiving with my family
  • Birthday dinners and celebrations
  • A bed to sleep in, every night, no matter where I am
  • Colleagues that I enjoy working with, and laughing with
  • Memories of the past
  • Dreams for the future
  • My football teams winning
  • The ability to be able to give to others (time, money, goods)
  • Evolving relationships
  • Beaches to run on and parks and woods to run through…and legs to run with
  • Second chances..and sometimes a third, or fourth
  • Forgiveness
  • Technology to communicate with loves ones
  • The swamps of Louisiana, the monuments of DC, and the ocean by California

Happy Thanksgiving.

What I really learned at the Nonprofit Technology Conference

After waiting four years for my turn to come up to attend NTEN’s annual Nonprofit Technology Conference, I jumped on the chance to attend this year’s show in DC on behalf of my organization (accompanied by one of my lovely online team members). And although I wrote down a few notes of things to follow up, demos to try, and presentations to download, there are some other, non-technology focused things I learned too, that stuck with me more than anything else. Here is just a sampling.

The NTC is just as much, if not more, about networking, and to be honest, just hanging out with people, than the actual sessions. I had heard this from a few people over the years, that they rarely attend an actual session (other than ones they may lead), and instead use the time to pop in here and there, catch up with colleagues, meet new friends, and have in-depth conversations about their everyday work and experiences in the hallways and lounges, sitting on the floor, or whispering in a corner. At a couple of points over the weekend, I found myself doing the same – and I didn’t feel like I had missed anything. In fact, I had gained something else – a new or enhanced connection.

Don’t write off a session even if you think you’ve heard it before. Sometimes there are sessions that have similar content and the same panelists as from another conference, webinar, or other event.

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