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.

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Giving back doesn’t have to mean $$

“Giving back” is the new, sexy buzz phrase these days – EVERYONE wants a piece of the philanthropy pie. It’s on the nightly news broadcasts, in every blog, and if you work at a non-profit like me, everything you do is about giving back.

But I noticed that “giving back” often has the same connotations as shopping for the best Christmas presents – how much money can I give and to how many organizations?

To me, giving back isn’t about racking up a list of the 10 charities you made a donation to – because then it ends up reading like your other shopping list: “Oh, I saved a child for $15 here, bought a water jug for $5 there…” When I think about giving back, so many “old-fashioned” methods come to mind. Here are a few I like:

  • Cooking dinner for your local fire/police station (the firefighters by my parents’ neighborhood have come to love our Cajun dishes)
  • Instead of stuffing last season’s coat/scarf in the back of the closet – donate it to a shelter
  • Bring old blankets and towels to an animal shelter
  • Hand someone walking in the rain your umbrella
  • Pick up an extra latte for your door man/woman, front desk person, security guard, etc.
  • Offer to walk the dog/cook/pick up the mail/go grocery shopping for your elderly neighbor
  • Mail a holiday greeting card to someone who isn’t expecting it
  • Drop off lunch for someone with a busy schedule
  • For book lovers, make homemade bookmarks with their favorite quotes and photos on them (I did this for my dad – he loved it!)
  • Call someone you love – even if they were supposed to call you first.
  • Loan some of your favorite books and movies (happy, comforting ones!) to a friend who can’t make it home for the holidays
  • Tell the people in your life that you love them. Works every time.

What are some of the ways you are giving back this year?