Editor’s Note: This article is Part One in our four-part Activating Philanthropy series. In this series, we explore ways to bring your philanthropic ideals into your everyday life, activating the lessons we’ve learned along the way. For the rest of the series, check out the upcoming installments: Part Two: What It Means to “Call Your Congresswoman”, Part Three: Talking to Family Members (Who Don’t Want to Talk to You), and Part Four: How to Start a Giving Circle.
Welcome to Philanthropy Women’s “Activating Philanthropy” series! This four-part series will explore ways to bring your philanthropic ideals into your everyday life, activating the lessons we’ve learned along the way. We invite you to take action in your own way, utilizing the guidelines in these articles, and sharing your experiences with your community!
In the first part of the series, we take a look at ways we can add philanthropy into our daily routines.
If your first thought is, “But I don’t have money to give every day!” — don’t worry. We can bring the ideals of philanthropy into our everyday lives without breaking the bank. Here are just a few ways to align your charitable values with your day-to-day life.
Philanthropy in Your Daily Routine: No Cost
- Stay engaged. It’s wild how much of an impact simply signing up for an email newsletter and following an organization on social media can have on your engagement. Not only is this the best way to keep up with the happenings at a foundation you trust and support, but engaging with an organization online is one of the best ways to amplify that organization’s mission throughout your entire social circle. This is especially helpful when foundations and nonprofits support each other: by leveraging each other’s audiences, we are able to reach a much larger collective scope.
- Volunteer with a nonprofit. If you already work in the nonprofit field, then you KNOW how desperately in-demand many talents are like grantwriting, marketing, and accounting. If you have hours to spare, donate them to a nonprofit. Even if it’s something as small as penning a simple grantwriting template or settling a few receipts, your time will have tremendous impact.
- Organize a service project. For a more community-focused option, find like-minded people in your neighborhood, family, or workplace and create a service project. For example, organize a day to clean up a local park or beach, or coordinate a tree-planting campaign. (This is also a great way to get kids involved, if you’re looking for ways to pass on charitable habits to the next generation.)
- Leverage your network. This is another one that’s critical for people already working within the sector. If you’re a regular reader of Philanthropy Women with a .org email address, odds are you’ve attended a conference or two (or seven) and your LinkedIn profile is flooded with extremely talented individuals. Leverage those connections by reaching out to people in your professional circles whenever a foundation or organization seems to be struggling. You never know — a five minute conversation you facilitate could turn into a multi-year funding partnership.
Philanthropy in Your Daily Routine: Low Cost
- Support small businesses, particularly women- or BIPOC-owned businesses. This is an action we encourage every day of the year. It’s common for Small Business Saturday and holiday shopping to focus on “shopping small,” but it’s critical to practice this during the rest of the year as well. Shopping at farmer’s markets or local mom and pop shops may cost a few bucks more than the chain store down the street, but especially in the post-COVID era your purchases may make the difference between a business staying afloat and closing its doors.
- Round up for charity. There are simple apps like Chime and Qapital that offer a “round up” system tied to a debit card or credit card: anytime you make a purchase, the app “rounds up” to the nearest dollar and deposits the remaining handful of change into a separate savings or checking account. While many people use this practice to add to their savings, it’s also a great way to contribute to a philanthropic cause when you feel like you can’t make a big-dollar donation.
- Practice a “set it and forget it” system with your favorite foundation. While we’d all love to be members of Women Moving Millions, sometimes those big donations just aren’t possible. Instead of making a lump-sum donation, pledge yourself to a small monthly donation that auto-renews. Five dollars a month goes a LONG way when it’s coming from a thousand people.
- Make your philanthropy another “bill.” Another option for committing to philanthropy is making your donation another monthly “bill.” Like a tithe system, set a percentage or a flat amount you want to give to charity each month. Make it part of your monthly bills, and you remove the temptation to cut into your “giving” budget for a trip to Starbucks.
Philanthropy in Your Daily Routine: Get Creative
- Give away your “frequent flyer” miles. We’ve gone a whole year without traveling, but many of us are still racking up “frequent flyer” miles through airline-specific credit cards and rewards programs. If you’re worried about “use it or lose it” travel funds, consider donating your miles to charity. Most airlines (like Delta, American Airlines, and Southwest) offer options that translate your frequent flyer miles into charitable donations from the airline: for example, Southwest is a frequent supporter of Make A Wish, Honor Flight Network, and The Mission Continues. For most airlines, it’s as simple as logging on to your account in an app or on the computer and clicking the “donate” button.
- Start a giving circle. We’ll dive deeper into this in a few weeks, but for now, think about the people in your social and professional circles who are as interested in giving as you are, but feel like they can’t give “enough” to make it worth it. A giving circle is the perfect way to leverage the power of collaborative giving, without having to stretch your budget.
- Plan a Giving Pledge. We can’t all be MacKenzie Scott overnight, but we can commit to personal giving goals. Like setting New Year’s Resolutions, choose a dollar amount as your goal for the rest of the year and write yourself a “pledge” to hit that goal by a certain calendar date. When you turn it into a competition with yourself (and tell all your friends for accountability), you’re that much more likely to succeed.
- Check if your employer offers donation matching — and if they don’t, ask to start a program. Donation matching is an employer benefit that’s starting to gain popularity. Many major employers offer a system where you donate to a charitable organization and provide the receipt, then your employer matches a percentage or dollar amount in their own donation. You’d be surprised how many workplaces already have these systems in place — and if yours doesn’t, consider working with your Human Resources department to start one.
For more ways to activate philanthropy in your life, stay tuned for the rest of our Activating Philanthropy series. Next week, we’ll dig deeper into what it means to “call your Congresswoman” — how to become a politically engaged citizen, and how to keep up that momentum outside of election season.
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