Updated: Feb 4
There’s no doubt that headlines about million and multimillion dollar gifts rule the headlines. Whether those gifts are from individuals or foundations or donor-advised funds, news about major donations seem to dominate the landscape.
So, can everyday givers make a difference amongst the influx of megagifts?
There’s been a lot of research and interest in this topic, and we’d encourage you to dig into resources online. The short answer though, would be yes. Check out some thoughts below about some ways that you can make a difference through giving.
Ever see those fundraisers on Facebook where friends ask you to give? Have you given? If so, you’ve donated to a crowdfunding campaign. According to sources cited by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the amount of money raised via crowdfunding in North America was approximately $17 billion in 2020 (The Conversation). Crowdfunding isn’t measured in the annual report on giving, Giving USA, but it’s playing a bigger and bigger role in society today. So that $5 to your friend’s fundraiser? It does make a difference.
Small gifts matter. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute, the majority of public charities in the U.S. (66.6% to be exact) had less than $500,000 in expenses. Grassroots and community-based organizations, who can be the ones most “in touch” with communities, often operate on shoestring budgets. Every dollar that you can give makes a difference to these organizations.
For example, for those local to Philadelphia, you could give to the Bread & Roses Community Fund, which funds a wide variety of grassroots groups in the Philadelphia region.
Another way to give back is through KIVA. Its Philadelphia program (in partnership with the City’s Department of Commerce) gives donors opportunities to lend $25 (or more) at zero percent interest to small businesses around the world.
Mutual aid is another giving category that isn’t measured by Giving USA. It’s difficult to put an exact measurement on mutual aid – it’s a fluid category that most closely resembles informal giving to “meet the news of people around them” (The New Yorker). For example, we saw a great deal of mutual aid spring up during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. People going shopping for their elderly neighbors. Individuals making signs, posters, etc. to cheer others up, clapping for healthcare workers at changes in shift changes… all of these fall under the category of mutual aid. Mutual aid is impossible to measure because of its informality, but its nevertheless vital to building trust and bringing people together.
We’ve discussed giving of your treasure and somewhat of your time, but what about more of your time and your talent? That is where volunteering comes into play. Volunteering takes many forms – you can volunteer on a regular basis/schedule (weekly, monthly, etc.) or for special events (e.g. a nonprofit’s gala or a charity run). You can volunteer in-person or online. You can give where your specific skillset is helpful (e.g. a lawyer giving pro bono advice) or you can volunteer where everyone is doing the same task (e.g. cooking meals at a community kitchen). Volunteering takes many shapes and forms – while we know that time is often hard to come by, there are possibilities for volunteering that fits everyone’s schedule.
VolunteerMatch is a great resource for those looking to volunteer but unsure what to do or what best fits their schedule.
Or, look for local affinity groups to give back. For example, for young professionals in Philadelphia, Young Involved Philadelphia builds relationships and increases civic engagement. Individuals can volunteer at events, learn more about issues in the area, or give back through small donations.
As you can see, there are many ways that you can make a difference. Take some time to look through harp-weaver’s resource list to learn more about the philanthropy space and ways to give back.