(Illustration by Hannah Agosta Illustration, based on a photo by Jessie Fox)
How to Give is a biweekly column by local philanthropy wizard Lansie Sylvia. In it, Lansie answers readers’ questions about millennials, philanthropy and engaging the next generation of givers. To ask her a question, tweet @FancyLansie.
THIS WEEK’S QUESTION:
My new year’s resolution is to get more involved and try to have a bigger positive impact on the world, as opposed to being a passive participant. So what should I do? How can I be most helpful?
Happy New Year! New year, new you!
New president! New challenges!
Well, actually, a lot of the same old challenges!
But still so much to do! So let’s get started!
There are many, many ways to be involved in local, regional, national and international communities. Here are some of the most classic models of volunteering, depending on how much time you have. Plus, I’ve included my own personal tips and tricks for making the most of your time and money:
- 15 minutes — Donate money
- 1 hour — Donate stuff
- 1 to 100 hours — Donate time
- 1 to 3 hours — Organize a workplace day of service
- 1 to 4 hours — Talk to your kids about giving
- 5 to 10 hours — Join a board
- 120+ hours — Switch your career
But maybe you’re a special snowflake. A unique unicorn. A notable narwhal. You don’t want “classic.” No, no, perhaps you want something just a bit more … different? A touch more … intriguing? Perhaps a bit more … involved? Yes! For you, my exceptional egret, here are my top three choices that you may not have considered, but definitely should!
From our Partners
1. Become a food pantry superstar
Food pantries often get flooded with donations during very specific times of the year — Thanksgiving and Christmas — while struggling for the other 10 months to keep their supplies high enough to meet demand. Hunger is a constant challenge, so these organizations need consistent support.
Find out where your local pantry is and commit to bringing them food every week. You can help them respond to new needs and ensure your donations are being as valuable as possible. AmpleHarvest.org even helps local gardeners with excess produce connect with pantries to get more fresh food in the hands (and stock pots!) of vulnerable individuals and families.
2. Join a giving circle
A giving circle is typically comprised of a group of people who all agree to put the same amount of money into one communal pot that then gets donated to a certain number of organizations. It’s a great way to give what you can, while also having huge impact on the target recipient group.
In essence, you can help turn your $100 donation into a $100,000 donation through the power of collective action. Buy-in rates vary. At Impact100, members commit to $1,000 per year. PhilaSoup asks for $15 and focuses on funding local teachers. Judy Wicks’ new spin on this concept, the Circle of Aunts and Uncles focuses on low-interest loans for under-resourced entrepreneurs, wherein each aunt or uncle commits $2,000. Or you can always start your own!
3. Connect with your local neighborhood association
Civic associations — also called neighborhood associations — are one of the most hyperlocal forces for change in your community. Becoming active in your civic association is one of the best ways to stay informed about what’s happening, give feedback and take an active role in shaping your community.
There are literally hundreds of civic associations in Philadelphia (and many other American cities), and they come in many shapes, sizes and types:
- Registered Community Organizations (RCOs) host public meetings about local properties requesting zoning variances.
- Community development corporations (CDCs) are nonprofits that provide programs, offer services and engage in other activities that promote and support community development in a specific neighborhood. Sometimes they even host amazing Kinetic Sculpture Derbies!
- Straightforward neighborhood associations (like Fishtown Neighbors Association, Cedar Park Neighbors, etc.) are typically volunteer-led groups that clean and green their neighborhoods, sponsor programming and public events, represent residents’ interest at public meetings and advocate for resources to benefit the neighborhood.
If you’re not sure which one to join, the Philadelphia Citizen has a great guide on the different types of associations, plus some helpful tips for using the city’s just-a-wee-bit-tricky map of all the Registered Community Organizations. There’s also this great list of community organizations from PACDC.
Remember, no matter where you go or what you do, the most important part is action. A small step forward is always better than a large intention that stands still. Good luck on this worthy resolution! I’m rootin’ for you!-30-
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