Despite fears that the newly-passed tax bill will have a negative impact on individuals' motivation to donate to non-profits (don't get me STARTED...), I'm pretty confident that most of us will continue to give - and I'm hopeful that most of us will actually give MORE. Why? Because there's a zillion ways to give, and in this current political climate more and more people are mobilizing around causes they hold dear. And THAT is a good thing for non-profits of all kinds.
It’s clear that by starting “The Broke Girl’s Guide to Giving” I’m not someone who is a fan of excuses – “I don’t have the money to donate” is not something I’m cool with. Despite popular sentiment, giving/donating/volunteering/philanthropy are not luxury items for the wealthy – they’re totally accessible for everyday people with limited budgets and an excess of other obligations. Believe me, I’ve been there. I AM there. But I believe that giving is like a muscle, it’s a reflex, it something we can train ourselves to do (and train ourselves to see opportunities to do) once we get into habit of it – even (or especially) as Broke Girls. So with that, I present to you The Broke Girl’s Guide to Giving’s 10 Ways to Give, Even as a Broke Girl (subtitle: “Welcome to the No Excuses Zone”):
1) Add giving as a line item in your monthly budget – Well duh. This one is obvious but also not – ‘cuz how many of us actually DO this? You probably have a budget each month – ok yeah, you may blow through it sometimes (NOT THAT I WOULD KNOW ABOUT THAT)….But whether you ignore it or not, you have one. You have to pay rent or a mortgage, pay car insurance, kids soccer fees, have money for gas or your cell, or Netflix, or Hulu Plus (or both. Like me. Safe space, here). So why not just add another line item to your monthly budget for giving? $20 each month? Over the course of the year that’s $240 to an organization that you love – not too shabby for a Broke Girl, right?
2) Monthly auto giving – Piggy-backing on #1, why not make life even easier on yourself and set up a reoccurring monthly donation to the organization where your heart lives most? Throw it on your debit so you don’t get yourself in credit card debt if that’s a weak spot for you – then set it and forget it (‘till tax time anyways when you can write those donations off).
3) Give stuff not $$ (or sell stuff and give that $$) - So we all know that we could be donating items instead of cash – organizations like the Vietnam Veterans of America will come pick up your housewares or small appliances right from your front door; the Princess Project will take your dresses off your hands and Dress for Success will do the same for your work clothes, just to name a few. Prefer to give cash? Many orgs, especially those supporting emergency crisis efforts in the wake of natural disasters, prefer and frankly NEED your cash over your stuff…How about selling your stuff (Hi Ebay! What’s up, Amazon!) and using that cash to make a donation instead?
4) Volunteer – see #1. Duh. We all know this, but not everyone does it….check out @thebrokegirlsgudietogiving for a zillion (well, getting there) ideas of organizations who need help and then reach out. Can’t make a steady commitment? No prob – how about a few hours a week? One Saturday a month? It all helps. No excuses, remember?
5) Awareness raising via “slacktivisim” – This is a term used for people who primarily do things like use their social media accounts to raise awareness for causes, but maybe don’t donate or take other action. And while some people are down on this I say get after it. Sometimes a Broke Girl can’t get out to volunteer or spare the cash for a donation that month – but we’re all on social media ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY, no? So in between posts about your kid’s 32nd ballet recital or your snaps of your girl’s weekend in wine country, why not give a shout to an organization or cause you love? How else will people know about it unless someone (you!) talk it up?
6) Use your bday, holidays, weddings, baby gifts (example) - this is one of my favorites which I’ve done a bunch of times. Do you REALLY need gifts on your birthday, Broke Girl? You’re not a brat. And you’re not 11. Why not ask for a donation to XYZ organization in your name instead? I’ve done this on my bday, Christmas, and other gift-receiving dates (not everyone will oblige – HI MOM) but some will, and maybe you’ll even inspire someone else to do that same. What about donating to March of Dimes when your friend has baby #3, instead of loading her down with one more stuffed animal and onesies that will be useless in 3 months? Weddings are another one – those registries will get wiped out by various aunts and distance cousins, have no fear….But if you know the groom is a vet how about a donation to the IAVA? Is the bride a teacher? How about a donation to Donorschoose.org in her name? Do they REALLY care if you don’t get them that “Fold Flat Cheese Grater” and home-state-shaped cutting board from Crate & Barrel? (And if they do – I’m judging).
7) Run/Walk/Soul Cycle – This one is pretty common but doesn’t make it any less important or meaningful. Brooke Girls are all about efficiency, and whether you’re training for the Marine Corp Marathon to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund, or supporting someone you know who’s doing the 3-day Susan Koman Breast Cancer walk, or joining a cause-sponsored Soul Cycle class to sweat for an hour to fundraise, this one lets Broke Girls support someone else while also checking off the day’s workout. Not a bad way for a busy Broke Girl to multi-task!
8) Week-long “give up to give” challenge – Have a Starbucks addiction (like yours truly)? Or a weekly manicure? Or a standing appointment at the Dry Bar? Or just a habit of jumping in Uber a few more times a week that necessary? Why not choose one of these non-essentials and go on a “fast” for one week – give up that habit for just one week out of a month, and use that money for a donation? It’s just a week, Broke Girl. You won’t die if you have to drink office coffee for a few days in favor of a good cause.
9) Use your tax refund, Christmas bonus, other monies-not-planned-on to give – Now I’m not insane, I’m not saying use ALL your “oooh yay forgot this was coming in!” money for donations – but how about 10% of it? Skim a little off the top for a good cause and then use the rest for whatever your little Broke Girl heart desires.
10) Ethical shopping (see #6) – Even a Broke Girl is gonna shop, right? Whether for you or someone else, sometimes you do need to buy “stuff” (despite what point #6 says). In those cases – why not give to a business that’s also a cause? Social enterprises are popping up everywhere – check out Krochet Kids, 31Bits, or the Consume With Love for very cool clothes and accessories (my collection of 31bits necklaces is bordering on ridiculous) and support their missions while getting your shop on. Wins all around, no?