Asha Curran

Seeing many thousands of people self-identify as philanthropists for the first time through #GivingTuesday has been very rewarding.

Location: New York, New York

Twitter:  @RadioFreeAsha

Profession: Director of the Center for Innovation & Social Impact at the 92Y

What was the first charitable gift you ever made?

I remember various penny drives and UNICEF Halloweens as a child, but memorable for me was the first donation I made as a working adult to my alma mater, Mount Holyoke. There was something so rewarding about earning money and choosing where to direct it, and giving back to a place I felt had given me so much.

What inspired you to be a part of launching #GivingTuesday?

92nd Street Y is about building and empowering strong communities, inspiring dialogue around big ideas, and that mission is core to all the work we do. #GivingTuesday was a grand, inspiring vision of a global community of givers, and presented for me an amazing set of professional challenges and opportunities—growing and scaling a social movement around philanthropy, helping to build a coalition of partners across sectors dedicated to making it work, experimenting with collaboration in adventurous new ways. What a great project to have the opportunity to tackle!  #GivingTuesday is a big movement that contains many leaders, and many inspiring acts of generosity large and small.

What has been the most rewarding/challenging part of your work?

Seeing many thousands of people self-identify as philanthropists for the first time through #GivingTuesday has been very rewarding. The level of creativity and imagination across communities and sectors has been inspiring, and it’s lovely to see collaboration replace competition. This is true not just with #GivingTuesday, but with so much of the work we’re doing at 92Y. And we—all of us—can collaborate much more. Partnerships that bring together networks, strengths, skills, or communities to create new value or inspire positive action are our most powerful tool, and social media gives those kind of partnerships an unprecedented force. There needs to be more of a drive toward collaboration as the way we do business, within the nonprofit sector, and across sectors as well.

Who or what motivates you to give?

I don’t think of “giving” as simply writing a check to a charity. Every day, we all make the choice whether to give of our time, our kindness, our empathy, in big and small ways, to our family, friends, colleagues, and strangers, as we move through our daily tasks. It’s worth it to make it part of the DNA of your daily existence, because it’s so rewarding that in a short period time it simply becomes your default. I know many people I consider “givers,” and I have no idea if or how much they actually donate to causes.

In terms of more literal giving, of volunteer time or funds to causes I believe in, women’s causes are usually my default, both because I’m passionate about those causes and also because the data are so clear that when women and girls are educated and economically empowered, their entire community benefits. I also give to NY Food Bank because it’s very hard for me to think of children, especially, going to bed or to school hungry. It’s a chronic problem, globally of course, but also right here in our backyard.

What advice do you have for others to consider philanthropy?

Start small and work your way up. Giving means giving of not just funds, but also time, or skills. The #GivingTuesday site is a great place to browse various causes. A simple way to know that you’re donating money effectively is to look at projects or organizations funded by reputable foundations and give to those, since you can be pretty sure those foundations have done their homework. Think about what you feel most passionately about. If you have children, bring them into the conversation. Have them save a portion of their allowance or babysitting money and talk about where they want to direct it. It’s never too early to start talking with kids about giving.


Julia Levy, Founder, has a decade of development experience, including working for a philanthropist, a small nonprofit and now a large nonprofit. She has raised significant dollars for numerous causes, from education to religion and from donors of all ages. Julia holds a Certificate in Fundraising from NYU’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University. Julia has taught fundraising workshops, most recently at Brooklyn Brainery and coached development professionals.

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Why We Give tells stories of ordinary philanthropists, making a difference, dollar by dollar and hour by hour.  

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