Location: Brooklyn, New York
Profession: Freelance; Currently working on Dollar a Day , Longform, WNYC and HelpScout
What was the first charitable gift you ever made?
I used to volunteer a lot as a kid and a college student. The first truly charitable gift I made, though, was just a few years ago. I gave away all of my stuff to Housing Works, a charitable thrift store based in NYC. It felt great. If you live in the NYC-area and you boughtanything from Housing Works in the last two years, there’s a really good chance it once belonged to me.
I just realized that this answer is a semi-lie. My first charitable gift was when I was about 10 years old, but it was my mom’s suggestion, so I’m not sure if it counts as “mine.” She encouraged me to give all my stuffed animals to the local animal shelter. Then we went there for an afternoon together and watched the cats play (well, destroy) all my little creatures. If that sounds terrible, don’t let it! It was actually a really great experience. The cats loved having stuffed animals to play with.
What inspired you to be a part of launching Dollar a Day?
It was equally two things. One was having worked with the founder, Perry Chen, previously on Kickstarter. (A great experience.) The other was just wanting to be involved with something that felt like it was creating a community around the idea of giving back. I’ve done all kinds of work in my life, from bars to customer service desks to farm stands, and I’m always most happy when I’m able to scratch that itch of “giving back” or being part of a community. I think we’re all built that way.
What has been the most rewarding/challenging part of your work?
It was a long, long build up to launching Dollar a Day and it took a lot of work. My initial contribution was from remote — I connected with the project while I was abroad in southeast Asia, and would spend late nights writing copy for each of the nonprofits we were selecting to feature. The rest of the crew was in NYC, volunteering once a week on Monday nights to build up the product. There was a pretty feverish few weeks leading up to the launch date, where I’d spend hours with Perry on the phone combing through even the tiniest details of our FAQ and selection criteria. It was really tough, but the toughness is what makes it rewarding. We were being that deliberate because we really cared about making something people liked.
The day before we launched, we all stayed up about 36 hours straight together, getting the little details finished. Afterward, we were all delirious but in great spirits. It felt so good to see it alive in the world.
Who or what motivates you to give?
Just identifying a need and a way, I think. Small acts of giving can be incorporated into almost everything I do, each day. And why not just do them? Give $1 more at Duane Reade to contribute toward a children’s food drive fund. Donate old clothes to thrift stores (and shop at thrift stores when I need new stuff). Work once a month at a soup kitchen. Once you start looking, there’s so many ways to give back, you don’t even need to feel motivated. You just start doing it. It’s a pretty positive feedback loop, too. Giving and sharing always end up feeling really good.
What advice do you have for others to consider philanthropy?
I think many people like the idea of philanthropy, but feel challenged by not knowing where to start and/or thinking they can’t give enough. I guess this has been said a million times before, but I’ll say it again: every little bit counts. Your dollar counts. Your hour of volunteering counts. But it counts in a way that might not add up to major change in your lifetime. I think we’ve just got to accept that, but keep trying anyway.
Photo Credit: Daniel Shea