My first job out of college (it took me awhile, so this was in my late 20’s) was in a fledgling non-profit. It had grown out of a Harvard student organization and was bringing on its first employees. I believe there were 7 of us that first day in an almost-empty office. Unlike other places I had worked, there was no orientation. Instead, we spent the day assembling cubicle walls and desks that had been donated by a company who was refurbishing their own space. I was hired as the Office Manager, but title didn’t matter. From the director down, we rolled up our sleeves and pitched in. Even as the organization began to grow and my role evolved, this spirit of all-hands-on-deck never wavered.
This is the personality of the small non-profit. There isn’t the luxury of cleaning crews, IT specialists, or a maintenance person. The staff is tiny and the budgets often more so. Every person and every dollar counts. Today is “#GivingTuesday.” It’s a time in the midst of all of the sales, shopping, and decorating to remember that everyone isn’t as fortunate. This year, I encourage you to support your hyper-local non-profits. Whether it’s a group who delivers meals, mentors children, shelters animals, supports those in dire medical need, or provides respite to tired families, these small organizations make a big impact in your local community. They do it out of love and passion. There is no red tape because there’s no staff to support it. Just because they haven’t sent you an annual appeal letter, doesn’t mean they can’t use your help.
The big non-profits of the world are often worthy causes. There is a reason they are so big – it’s because they touch a lot of people. But even if you have a small amount to give, it will make a huge difference to your local charitable groups. Your donation may make all the difference in the world to another person or family.
When donating to hyper-local organizations:
- Make sure they are a legitimate non-profit organization. Unless you’re donating to an individual or family, do your homework. You can search for the group at GuideStar.org to make sure they’re legit.
- Check to see if your employer, or your spouse’s employer, will match the contribution. Stretch your dollars by making use of your company’s match program.
- Donate goods and services as well as cash. Have an extra office chair, supplies, or other goods? See if your local non-profit can use those, as well. Tiny non-profits can also use help with otherwise expensive professional services such as legal advice, IT setup, and HR materials.
- Don’t be high maintenance. These groups often have a very small staff. The more time they spend taking care of you, the less they have for following their mission.
Not sure what non-profits are near you? GuideStar.org is also good for that. You can search your town for non-profit organizations and support those whose missions speak to you.
For the record, the tiny non-profit I started out with is now called Peace First. It’s an organization that is dedicated to helping kids become peacemakers in their own communities by teaching them to work together, communicate, and de-escalate conflict situations. It has grown by leaps and bounds since I worked there, and it is a testament to the impact that a small group of supporters can have. They are no longer hyper-local, but it’s still a great cause.