So you’ve cleaned your closet and donated all those shoes you’re not wearing — what else can you do to give back? You can write a check or collect canned goods — or you can plan something Really Big.
Sound daunting? It doesn’t have to be. In fact, giving big can be pretty simple. How do I know? Because one small gift is all it takes to get the ball rolling — and soon you’ve got a thousand diapers on the floor in your office and two hundred online auctions going and you’re making the world a better place for someone else.
Not sure what I’m talking about? Let me explain.
We’ve covered the simple ways to give back — by cleaning out closets and donating what you’re not using, and reminding your kids that giving is good. But what if you want to do more? Where do you start? I’m fortunate to count among my friends two big givers, women who did simple things that turned out to be huge. Want to know what they did?
Here you go.
The Diaper Drive
In the comments on this post, Kim mentioned Help a Mother Out, a group that provides diapers for homeless families. She wrote, “Imagine not having enough diapers for your baby! The thought horrified me.” For the past year, Kim says, “I have been working with them to establish a community of diaper-giving in the Los Angeles area. We partner with three agencies that get the diapers directly to people who simply cannot buy them. My children, 5 and 3, help me purchase diapers, load up the car, and count everything for the ‘kids who don’t have any.’ It’s just a little thing, but at least it’s something.”
I was so glad she brought that up, because Help a Mother Out is part of one of my favorite giving back stories.
I hope you all know the Rookie Moms, Heather and Whitney; these girls are precisely the kind of people that make me wish the Internet lived on my block instead of in my computer. They’re just plain good people.
In September of 2009, Whitney read about Help a Mother out and decided to do her own diaper drive. Whitney put a box outside her door and started telling people about the drive. When she had gathered 600 diapers — just half of her 1,000 diaper goal — she turned to her online communities, asking for donations via Facebook and email. “As my self-assigned deadline approached,” she wrote, “the diapers appeared at a faster pace. I was excited.”
Whitney also did what most of us hesitate to do — she flat out asked people, to their faces, to donate. “I attended a little gathering of bloggers at an E.L.F. make-up party and asked those ladies to donate. Some gave diapers and some gave me cash. (Turns out that women who have never themselves shopped for diapers are overwhelmed by the thought of choosing a size and brand.) The cash was worth even more than the face value as my husband took it to CVS and used some heavy-weight coupons and his clever math strategery to maximize the number of diapers he brought home.”
In the end, Whitney gathered 1,500 diapers on her own. “I took them to the Women’s Drop-In Center and spent the rest of the day feeling like a powerful superhero.” But that wasn’t the end.
Whitney’s friend Kimberly reached out to Safeway; the grocery chain’s marketing person offered to match Whitney’s donation of 1,000 diapers with 1,000 more.
For a total of 2,500 diapers. Wow. That’s a lot of diapers. And it’s a project that any of us can do.
The Online Auction
In August of 2008, Stephanie Nielson and her husband were critically injured in a plane crash. Nie Nie’s friends — online and off — scrambled to do what they could to help, which didn’t seem to be much beyond just praying for their recovery. “When tragedy strikes someone we love, our hearts swell, and the urge to take action is almost relentless,” wrote blogger Gabrielle Blair. “I know many of us are feeling that way about Stephanie and Christian. We want to take action. To do something. Some of us know them personally. Some of us know them through Nie Nie Dialogues. Some of us just heard about them and can’t seem to think of anything else.”
Gabby was unable to shake that feeling, that need to do something. “So here I go. I’m officially declaring next Thursday, August 28th, Nie Nie Day. The plan: instead of my usual Giveaway, I’ll be hosting a silent auction at Design Mom. With all proceeds going directly to the Stephanie & Christian Paypal fund.” Gabby hosted three auctions at Design Mom — but the amazing part was this: by the time Nie Nie day rolled around, dozens of other bloggers had organized auctions at their sites, all benefiting the Nielson family.
In some ways, Gabrielle’s project is the opposite of Whitney’s. Instead of asking people for donations and help, Gabby simply created a space for people to step in and do what they could — host an auction, write a post, buy something. No gesture was too small, and every contribution was appreciated.
(I bought a beautiful Designers Guild clutch in one auction; I use it as my everyday wallet, and each time I dig it out of my bag, I think about Nie Nie and Gabby.)
Have you ever organized a big community project like these? Let’s hear about it!