A well-timed donation to a smaller organization, is likely to have a greater influence on the nonprofit’s trajectory. A common misconception about philanthropy is that only big donations can unlock significant impact. That’s simply not true, especially as more and more startup nonprofits emerge. As Giving Tuesday draws near, I’m reminded of the power of small donations.
When the Lehman bankruptcy hit the wires, I was running a small, startup nonprofit that provided micro-grants to women-led startups out of my studio apartment. It was September 2008 and my interns and I sat on the edge of my bed spellbound as we watched the news unfold. We knew the live ticker indicating the stock market crash could spell the end of our venture.
My nonprofit had individual supporters around the world, but most of our early funding was from foundations. The crash meant our primary funding sources were about to disappear. Even worse, our individual donors, mostly Millennials, were likely about to get furloughed or lose their jobs. We prepared for the end knowing the women’s organizations we supported would suffer.
But then the checks started to come in. $25 here. $100 there. All from our Millennial donors. When they got the news of their layoffs, our supporters would later tell us, their first check (after rent) was to our organization. They knew that the women we served were going to be even worse off. Those gifts were a lifeline for my organization and our work amidst turbulent times. The checks were small, but they had a huge impact on me, our organization, and the women we served.
I tell this story to underscore that small gifts can make a big difference if invested in a right-sized organization. While all nonprofits need fiscal support, most charitable giving is directed at big organizations. That’s why in addition to Small Business Saturday, I ask you to consider participating in what I like to call “Small” Giving Tuesday. Whether you’re giving $5 or $500, this holiday season consider donating to a small nonprofit organization. Here are a few good reasons why.
Giving Small Leads to Outsized Impact
Innovation is not unique to the for-profit sector. In fact, startup nonprofits are innovating across the social sector, building products that – at scale – have the potential to solve some of the biggest issues of our lifetime. But innovation requires resources to flourish, which is why donating to a nonprofit with a small budget can be a major tailwind for its mission. When you give a well-timed donation to a smaller organization, you’re likely to have a greater influence on the nonprofit’s trajectory.
Innovators in the nonprofit sector are too bountiful to list, but a couple to know about are RealTalk and Tarjimly. RealTalk fills a gap in sex education for teens through a mobile app that delivers authentic sexual health information via storytelling. A $30 donation brings the app to 3 teens; big impact for few dollars. And Tarjimly, the real time translation app connecting the world’s 3B bilinguals to the 25M refugees worldwide, can enable a life-saving translation session with the support of an $18 donation. This “Small” Giving Tuesday, make a gift to a startup nonprofit and watch your investment fuel their impact.
Fill the Political Campaign Capital Valley
During election years, vast amounts of resources are funneled into political campaigns, leaving the nonprofits implementing social change on the ground suffering from donor fatigue. Their tried and true donors are tapped out post-election. Politicians need nonprofits to implement their policies and when those organizations are cash-strapped that becomes difficult. This “Small” Giving Tuesday consider investing in the organizations that will execute on the issues that brought you to the polls.
Care about homelessness? Concrn’s mobile app gives communities a mobile 911-alternative to dispatch trained responders for people suffering from mental health crises. If immigration hits close to home, consider DREAMer’s Roadmap, the app connecting undocumented students with scholarships opportunities to make their college dreams a reality. Wish that social services were more efficient? OneDegree is a Yelp!-like platform that enables low-income communities to access social services.
Sometimes (A Little) Money Can Buy Happiness
They say money can’t buy happiness, but research may have turned that theory on its head. It turns out that giving away money you earned can quite literally bring happiness. Plus, studies by Harvard scientist Michael Norton show that, “Giving to a cause that specifies what they’re going to do with your money leads to more happiness than giving to an umbrella cause where you’re not so sure where your money is going.” That’s where startup nonprofits come in, it’s easier to be transparent and accountable when you are small.