Photo by Marie C Fields

What is Giving to Me?

One of my biggest resolutions for next year is to engage more with giving back to the community. As the new year approaches, I have been reflecting on what exactly this somewhat nebulous resolution means to me. For some, philanthropy means glitzy fundraiser galas with huge tax-deductible donations. For others, it means a lifelong commitment to award-winning activism. In a culture of high expectations, it can feel like we’re falling short in the generosity department compared to those making these more noteworthy strides – at least, I very often feel that way.

As I reflect on what I want my year of giving to look like, I have to reckon with the fact that I don’t have a ton of extra money or time on my hands. Yet, a life of integrity to me means living in cooperation with and in service of other people. How do I give more when I already feel I have so little left over?

Instead of pushing myself past what I am capable of, I want to rethink what generosity and philanthropy mean to me – and recognize that help on a small scale can still be deeply meaningful to another person who needs it. Here are some of the conclusions I have come to about what giving will look like for me in 2024.

Friends and Family First

To me, the values with which we live in accordance begin with our closest interpersonal relationships. If you want to be more generous with your money, for example, the place to start is with your friends and family. If a friend has a GoFundMe to pay off medical debt, donate. If they’re stressing to you about bills, Venmo them – or even just pay for their coffee. This relies on you having the money to afford it – don’t put yourself in debt to help someone else out. My general rule of thumb is if I think the money would be more meaningful to them in their hand than it would be to me in mine, I give it to them.

Of course, help extends beyond money. Help your friends move, babysit for your neighbors, and check in on your family. Very often, helping out the people you know can get overlooked as a form of community involvement and generosity. I think it’s easy to forget that just because they’re not fighting cancer or homelessness or addiction or some other life-altering challenge doesn’t mean the people we love don’t need help, too.

A Focus on the Unhoused

When it comes to who I believe to be the most vulnerable and in desperate need of support in my community, I know it’s my neighbors living without homes. Next year, I want to make care packages – bags of water bottles, snacks, socks, tissues, and other essentials – every season to keep in my car and hand out to people who may need them, try to have cash on hand more often, and volunteer at least once at Sol Underground’s warming stations in the winter (which you can learn more about on page 13). 

The Offering of Time

Donating money is great, but it’s also passive. Volunteering is much more difficult but can often have a greater impact than funds – and it’s something I have neglected in my own life for far too long. I want to take a more active role in the organizations I admire and support by donating my time and labor as well as my money. 

Simplify, Not Diversify

If you’re anything like me, there are so many causes that you want to dedicate yourself to, and it can be overwhelming to feel like you want to help them all. Even in this issue, there are dozens of worthy causes featured – and while they’re all deserving of your help, it’s borderline impossible for one person to help them all. In 2024, instead of spreading out my time, money, and attention across multiple organizations, I want to focus my support on one or two to truly, actively engage with the work they’re doing and the people who are a part of it.

As the new year approaches and you consider a resolution of philanthropy, I hope you reflect on what that looks like for you – what are your morals and values, what organizations do you think are doing the most important work, and what time and financial allowances do you have? – and possibly consider supporting some of the incredible local organizations featured in this issue.