I founded Change Gangs: Virtual Giving Circles because I wanted to help people who like to give money to causes they care about but don’t have time to research the charity, don’t feel their donation is big enough to make a difference, and end up wondering what happens to their donation after they make it. In a giving circle, we pool our small donations, leverage our time and intellectual resources so that you can feel like you’re giving to the right place, that’s it’s going to be used in the right way, and it’s going to make a big difference.
I am a nationwide expert on Giving Circles and have created the largest electronic repository of information documenting the tools, strategies, and accomplishments of some of America’s 800 giving circles.
Me and my husband on our wedding day hike.[/caption]I grew up in a family of givers. My mother would give you the shirt off her back. My father was a sucker for animals, and I even remember him bringing home a litter of baby mice and we raised them until they were old enough to be released into the wild.
As a kid, I remember how big the world felt. My eyes open wide and my little hand in my parents firm grasp, the world was filled with opportunity. And when I was asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”, I’d answer with big dreams: princess, astronaut, President. But somehow as I grew older, the world felt like it held less opportunity and a lot more problems. Big problems. Problems like world hunger and homelessness. Now the world felt big, but I felt small. I was too small to make a big impact on this big world. So, I put my head down and got real.
After I graduated from college as an English Literature major, I ended up in New York City working for the technical support department at PricewaterhouseCoopers. I was the person you’d call when your computer wasn’t working. Now, I didn’t know much more than you did about computers, but I managed all right and I worked there for 3 years– until September 11th happened.
That morning, I was on the subway on my way to work and was traveling right under the World Trade Centers when the first airplane hit. By the time I got into the office, my co-workers were glued to the t.v. where we watched the towers eventually fall. I thought about all those people who did what I did that morning, get up, get ready, go to work. But only they weren’t coming home. Without any warning, their lives were over, as could mine be at any moment. I decided I better start doing something that was important to me so that I wouldn’t die unexpectedly and regret all the things I hadn’t done yet.
I considered a number of things and when they didn’t quite work out, I ended up working with my mom in the mortgage business. And after awhile I forgot my lesson from September 11th.
It was an incredibly high pressure job. Day in and day out. 60 hours or more a week. It’s no wonder I started having panic attacks. I’d wake up, and I couldn’t catch my breath, my heart was racing, and I’d put my hand on the bedroom wall behind me to reassure myself, that the world was still real. I lived with that for about a year, before I heard myself say, “If I have to do this for the rest of my life, I’d rather kill myself.” All of a sudden, warning bells started going off in my head and I realized I needed to make a change.
So, I shut down my practice, but I didn’t know what to do next. I had been working so hard for so long, I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I didn’t know what I liked to do and I certainly didn’t know what I should do next. So, I spent the next two years “discovering” myself. I went on spiritual retreats and meditation retreats. I read, I listened, and I traveled. And I still didn’t know.
I had this idea that spending a month alone looking out over the stormy ocean would be just the ticket, so I rented a house in Newport, Oregon for the month of November. While I was there, I would walk my dogs past the corner convenience store and chat with the older man who was living as a care taker. The store was closed because there weren’t enough tourists in November to justify keeping it open, and he was always alone. We’d chat for a few minutes before I continued on my way, and I learned a little about him and his story. I learned that he was a recovering drug addict whose family no longer spoke to him. I learned that he spent most of his evening watching t.v., and I knew he would be alone for Thanksgiving.
I nervously invited him to spend Thanksgiving dinner with me at a Chinese restaurant. A part of me hoped he’d say no, and I could feel good just for asking. But he said yes, so I picked him up and we drove into town where we shared plates of sesame chicken and beef with broccoli while he talked about his kids. When I looked across the table, I didn’t see a man I barely knew. I saw a father who was proud of his kids. I saw a man who regretted his past. I saw a human being who rarely had an opportunity to talk with someone who cared about him and what was important to him.
That was the moment I became committed to giving, because I realized that taking him out to dinner was such a little thing for me. But it such a big deal for him.
This simple dinner with a stranger caused me look back on my life, I realized wasn’t living up to the example set by my parents. I wasn’t giving very much TO myself and I wasn’t giving very much OF myself. But no more.
I wanted to light up myself and others by learning how to give and sharing this with others. I wanted to give so that someday there would be no hungry children in the world and no abused animals and no homeless veterans. But now I was dreaming too big. I’m not Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey. I can’t donate a million dollars. I can donate $25. But the world’s problems were so big, could $25 really matter?
Then one day, I heard a story on the radio about giving circles and I realized that donating with a community would change everything. I called my friends Heidi and Christine and they felt the same way. We could pool our small donations and if they invited a friend who invited a friend, in a very short amount of time, we could donate tens of thousands of dollars to our favorite causes every year! Not only would our bigger donation make a bigger impact on the charity, but we’d be choosing better charities, so we make a bigger impact on the causes we care about most.
Yes I might be one person and I might be small, but I am not alone. And you’re not either. Together, our small donations will change the world.
I went on to start Change Gangs: Virtual Giving Circles to help people like you who like to give money to causes they care about but don’t have time to research the charity, don’t feel their donation is big enough to make a difference, and end up wondering what happens to their donation after they make it. In a giving circle, we pool our small donations, leverage our time and intellectual resources so that you can feel like you’re giving to the right place, that’s it’s going to be used in the right way, and it’s going to make a big difference. A giving circle makes it easy and powerful for you to put your money where your heart is.
I help people who like to give money to causes they care about feel like they’re giving to the right place, that’s it’s going to be used in the right way, and it’s going to make a big difference.
I am dedicated to helping others find meaning, significance, and fulfillment in their lives. How can I help you?