We Had Formed A Community
by Priya Kothari
Recently, I hosted a party at home for a few friends. They were an eclectic bunch, from the private sector, nonprofits and government. Most of them had never met each other before. But that evening, they came together and formed a community with a shared cause.
In that intimate setting of my front room, I had invited one of those friends, Meghan, to say a few words. She’s the founder of Simply the Basics, the country’s first hygiene bank. And when she spoke, she took us on the very personal journey of how she came to create this organization.
First, seeing the sheer scale of homelessness in San Francisco for the first time, and the pain and frustration that created inside of her. Next, feeling compelled to do something about it, knowing that she had the capacity and the drive. Finally, landing on a solution to provide people with their basic needs so they could concentrate on achieving bigger goals. That includes hygiene kits, which she delivers to partner organizations that work with affected populations, so that those staff can spend their time actually helping their clients get the services they need, like getting them off the streets. We ended by putting together hygiene kits, complete with handwritten notes from each of us to recipients of the kits.
In a few short hours, we collectively understood the human experience of going without basic hygiene, we participated in service and we had formed a community, brought together by the journey that we had all been on together that evening. Since then, many of those friends have contacted Meghan to ask if they can volunteer again with her or donate to her organization.
This is the future of giving. Experiencing what an organization has to offer and understanding the impact your participation has first-hand. It is no longer sufficient to provide donors with reams of literature about a nonprofit’s service or to wheel out a case study of a satisfied client. The Millennial donor wants something different. A lived experience. Where they can be engaged with the organization, not operating at arm’s length.
And there has never been a more important moment to connect these active, energized individuals to impactful causes. At a time when the prevailing language of government has become divisive, the voluntary sector needs to step up to protect our most disenfranchised neighbors, build bridges and cement community ties.
But where to give, either your time or your money, can lead to an overwhelming set of choices. Do you give to the small organization, where you can quickly become deeply involved or do you give to a large organization, that may have the scale to have a more meaningful impact? Do you sign up to volunteer by yourself or would it be less intimidating if you go with a friend? Does anyone in your circle know a Meghan who you can talk to directly to see what they’re doing? How do you even know what’s going on in your local community?
That’s where DiveIn can help. DiveIn lets you see what is happening in your local area, find events that are engaging and fun, and enables you to have impact in your community. For nonprofits, it’s a chance to connect with new and enthusiastic individuals who have the potential to turn into long-term donors and volunteers. DiveIn feels like a smart way to use technology to make it easy to activate people and connect them to great causes. One of the event series posted, an immersive experience in the Tenderloin with the St Anthony Foundation, has led to several participants becoming long-term volunteers at a time when the organization was seeking new and committed individuals. Connecting people can lead to positive outcomes for everyone.
In 2016, 63 million Americans gave 8 billion hours of volunteering service valued at $193 billion. This year, you can be part of that phenomenal contribution. We invite you to be active and to engage. To take a risk and dive in. You have the skills and the energy, and you can make a difference.
Priya Kothari is a consultant economist, working with Bay Area organizations with a social mission, to evaluate their impact. She writes extensively about social justice issues and is an Airbnb social impact host. She was previously Head of Economics at Save the Children UK and Chief of Staff to the Executive Director for Financial Stability at the Bank of England. You can follow her on Twitter @piryajkothari.