Small Gifts, Big Impact

Anwesha Mukherjee

When it comes to disaster relief, everyday philanthropy—like rounding up purchases at checkout—is having great effect.

The global landscape of disasters and crises is growing. But, that growth has also led to a rise in the number of people looking for ways to help affected communities. The easiest ways have always been to volunteer or donate. Yet the erroneous assumption that only large donations were impactful led many to believe that donation-based philanthropy was a luxury only the top percent could afford.

Fortunately, today’s technology has made it easier for people from all walks of life to create impact through smaller donations, while also broadening the base of donors. In fact, smaller individual donations have had a stronger, more long-standing, and positive effect on nonprofit organizations, like Team Rubicon, by providing a steady pool of resources to tap in to when communities need it most.

With the climate crisis already here, it is safe to say that we will keep seeing a surge in natural disasters. The USA for example, traditionally witnesses its storm season between July and November each year. Yet increasingly off-season events are creating devasting damage. Take, for instance, the tornadoes that hit Kentucky in December of 2021.

Often too, specific communities in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast are facing life-threatening hurricanes year after year, making it hard to keep up with recovery efforts and the disproportionate effects on vulnerable populations.

For disaster relief nonprofits, responding to disasters and garnering donations only when storms strike is not enough. A far more effective solution is long-term recovery, which can be achieved through continued service throughout the disaster life cycle—whether through preparedness, mitigation, disaster response or assisting with rebuild— leading to investing in and building community resiliency. This makes it important to preemptively stay ready.

Team Rubicon seeks to serve communities before, during, and after disasters and crises. Through our Rebuild program for example, Team Rubicon helps to rebuild homes with more resilient materials that can better withstand future disasters. Flood and fire mitigation efforts, too, can seriously help decrease the chances that, should a widespread flooding or fire approach a home or community, it may have less impact.

To fund such efforts and to strengthen communities in advance of storm seasons, organizations such as Team Rubicon rely on a ready reserve of resources, most of which come not from large donations or corporate giving, but from a collective of individuals—individuals who are making a big impact with smaller donations made at regular intervals.

For Team Rubicon, these monthly donors—who we call the Support Squad—are essential to helping us stay ready and prepared for disasters.

Many of our Support Squad arise from a new kind of giving, a kind of “daily philanthropy.” And when it comes to daily philanthropy, the internet has provided a platform like never before.

Over the past few years there has been a steady uptick of ‘birthday fundraising,’ wherein an individual fundraises to support a cause and asks friends to donate as a birthday gift. Apps and websites such as Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram give people the ability to fundraise at their own pace, through friends and followers. The COVID-19 pandemic too played a part in the rise in philanthropy, pushing more people to become more philanthropic and enticing more companies to offer, or promote, workplace giving programs. Increasingly for employees, giving from the heart is becoming as easy as turning to a workplace giving program. These programs are set up to directly send donations from an individual’s paycheck to a cause of their choice, at a chosen interval. Although Workplace Giving is not new, more and more companies are offering this benefit to their employees. Some companies even go the extra mile to match an individual’s donation to help double the impact for their charity or nonprofit of choice.

Online stores have also begun to recognize the importance of practicing philanthropy on an everyday basis. The checkout page of e-commerce sites is fast becoming the easiest place to make the most positive impact for the world around us. Take, for instance, eBay which, according to Engage for Good, is the biggest fundraising platform in the world. While fundraising for philanthropic purposes has been a part of eBay’s goals since the inception of eBay for Charity in 2012, beginning in 2020 the company’s always-on program has been allowing sellers to contribute a portion of their sales to charity, and invited buyers to make a voluntary donation to one of tens of thousands of nonprofits.

Since 2012, eBay’s point-of-sale fundraising campaign has raised more than $1 billion.

Now, Team Rubicon is honored to be named eBay’s nonprofit of choice for this week. This fundraising partnership, which comes in the heart of storm season, will help our Greyshirts get to communities faster, and will provide long-term help before, during, and after disasters.

So, between August 21-28 when you purchase anything on eBay, scroll down at checkout and check the box to donate $1, $5 or $10 and fuel our mission. Sometimes, the biggest impact is felt in the smallest of actions.

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