Today we released Our Region, Our Giving, WRAG’s 2011 report on foundation giving in the Greater Washington region. While the philanthropic community is doing critical work by supporting nonprofit organizations, it’s important to also recognize that individuals are making an incredible impact on our community.
Of particular note, June 15th is the Worldwide Day of Giving, a movement founded by local resident Reed Sandridge who, in late 2009, decided to give $10 to a random stranger each day for a year. We interviewed Reed to learn more about the Year of Giving, how it has evolved and grown, and how others can get involved.
Q: Today is the second annual Worldwide Day of Giving. Can you tell us a little about the idea, and how it came about?
Reed Sandridge: The Worldwide Day of Giving was launched in 2010 when I was in the middle of my year-long commitment that I called the Year of Giving where I gave $10 every day to someone I didn’t know. I did that every day for one year after losing my job because it is precisely then when you need things the most that I believe you need to think about others. My mother was one of the most thoughtful and generous people I have known and I decided to embark on my challenge on the three year anniversary of her passing as a way to memorialize her life and the kindness she shared with everyone who knew her. I documented the experience and wrote a journal entry about every single person I gave my $10 to and recorded that at www.yearofgiving.org.
Q: How can our readers participate?
R.S. It’s simple. There are three ways that anyone in the world can participate:
You can volunteer with any organization. For those who are busy and can’t take off work, I suggest that they consider micro-volunteering on www.sparked.com. Many of their volunteer projects take 20-30 minutes. You can volunteer on your lunch break!
2. Give a stranger $10
You can also pay it forward like I did for 365 days. All you have to do is find a complete stranger, approach them and tell them that you are participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving and would like to give them $10 – no strings attached. The only rules are that you can’t know the person you are giving the money to and you can’t receive anything in return for the gift – aside from the rush of goodness you will feel!
I encourage people to take some time to speak with the recipients, maybe even take a photo, and find out what they will do with the $10 as well as a little bit about who they are. People can then share their stories and photos on the Year of Giving Facebook page.
3. Donate $10 to The Year of Giving
When I was giving my daily $10 away, I met many people who needed things. You can find this list on the Lend a Hand section of the Year of Giving website. I use 100% of the donations to purchase items that these people need. You can make a donation online at www.yearofgiving.org.
For your readers in Washington, DC, they can join us tonight at One Lounge near Dupont Circle for a meet-up from 6-8:00pm.
Q: Storytelling is a key component of your work, and the stories you share cover such a wide spectrum of experiences and circumstances. Are there any that have risen above the rest and really compelled you to share with other people?
R.S. One story that I love is that of David G., a homeless newspaper salesman I met on Day 258. Originally from Western Kenya, he came here in the 90s and lost all contact with his family. I asked him if there was anything I could help him with as part of my Lend a Hand program – a program I launched to connect my 365 recipients with people around the world who wanted to help them. He said that he would like to find a long lost cousin, Ben, who was last known to be living in Poland. I posted his full name on the Lend a Hand page, but didn’t really think that I was going to find him.
Six months later I received a call from Poland. It was his cousin Ben who had learned about David’s search for him through a candidate he was interviewing for a job. He had Googled Ben’s name before the interview and happened to find my website. Now the General Manager of a large Polish company, Ben was stunned to learn that his cousin, now homeless, was looking for him. I connected the two and they have remained in touch ever since. They are planning to meet this year.
You can see how all the $10 gifts were used at www.yearofgiving.org.
Q: Your work is very unique in the types of outcomes you get. How do you measure success?
R.S. The best definition that I have found is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
Q: Now that your year-long commitment has finished, what has become of the Year of Giving?
R.S. The Year of Giving continues in two ways. First, people who are unemployed or under-employed can become a kindness investor and give away $10 like I did for seven days and then share it on the website. You’d be surprised how it can help someone who is out of work.
As for me, I have a new commitment for 2011 which is focused on volunteerism. Each week this year I volunteer at a different organization and then post a blog about my experience every Monday. I hope to inspire others to consider making volunteering a more integral part of their life.