The way I learned to give as a child was to give loose change or just a few dollars at a time; that's because it was all we could afford to give. As a toddler, I grew up in a family that was on the tail end of emerging from poverty. My parents had a lot more than they did in the early 90s as fresh immigrants. Still, they were on impossibly tight budgets, working multiple jobs, and stressing about whether they would be able to take care of their debts. Even with all of that, they demonstrated to me what it meant to make a difference. My parents taught me from a young age that philanthropy and making a difference is about giving what you can.
During my first three years at The Ohio State University, I helped to develop and carry out the strategy that led to over $4.8 million being raised for childhood cancer research at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. All of this money was raised by students, typically in gift amounts of just $25-50 at a time. When you think of philanthropists, you definitely don't think about a college student, but their efforts make them philanthropists too.
As a senior in college and in my first year and a half out of it, I chose to spread that theme forward through a nonprofit I started, The 52 Million Project, which aimed to have one million people across the US donating $1/week, no more and no less, to a different nonprofit fighting poverty each week. It was an accessible way to make a difference for dozens of nonprofits each year. In its two-year run, we donated over $55,000 to nearly 80 nonprofits, all $1 at a time. We affected thousands of people who are experiencing the many side effects of living in poverty.
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