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Monday, July 22, 2019

Connecting College to Charity: A Crash Course

If we’re being honest, one place that doesn’t come to mind when thinking about charitable giving and volunteering is a college campus. Yet, in my opinion, it should. Universities are the perfect environment to encourage philanthropic activities early on in adulthood.

As young adults, most of us are away from home for the very first time and we want to discover who we are as individuals. An aspect of that self-discovery includes finding our purpose.  During my freshman year, I realized that my purpose is advocating for education. Even though both my parents are educators, and I valued a college education, I didn’t necessarily envision myself in that sector, let alone dedicating myself to it through nonprofit work until I stumbled upon my sorority, Xi Gamma Nu. As I began to learn more and more about our philanthropy, the Kids In Need Foundation (KINF), and the good that they are able to accomplish through providing school supplies to underprivileged students, my desire to ensure equity in education grew more and more. Then, when I was able to take on a leadership role as Philanthropy Chair, that responsibility and commitment solidified just how much I enjoyed being involved in my community and beyond. 

I am fortunate enough to attend Emerson College, where there’s a minor called Nonprofit Communication Management that allows me to participate even more with various local Boston organizations and causes looking for help. Through my experience with my sorority and my minor, I’ve discovered that getting involved in fundraising, donating, and volunteering on campus doesn’t have to be so formal or complicated. 

Here are a few easy ways to give back while maintaining your GPA. 

1. Look into different organizations on campus. - Whether it be a sorority, fraternity, environmental advocacy club, or a college chapter of a larger nonprofit, like Doctors Without Borders, there are many on-campus opportunities available to get involved in. Almost all of which allow you to adjust your level of commitment to based on your time availability. If you want to be heavily involved, a leadership position may interest you, otherwise, you can participate in their general activities and events. 

2. Reach out to local nonprofits. - Places like local animal shelters and food banks are always looking for support. I volunteered with the MSPCA-Angell in Boston for their Valentine’s Day bake sale, and they were extremely accommodating of my college schedule. I could only be there for two hours, yet they were so appreciative of the time given. Organizations are willing to work with you, but you have to be willing to reach out and ask!

3. When fundraising, be persistent and prepared. - Unfortunately, a college education is far from inexpensive. On campus, it can be difficult to fundraise when everyone around you has their college debt on the brain. It may be frustrating at times, but keep in mind the cause that you’re working for in my mind when you start to feel discouraged. Also, when fundraising, try to get the campus as engaged as possible through holding various events or selling items that are more tangible like bracelets or food. Every year, my sorority holds an event for KINF called Gamma Games. Participants compete in field-day style activities like tug-of-war and kickball to bring out their inner kid! Fundraising is most successful when it feels like everyone is a part of a larger community that has one common purpose.

4. Every donation counts! - As college students, it’s no secret that we’re all on a budget, but a dollar or two here and there towards a fundraiser for a nonprofit won’t break the bank. These small contributions show that you are actively supporting your classmates and creating a cycle of support that lasts longer than some spare change!   

These next four years play a major role in shaping who we are, so why not give back to the communities that have become our home away from home? It doesn’t have to be inaccessible or exhausting, and in fact, may very well be one of the most rewarding parts of our college experience. I know it has been for me.

How do you get involved with charitable giving on campus? Or, if your college years are behind you, how did you give back, and what advice would you give students today? Comment below! 

This post was contributed by Jessica Cunha, a Digital Marketing and Fundraising Intern at Charity Navigator. Jessica is currently studying at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts as a Political Communication Major with minors in Nonprofit Communication Management and Public Diplomacy. She believes that nonprofits play a vital role in the world and is passionate about Charity Navigator’s mission to identify charities the public can trust and support.

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