You may have heard the inspiring story of Jen McCann and her son Roman. When Roman turned four years old, he decided that for his fourth birthday, he was going to collect donations for a rescue outside of a PetSmart in his hometown in Texas. He did this every other Saturday when they were having the event. Eventually, this led him and his mom to go to the local shelter and film videos to help save dogs headed for euthanasia and get them adopted to a forever home. The momentum of their efforts kept going, and in 2016, six-year-old Roman and his mom, Jen, founded Project Freedom Ride: a charity connecting unwanted dogs in high kill areas in Texas and in Augusta, Georgia with loving families in the Northwest and Northeastern United States. With their efforts, as of May 2018, they have saved over seven hundred dogs!

Why am I telling you this story? Because with their story, one small act of kindness turned into a movement. It not only inspired their local community but families across the United States.

We often think about how to give back to our communities, and can easily get overwhelmed with where to start, what to do, and who to work with. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time or to simply pinpoint which cause you want to advocate. Once you have found the cause you want to advocate for, then what? Here we have listed five ways you can give back to your community, even if you want to start today!

Educate Yourself
One of the first things you can do to really advocate for your cause is to educate yourself. In order to truly understand how to educate the community on a charity or non-profit, you have to fully understand the programs the organizations offer and understand the participants the organization serves. This can take time and patience. Here at RISE we offer several programs, all of which have their own unique approach to caring for participants and work with different ages. Some work with parents/caregivers on early childhood education and some programs work with parents/caregivers who are setting up a successful plan to cope with a mental illness and be successful. All different approaches and all different perspectives! Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the people who work at the non-profit. Most, if not all, charities and non-profit organizations have informational email addresses or phone numbers you can use to get more information about the organization!

Be A Mindful Patron
When Black Friday Sales took off and became a huge phenomenon, the small business community wanted to inspire people to buy local for the holidays as well. And so, the Small Business Saturday movement was born, taking place on the Saturday after Black Friday.

As a part of educating yourself, being mindful of where you’re shopping or which restaurants you’re eating at can be very helpful in the community. Amazon Smile helps you log into a specific URL for Amazon, and for every dollar you spend, a certain percentage goes to a charity. You may see big names such as the World Wildlife Fund, or you may even see small local organizations in your community.

Also, pay attention if there are book sales or restaurant nights. A lot of local restaurants will work with local non-profits to host a restaurant night, where patrons can eat delicious food while a certain percentage goes to the charity hosting the event. Local libraries or book stores may host book drives, giving books to local organizations as well! It’s a win-win for everyone when you get to shop or eat delicious food while simultaneously, and effortlessly, giving back to your community!

Organize a Local Charity Event
This can be on a large or small scale! You can organize a food drive/fund drive at your workplace. Organizing a garage sale? Donate the proceeds in honor of a charity of your choosing. Not only will you be raising funds or goods, but you will also be raising awareness to the public who will most likely ask for more information and possibly get involved in the long run themselves!

Volunteer Your Time
If you have time that you would love to give to your community, volunteering is always an option. Different organizations have different opportunities! You can always find the right fit for you.
Think about organizing a community give back week at your workplace or a volunteer day. Not only will you be giving back to the community, but also help your office morale. Studies have shown that up to 89 percent of employees think that organizations and businesses that offer these types of programs provide a better work environment.

Also, think about your individual time. You can give based on the needs of the organization at which you’re volunteering, i.e. organizing a donation closet or answering phones at a call center. Or you can donate time-based on your skills. You may be an excellent grant writer who can assist in writing grants for an organization, or you could have photography skills that can come in handy with marketing the efforts of the organization. Any time you give, no matter what you’re doing, is going to always be very appreciated.

Donations
Donations are always welcome! You can give monetary donations, whether or not that’s a monthly pledge or a one-time donation. All funds are welcomed! Here at RISE, just $25 covers a group of counseling sessions for parents and children, purchases 4 new, non-English educational books for a low-income family, purchases a week’s worth of diapers for new parents, supplies a nutritious meal for 4 children whose family is without shelter, provides a family with a baby safety gate, and provides an hour of mentoring. Maybe you don’t have that much to give to your charity. Think giving only a dollar is not good enough? Not so fast! Here in Madison, at the Second Harvest Food Bank here in Madison, Wisconsin, donating just one dollar can provide up to three meals. Three! No matter how small or large you can donate out-of-pocket, your donation matters.

You can also donate in-kind donations! Whether that is raising money at your workplace to purchase gas cards, gift cards, or grocery cards. Or if you decide to donate those baby clothes and strollers hanging out in the basement, in-kind donations go a long way. Check out for wishlist items on your charity’s website of the most needed items.

Finally, you can also give through planned giving. Maybe you want to donate a set amount of your estate to a local charity. You can contact the charity/organization to ask how you can set up this type of giving, and you can leave a path of giving in your name.

Try these different ways to give back and see how much your small action can turn into a huge movement in your community. For questions on how to get involved with RISE as a volunteer or for donations, please contact us at volunteer@RISEwisconsin.org or visit: http://risewisconsin.org/get-involved/volunteer

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