Seattle’s biggest needs and what you can do about them

There’s no textbook for giving back to Seattle. It can be tricky to know what makes an impact when you’re the fastest growing major city of the decade. Plus, giving can look different depending on who you are, what you care about, and what you have to give.

So how were we going to build the Evergrey Giving Guide for you? By building it with you.

Since August, we’ve had lots of conversations with you in our daily newsletter and on social media about what motivates giving in Seattle and how giving back makes a difference. Let’s review…

What are Seattle’s biggest needs?

Before we could unpack how we can all be most helpful, we needed to get a good sense about where Seattle needs the most help. Dozens of you sent us your takes on what you most want to see improve in Seattle and why (check out your text responses and the voicemails you left to elaborate).

One need stood out to you: Our region’s struggle with homelessness. The other issues you want to solve for included boosting equity and opportunity, helping the environment, and strengthening our commitment to the common good. At the United Way Night Out for Caring in September, you wrote out our city’s needs around transportation, education, civic discourse, and more.

“I lived on 15th for a long time, and seeing homeless folks was an everyday occurrence. It felt awful to have no good way, beyond buying Real Change, to help folks. I’ve read mixed reports on whether to give people money directly, and giving to an organization doesn’t feel like enough.” — Colleen

How do we give our time?

When it comes to helping our neighbors, we don’t mess around. Almost 900,000 locals around Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue take some time to give back. We asked you to tell us about your last great volunteer opportunity and you sent back some gems via the newsletter and on Facebook, like mentoring with Community for Youth or packing food with Northwest Harvest.

But you didn’t just want to talk about volunteering. You wanted to roll up your sleeves and do some good. So when reader Caroline Millet told us how awesome it was to build tiny homes for our homeless neighbors with the Low Income Housing Institute, more than 20 of you joined us on a field trip to help build a new tiny village in South Lake Union. (Check out the pics on Facebook and the clips on Instagram.) And when several of you shouted out opportunities at FareStart, another 20+ of you joined us for two field trips to serve job trainees at their November Community Dinner (see the pics on Instagram) and pack Thanksgiving meals for Seattle shelters.

Then we got creative. Inspired by #bekindday and reader Zachary Cohn, we invited you to create “guerrilla compliments” with us — short, anonymous notes that we jotted on index cards and hid them around the city. Readers Tara Clark and Xanna Vegsundvaag jumped in, and we got to work.

“I’ve seen people go and proudly show off a house when we’re just got done laying the tile and say, ‘This is gonna be my house! I’m going to live here!’” — Caroline Millet

In the guide: Check out our step-by-step guide to inviting friends to volunteer with you in Seattle, and how to make your own guerrilla compliments.

How do we give our money?

Seattle is pretty dang pricey these days, so a lot of us have to see to our own needs before we can turn to our neighbors. As we know from watching our city struggle with things like a lack of affordable housing and record income inequality, money — and where it moves — can really matter. So we asked you: What’s the last time you gave money charitably to support something local, and why?

Your responses made one thing clear: You’re thinking hard about not just where you can give, but how. Reader Kristen Corning Bedford created a “giving circle” to help maximize impact among her neighbors. Anna Goren supports a small urban orchard that can help nourish people. And when Natalie Singer-Velush was low on funds to donate, she made it a point to support local businesses.

We also had debated a fascinating question about Paul Allen, the billionaire Microsoft cofounder who gave to all kinds of causes here and elsewhere: What do our wealthy neighbors owe our city? Here’s the Facebook thread, and the newsletter where we shared back some of your most illuminating responses.

“As a local Seattle real estate agent, I’ve played a role in the rise of unaffordability and have financially benefited from this rising economy. … I feel it’s only right and just to contribute to those who can’t afford to live here and who have found themselves homeless. I’ve chosen to partner with the local tech-focused nonprofit, Samaritan, by donating 5% of my profits from every home sold. … If we as a community don’t individually respond to this crisis, we will lose what makes Seattle unique, progressive and accepting. But if we do choose to step into owning our part of this issue, we will be a North Star of community to the rest of the world.” — Tyler Davis Jones

In the guide: Check out our guide to giving big by giving small in Seattle, and preview our upcoming Seattle giving audit.

Who’s making an impact?

Impact does not follow a blueprint. The difference we make changes as the city changes and we learn more about what we need. So we invited you to help us take a snapshot: Who are the organizations you see making a real difference out there — big or small — and who are the people who make a difference not in “Big Important Things” but in our daily lives?

In the guide: Your shoutouts to your neighbors poured in. Check out the props to everyone from a garbage truck driver and a dentist to a barista and a Trader Joe’s receptionist.

“To our local garbage truck driver Joe, who always looks up and waves as my two daughters (3 and 1) enthusiastically shout for his attention while he hustles about his job. And double thanks for last Thursday when he went back to his truck, returned with three temporary “tattoos,” and left them for my three-year-old to joyfully apply to her legs… where they remained for nearly a week.” — Brian Stout


Big thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which made this project possible. For more stories and resources to help you give like you live here, check out the other posts in our Evergrey Giving Guide