How to give your time to Seattle and make a unique impact

This is the second part of a series we’re calling our Evergrey Giving Audit, which connected readers with three local giving prosFrank Nam of the Seattle Foundation, Burke Stansbury of Social Justice Fund Northwest, and Ben Reuler of Seattle Works. Read Part 1 here.

Reader Naya Owusu, 26, moved to Seattle from Kansas City, Mo. in 2017 to complete a residency for a master’s degree in audiology. She graduated in May with student loan debt and recently began working part-time in the health care industry, making about $30,000 annually.

“I’d love to participate in activities that allow me to get to know my community outside of the typical young adult social interactions [like] going out dancing or checking out breweries,” she told us. “[Volunteering] is a fun way to hang out with and meet other people. You don’t always have to go out to dinner.”

Two weeks after she met with Ben, Burke, and Frank, Naya has formed a roadmap to help guide her decisions about giving back to Seattle:

Issues of interest: Housing and homelessness, equity, youth education, and food insecurity

Budgets:

  • Available to volunteer between 10 and 20 hours per month
  • Currently able to donate about $100 annually


Naya
’s goals:

  • Make a donation with impact. Naya sometimes worries that her small donations could be “going into a black hole” or to a poorly-managed fund. “I’d love to give back in a way that creates a tangible difference in the individuals in the Seattle area,” she said.
  • Giving back meaningfully. “Anyone can give money to a project, but they might never understand the struggle of these other people,” Naya said. “For me personally, I think it’s really important to [volunteer] because sometimes that can be more costly than giving money.”
  • Going deeper as a volunteer. Naya says it’s easy to sign up for a one-off volunteer gig online, but she wants to do more — like organizing other volunteers and helping orgs with behind-the-scenes tasks.


Naya
’s three key takeaways from her giving audit:

  • Giving small is powerful. “It’s not like I have to give $5,000 for it to be helpful,” Naya says she learned after speaking with our experts. Pro-tip from Burke: “I don’t think giving should be the exclusive domain of wealthy or high-earning people. … $5 or $10 a month, that can be really transformative. Those sustainers are the lifeblood of organizations.”
  • Volunteering has many faces. And there’s a bunch of opportunities out there, including ones outside traditional nonprofits, like volunteering to help a school sports team. Pro-tip from Frank: “Coaching is one of those things that people don’t think of as volunteering. … Yes, [you talk about the sport], but you’re also talking to them about school and family. You learn so much about the struggles of young people.”
  • Joining a board gives you a different experience. When volunteering, “I like to be pretty hands-on,” Naya said.  Pro-tip from Ben: “Board members are the unsung volunteer heroes of our community. … You’d have a lot skin in the game and it’s a great way to help in a meaningful way.” You don’t have to to be wealthy to be part of one, just dedicated, Ben said. 


What’s next for Naya?

During our interviews, Naya said joining a nonprofit board is something she’d be interested in, but she wasn’t sure where to start. Now she’s gearing up to join Seattle Works’ board training program in March to see if it’s a good fit.

“I want to be more involved in the process of outreach, programming, and marketing,” she said. “[Joining a board] would allow me to do something more long-term instead of volunteering once or twice a month.”

In the meantime, Naya said she’s doing her research to find ways to get involved with Seattle orgs working with kids on nutrition and environmental issues through working with orgs like FEEST and Got Green’s Food Access Team.

“I want to find an organization I can support through small monthly donations, and I plan to share what I’ve learned with my partner and friends so we can get involved together,” she told us.

Thanks to Naya, Frank, Ben, and Burke for being part of our giving audit experiment. We’ll update more from our auditees as we hear more about their plans. Thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for making our Evergrey Giving Guide possible. Check out the rest of our Giving Guide here.