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Five Ways to Make a Difference in 2014 — Even If You Aren’t Bill Gates

Dec 27, 2013

When we think of people who are making the world a better place, well-known philanthropists and celebrities like Bill Gates, Oprah, Steven Spielberg and Bono may come to mind. With all the media coverage they receive, it’s no wonder we immediately associate them with people who are impacting the world. And, yes, while they are influential, it’s ordinary people who, collectively, can have the biggest influence.

In her book, Give a Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World, Wendy Smith points out that, together, ordinary Americans gave a total of $229 billion in 2008. That’s 82 times the amount the Bill Gates Foundation gave that year.

Kiwanis International also is another example of the impact that can be made when people come together for a common cause. Today, millions of children in developing countries are living free of iodine deficiency disorder through Kiwanis’ campaign to tackle that disease. UNICEF called it one of the greatest public health victories in the 20th century.

Now that 2014 is upon us, it’s the perfect time to recommit to impacting the world as a member of Kiwanis. Here are five inspiring ideas to get you started.

1. Do your research. Take some time to study the charitable efforts you’d like to support. If it’s The Eliminate Project, research the deadly effects of maternal and neonatal tetanus. Find out more about the people who live in developing countries and the healthcare challenges they face. The more you understand the need, the more you’ll be committed to your mission. 

2. Put things in perspective. When you simply write out a check for US$10, US$20 or even US$100, it may be hard to understand how you’re making a difference. Take time to reflect on the impact your dollars can make in other countries. For example, a mere US$1.80 in U.S. dollars can actually save the life of a baby in parts of Africa through The Eliminate Project. That’s right. By giving up a fast-food burger or a Starbucks latte, you can save a baby’s life.

3. Take small steps; not leaps. You may be moved to donate US$500 to a cause, which is great. However, if you don’t have those funds readily available, sign up for online credit card installments. You’re more likely to follow through if you can make smaller, consistent donations to reach your goal.  

4. Encourage others to give. Consider asking others to match the amount you give, whether it’s your employer or friends and relatives. For example, if you donate $20 each month to a charity, think of how your efforts can be multiplied by asking 10 co-workers to match that amount. Your $20 monthly donation can generate $2,400 instead of $240.

5. Make a plan. We’re all busy. And after the New Year celebrations come to an end, our resolutions can fade in the midst of our day-to-day routines. Take the time to develop a strategy for reaching your charitable giving goals. It may include planning a fundraiser or saving money by giving up sweets and fast food.

Do you have any other ideas on how to make a big difference with charitable giving in 2014? Share them with us