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Small can be BIG – Opinion piece by : Kelsey Warner – #SWSCmedia #SWweek Series #GASWSC #WSWDay #UNSWDay


How small donations are having a big impact, one family at a time

Ms. M was busy raising two daughters on her own when she realized she was heading for a dead end. The problem was, with little savings and her eldest suffering from a serious heart condition, she had no idea how to turn things around. But she knew what she wanted for her family.

After numerous positive interactions with Emergency Medical Personnel who came to save the day (or, more accurately, her daughter’s life), Ms. M had got to thinking: This was something she could do, something she might even be good at. Cool under pressure, with experience helping her daughter in medical distress, Ms. M felt becoming an EMT could be the next step toward a better life for her family.

I recently called Ms. M to see how she was doing. Around 30 people had joined together to give her the $800 she needed for EMT certification, a collection taken up by SmallCanBeBig, the online charity I am privileged to operate. When Ms. M was referred to us by one of our partner charities, I remember thinking, ‘Nancy’s done it again!’ Nancy is a case manager at Project Hope, a champion of aspiration and a true asset to SCBB. She has a knack for referring families who are having a tough time but are poised for bigger things. If only they could catch a break.

SmallCanBeBig is in the happy position of providing just that: a break. When times are tough it is our belief that people can and will join together to help one another out. We have seen it happen more than 250 times since our start in 2009.

We rely on our social services partners to identify cases where one-time monetary aid will make the difference for a family that lives on the edge. We provide funding to families facing medical emergencies, victims of domestic abuse who are starting a new life, parents who need better jobs to provide better futures for their children. Utility bills, used cars, job trainings, a security deposit for a new home and a fresh start, the list could go on.

But back to Ms. M and our mission to help her and her family. To say that she was grateful to those 30 strangers would be an understatement. She was ecstatic about this new opportunity. ‘I was doing everything for everybody,’ she said to me, ‘but I didn’t know where I came in. Now I have relevance.’ When we hung up the phone, she was getting dinner on the table, then it was off to class. I could only sit in silence for a few moments to reflect on the impact our small organization is having on individuals.

“Philanthropy is no longer the preserve of wealthy individuals and foundations,” writes Sarah Murray for the Financial Times. It “is increasingly being taken up by large numbers of young people wanting to give small amounts of money and track how their donations are used.” At SCBB we take those wishes seriously, providing our donor base with the opportunity to see exactly where their money is going and ensuring that 100% of every penny raised online goes directly to the family of their own choosing.

Increasingly, we find ourselves in communities where one click of the “Like” button, one “Share” request or retweet are the virtual equivalent of holding hands. It’s how we are able to reach across borders and stand together on opposite sides of the world. It is also a way to have lasting impact on another individual’s life.

For Ms. M it was a better career to provide for her family and increase her self-worth. To her, these were not small acts of kindness at all. They were big. They meant, ‘You can do it.’ ‘I’m here for you,’ ‘I believe in you.’ It may seem like small money, but to Ms. M and her two daughters, it makes all the difference in the world.

Join us on World Social Work Day (Tuesday, 20-March-2012) at 8:00 PM GMT / 4:00 PM EDT to discuss and explore the “Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development” in a rich and lively Twitter Debate @SWSCmedia.

Kelsey Warner (@SmallCanBeBig), Executive Director at SmallCanBeBig and a charity of one.

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