Edwards School of Business professor Dr. Chelsea Willness (PhD).

Giving back comes in all shapes and ages

Giving back is something that most people are drawn to do, according to Edwards School of Business professor, Dr. Chelsea Willness (PhD). But, like many things that are good for you, altruism can be pushed to the bottom of our priority list because of competing demands for our time and resources.

“There's no right or wrong way to give,” said Willness. “I think it’s what’s feasible for people in the life phase or circumstances that they're in.”

Willness researches corporate social responsibility (CSR) and says that days like the University of Saskatchewan’s March 6 annual day of giving, One Day for Students, are a helpful reminder to take a moment to give back.

“Research findings show that employees are a lot more engaged in the corporate social responsibility programs of their own company when they have more contact with the intended beneficiaries and when they get to take action and be part of it,” said Willness. “We see students every day, and if we're supporting student initiatives, I mean it's really, really salient for everybody in the institution.”

If you’re interested in giving back, but need some inspiration, three USask community members compiled their top giving-back ideas.

Looking to make a donation? Every gift matters

Anu Kashyap is the Associate Director of Annual Giving at the university. She says USask and other not-for-profits are flexible and accommodating when accepting your hard-earned funds, so give in the way that’s best for you. Some ways you can make your gift to celebrate One Day for Students are:

Support the Nasser Family Emergency Student Trust on March 6, 2019. Make a gift online at give.usask.ca/oneday and support USask students who find themselves facing unexpected financial hardships. Be it flying home for a funeral, delays or sudden loss of funding, alternative living arrangements after fires, or personal medical emergencies, this fund has been supporting students for the last five academic school years, so they can continue their studies and not let life’s challenges derail their progress on their goals. Plus, donations will be matched by the Nasser Family on March 6, ensuring your gift goes twice as far.

Set up a regular, monthly donation. Set it and forget it! Call University Relations at 306-966-5186 to get started with a pre-authorized donation each month (starting on One Day for Students!) and feel good about your commitment. No gifts are too small to make a difference, and your consistent gift provides huge benefits to USask students.

Ask your employer to match your gift. If you work off-campus, you may be able to double or even triple the amount of your gift, having a greater impact on students and the university as a whole. Look up your company name on the alumni FAQ page, under “Can my employer match my gift?” to see if your employer matches employee donations to non-profit and charitable organizations.

Canadahelps.org is another great resource. Every Canadian charity is listed, and it is easy to make donations through it.

Have spare time to give?

Roberta Braid is a career coach at the Student Employment and Career Centre and says there are many ways to give back that don’t involve money.

If you are a USask student, look for volunteer opportunities in CareerLink. USask students can use CareerLink to search for on and off-campus volunteer opportunities, and subscribe to have new postings emailed to them.

Check out the feed in PAWS. Many groups on campus post PAWS bulletins when looking for volunteers.

Check out the Saskatoon charities and non-profits listings and contact organizations you want to learn more about or feel drawn to support. Whether you are interested in humanitarian work, environmental/global issues or animal welfare (to list just a few) there’s a diverse selection to choose from.

Spend some time going through your household items to see what could be donated. Most charities will have donation lists on their websites listing items they accept and/or are in high demand. A few such organizations are the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre, The Friendship Inn, Community Living, and Saskatoon MCC Thrift Shop.

Share your talents with others. We all have unique gifts that we may dismiss as ordinary, forgetting their true value. Spend time reflecting on your talents and who amongst your peers, family, friends and community could benefit from this knowledge sharing.

Always lead with compassion. It costs nothing, yet the benefits to ourselves, others, community and beyond is the gift that supersedes us as individuals serving the greatest good of all.

Encouraging a community-minded kid?

Kayla Madder is the co-ordinator of Parents on Campus, a group focused on providing support, advocacy and events for USask families. She says once the children in your life find a cause that is important to them, there are likely many different ways they can donate their time to give back.

Be a role model. Give back to your community, and have conversations with the children in your life about why it’s important. If you volunteer in person, and it’s age-appropriate and possible to bring them with you, that would be great exposure for them to see what volunteering is all about.

Participate in a fun run as a family. Many organizations hold family-friendly/family-oriented fun runs in the summer months to raise money. Have a conversation about what the organization does to help other people in your community, and then help your kids fundraise for the event.

As far as donating money is concerned, many children are now donating part or all of their birthday money to a charity of their choosing. “Fiver” birthday parties are becoming more and more trendy, where guests are asked to give the birthday girl or boy $5 instead of a present. Half the money can go toward a birthday present and half to a local charitable organization. This is a great way to give back, so long as you’re having the important conversations with your kids about why it’s important, what these organizations do to help people, and if possible, talking to them about or showing them how their donation could be helping in a tangible way.

If donating items is a possibility, and children have Marie Kondo’d their gently-used toys and books, many local charities will accept these items. The Parents on Campus group holds an annual Toy Drive (typically in January, but we accept donations anytime) to help stock the family-friendly spaces on campus with toys and books. We also hold at least one Family Item Swap each year, where families can bring their outgrown clothing, toys, and books, and pick up a few items too.

There are many ways for kids to donate their time in giving back to their community, at really any age:

  • bringing them along (if possible) to your volunteering commitments
  • as they get older, they can shovel/rake leaves for their neighbours or the elderly in the community
  • if you have an animal lover in the family, you could go with them and donate your time walking dogs at the SPCA
  • start yearly or monthly family traditions around giving