“I wanted to channel my gratitude and newfound accountability into something good, while also teaching my children about the importance of giving back.” – Kristen Alexandrov
One of my core beliefs is that every kind gesture and effort to make a difference matters. Most people live their lives believing their $5 doesn’t amount to much, why bother?
But imagine if one hundred people decided to give that $5 anyway. When combined, your $5 becomes $500. And $500 can do a lot. When donated to Feeding America, that’s 5,500 meals provided to those who would otherwise go hungry. If given to Pencils of Promise, two students in Laos are given access to education. Invested with Kiva, $500 buys a stove for a woman, growing her business and allowing her to feed and clothe her family.
Kristen Alexandrov of givetwig is a kindred spirit who also believes in the exponential power of small gestures when giving back. She created givetwig as a place for people to give what they can and see how their contribution multiplies and change the lives of many different people.
As this week’s #WCW Spotlight, Kristen shares what inspired her to create givetwig.
Me: Where did the idea for givetwig come from?
Kristen: givetwig came from a personal desire to meaningfully contribute to the world around me. After having children, my perspective on social responsibility and personal accountability shifted – it was no longer just about me. I created givetwig to achieve personal goals of giving back and helping others, as well as to fill a void in the charitable giving environment and make it FUN and accessible to everyone.
I solidified the idea for givetwig late one night as I was preparing myself for my upcoming week. As I listed off all the mundane tasks I needed to complete, the phrase “this week I’m gonna” kept repeating in my head. That acronym – “TWIG” – was the spark for givetwig. And now it stands for much greater goals… instead of “this week I’m gonna go to the dentist,” it has become “this week I’m gonna help cure ALS,” and “this week I’m gonna help a child find a home.” My weeks are much more exciting now!
Me: For those who are new to givetwig, how does it work?
Kristen: When you sign up as a givetwig member, you commit to donate a small amount every week ($2, $5, $10… or whatever you are comfortable with!). givetwig links to your credit card or bank account for automatic recurring withdrawals so you can set it and forget it (and it’s easy to cancel anytime, of course). Every week, givetwig identifies a nonprofit organization that is doing some good and donates the collective weekly amount to them (everything is passed through at 100%). Members receive a profile on this organization by email every Monday morning – it’s a great way to start the week with a dose of inspiration and feel like you are doing your part.
Me: You made the conscious choice to focus on a different organization every week. Why was this important to you?
Kristen: givetwig is based on a concept of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. small, weekly donations being combined into one larger, impactful donation, and also giving to many organizations throughout the course of the year to influence as many areas of societal need as possible (with the overall feeling of good being huge!). There is something fun about contributing to a different cause each week and knowing at the end of the year that you have had a hand in so many morsels of good… givetwig dollars are scattered out each year to 52 different meaningful causes. (Like little tiny twigs!)
Me: In addition to featuring a different organization each week, you also make sure to choose organizations addressing a range of issues. How do you go about selecting each different non-profit partner?
Kristen: I am constantly compiling a list of potential organizations – I read about them, get recommendations from friends and givetwig members, and get referrals from current givetwig organizations. As I start to put together the calendar for the year and assign the 52 organizations, I look at 8 categories: animals, arts/environment/society, disability, education/youth development, health, human & civil rights, human services, and veterans/support our troops. I try to select a few organizations in each category and include at least one for each. All organizations that are selected go through a screening process that includes direct communication with the staff, review of financial documents, and collaboration on the organization profile.
Me: One of the things I love that you do is that you personally cover the credit card transaction fees, allowing the full donation to be made to the organization. What inspired you to take the extra step on top of all the work you are doing to raise awareness and funds for each worthy cause?
Kristen: givetwig was born out of a personal desire to give back in a meaningful and regular way. My family and I give to a few specific causes, but we had a desire to just help in general and do some good. So I created a platform to do that, and I view the time and dollars (including credit card fees) that I personally donate to the organization as my charitable contributions for the year.
I also thought it was very important to keep the weekly donations small, quick, and easy. So for now, I am covering all the fees (if we get large enough, that may not be possible anymore! But that will be a good problem!) I hope to start offering givetwig at a corporate level and intend to charge a fee for that, so in the future, the goal is to cover individual fees with corporate ones.
Me: Has giving back always been a major theme in your life? Or something that came about later in life?
Kristen: I wish I could say that I have always been extremely charitable. The truth is, having children is what changed my perspective on the world around me and how grateful I am that my family is lucky enough to have all that we do – our health, safety, clean water… all the things you take for granted until they are taken away. As I mentioned above, having kids also changed my view on personal responsibility and the societal role we all play; we are all in it together, and everyone wins when everyone contributes. I wanted to channel my gratitude and newfound accountability into something good, while also teaching my children about the importance of giving back. Better late than never, right?
Me: Why is it important for you to focus on weekly micro donations versus encouraging people to make larger donations?
Kristen: I believe the real magic of givetwig is the weekly dose of inspiration every Monday morning that you receive in the organization profile. There is something special about feeling connected to each cause (even in a small way) and knowing that you contributed. givetwig can accept larger one-time donations, but we encourage recurring weekly donations so that members will feel this connection to each organization.
Me: Each week, you not only feature an organization, you highlight a specific story or person who has benefitted from their services. If a givetwig supporter is inspired to give more, after reading and connecting with a specific story, are they able to make additional donations?
Kristen: Yes! And this has happened frequently. Right now, members can enter separate one-time donations through the website portal, but I am working on an easier way to do this in the future where people will be able to simply click a button within the profile and “boost” their weekly donation if they find the weekly organization to be particularly exciting. Stay tuned!
Me: What has been the most surprising part of your adventures through givetwig? What about the most inspiring part?
Kristen: The most surprising aspect of launching givetwig has been realizing that I am an entrepreneur, and therefore part of that unique community. Being a non-profit, I didn’t initially view myself this way, but the entrepreneurial community is extremely supportive of one another and welcoming. I regularly have people reaching out to me to share ideas, learn more about givetwig, or just say ‘congratulations’. I think there is an understanding among fellow start-ups that it takes a lot of support – both from friends and family and also from strangers – to get something up and running. It is humbling… and it has made me look back on times when I could have been more supportive of others around me that were also starting something new.
The most inspiring part of givetwig has been the privilege of sharing so many amazing stories in the profiles. Many times I take personal interviews and get to hear firsthand how these organizations are making a real difference. It never gets old.
Me: In addition to givetwig, you are also raising a family, both of which must keep you very busy. How do you keep motivated to stay dedicated to givetwig while also spending time with your family?
Kristen: As with any job or career, there are ups and downs. Even though I make no money doing this, I view every dollar that givetwig moves to another organization as my personal “salary.” And there is definitely a tradeoff of time between givetwig and family, but now that both of my kids are in school, I can more easily balance the two. givetwig is also a great teaching tool for my kids to learn about giving back, so it is also a way for us to spend meaningful time together.
Me: What is the one piece of advice you would want to share with someone who wants to follow in your footsteps of using their own unique talents and life experiences to give back?
Kristen: Try to find something that will interest and fulfill you, but also challenge you. Find a way to meaningfully contribute – sometimes donating time creating spreadsheets or perhaps putting together a video can be just as impactful to an organization as a monetary donation. If you have special skills, there will be someone out there who can use them – offer them up!