There are SO many psychological and physiological benefits  that are associated with generosity. I think ultimately, giving allows us to feel like we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves. And that’s a powerful feeling. 

Today, I have Andi Thieman, founder of Penny Loafer joining us to discuss why giving is important, what stands in the way of so many people actually being able to give, and how Penny Loafer helps make giving doable. 

Andi’s background spans the for profit, nonprofit and public sectors. Her career started in sales at tech startups in New York. After receiving her Masters in Social Work, she worked in nonprofit consulting and human services. Her focus has been in strategic planning, grant writing, and best practice research for nonprofits and public agencies. Andi holds a Bachelor’s degree in Community Development from Penn State University and a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a proud Pittsburgher, currently living in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Why is Giving so Important?

Andi: “I think there’s so many reasons, and it might be different for each person who’s giving but for me, the big thing is, it shifts the focus away from myself on to others. And I think that’s a really big benefit of our giving, that is it makes us feel part of something bigger than ourselves, whether that’s part of a community that’s giving or part of a solution to an issue that we care about. I think it’s it’s a simple way for us to see our beliefs and values put into meaningful action. It’s one thing to be like, “This is a big issue, I care about it,” it’s another thing to be taking action. And feeling part of the solution on that. There’s so much research around the psychological benefits, the physiological benefits, like there’s actually this warm, fuzzy feeling we get when we give, they call it the helper’s high. The act of generosity is actually releasing endorphins and oxytocin. So we’re feeling happier when we do it. It’s been linked with decreased depression…and all these benefits…increased longevity. So I think there’s real true benefits. But for me, the big thing is just shifting that focus away from myself and feeling part of something bigger.”

Common Barriers to Giving

According to Andi, time, choice overload, overwhelm, and unclear impact all factor into why someone chooses not to give.

Andi: “It’s the time that goes into it. We’re busy. We have jobs, school, kids, life, and so many things can get in the way of our giving and in our intentions to give. There’s all these studies that people intend to give a lot more than they actually end up giving… And it’s no different than, you know, “I want to go to the gym” or “I want to read more books.” We all have these intentions for ourselves. And this idea of what we want to do, it doesn’t always match up with what we end up doing.

So that was a big thing around Penny Loafer. Like how can I be proactive about this and set it up in a way that is not going to put me somewhere I shouldn’t be financially. I want to make sure I stay where I can within my budget. But I think…a lot of our giving is often reactive, like we saw with the pandemic and the racial justice movement. And when you see things like Ukraine, and there’s so many crises globally and here in the US. So a lot of our giving is often reactive. And I think that’s some of the pitfalls people can fall into, you know, it’s $50 here, $50 there, but at the end of the year, maybe you put yourself in a place you shouldn’t be financially.

So I think time is the big one. I think a paradox of choice. There’s 1.5 million nonprofits just in the US alone. So even if you have the time to sit down and figure out where you want to give. How do you start? Which, yes, there’s a healthy bit of skepticism when people are looking for money going to be used properly.

So all of those things, and I think it can be different for different people, everyone’s situations a little different. But I think all of those things add up for it to be a little overwhelming, especially to be doing it ongoing. So what I find is like, often giving is very reactive and disjointed. And so when we actually sit back and look, okay, where did I give this year? It’s, it’s all good causes, it feels good when you’re doing it. But how can we feel a little bit more strategic? I really care about this cause, how can I make sure my giving is aligned, and my budget is aligned with this cause that I care about and want to be donating?”

Can $5 Really Make a Difference?

Andi: “We need all of these people donating and and there’s so many different strategies that it’s going to take, there’s no silver bullet. So I think as far as enabling collective action, that’s a big thing I wanted to do with Penny Loafer. So that’s why I started the minimum donation at $5 a month, because I want those people to feel like, “Hey, it’s not just your $5.” Right? Each month, we’re donating hundreds of dollars to each of these nonprofits. And some of them are smaller nonprofits. You know, a couple 100 bucks donation actually goes pretty far for some of these organizations. So I think being part of collective impact is where that really comes in. And there’s so many ways to do that. Penny Loafer takes care of that research and combines your donation with others so that it is a couple100. And hopefully one day, a couple of 10s of 1000s, right? Each month that’s going to these nonprofits, but there’s even things like giving circles you could start with friends and family where you all put in 100 bucks or $50. And you do your own research on where you want to give. And so there’s a lot of ways to spark this collective impact and collective action. And I think when you feel like ‘I don’t have that much to give. Is it going to make a difference?’ That’s where I would start.

How Does Penny Loafer Work?

Andi: “We make it super simple: donors choose a cause (like mental health or climate change), and a monthly giving amount, then we take care of curating a whole giving strategy. Every month, all donations to a cause are combined and sent to a different, vetted charity. Donors learn along the way via our monthly newsletters.

PennyLoafer is solving many of the common barriers to giving: finding time, choice overload, feeling overwhelmed by issues and unclear impact. It’s designed for “everyday” donors, who may only have $5-$100/month to give and enables collective impact each month. Since launching in September 2021, PennyLoafer donors have donated over $15,000 to charities addressing climate change, mental health, quality education and racial justice. You can see the charities we’ve supported so far right here.”

If you have a heart for giving but your budget is really tight right now, I hope you can see that even $5 does in fact make a difference when you take into account collective action. I want to encourage you to visit Penny Loafer’s website and give what you can today!