Why I built Give with us: A Shopping-driven Donation Platform
It’s a simple story, really. Every month, I make a small amount of commission when people shop using my affiliate links (with brands you know and love from Instagram like Glossier and Mejuri). Last summer, it occurred to me that I could be doing something better with that money than spending it on a few extra lattes every month. In August, I announced (on Instagram, of course) that I planned to start donating 100% of the commission I made to a different organization every month. The first organization I donated to was Border Angels, a group dedicated to helping families at the border. I donated $18.34.
That may seem like a small amount—and some months, it was even smaller—but I’m proud of it, because it set in motion a tiny idea that grew into a big one. I’m proud because what started as me donating some of the extra cash I made from affiliate links turned into a platform that I hope will inspire others to do the same: Give with us.
A few months after I made my first donation, I had the idea to make a website where I could keep track of where I was donating every month and show people my progress and past donations. Up until then, I had been relying on Instagram and Twitter to update my followers when I made donations. As I started working on it, though—mocking up designs, then redesigning, then starting to actually build the thing, and then redesigning again—I realized that I wasn’t happy with my existing idea.
A website that kept track of my donations sounded like a fun side project for me, but why would anyone else be interested in that? Anyone who had been paying attention to my donations already knew what I was doing and where to find me. So what was the point? I needed to take a step back and actually think about why I was doing this, and what my goal was.
As you may have gathered by now, I’m the kind of person who loves to make new things. I like to have lots of little side projects going on at once, and I feel more alive than ever at the very beginning of a new project, jumping in headfirst without giving it too much thought. Even when I don’t finish something, the excitement of having a new idea and putting it in motion gives me all the satisfaction I need. But Give with us wasn’t about satisfaction, and it wasn’t about me—it was about how other people could use it.
I thought about the months I had spent donating my commission, and how I felt about it. I realized what some of my proudest moments during those months had been: when friends of mine reached out to say they loved what I was doing, when people suggested organizations to donate to that they were passionate about, and when I noticed other brand reps donating their commission, too. I realized that a website to keep track of donations wouldn’t matter if I was the only one using it—I had to find other people who wanted to join, so shoppers could connect with different people who were donating their commission from affiliate links to organizations they cared about.
Up until then, the website had been nameless. It wasn’t Give with us yet, because it was missing the most crucial part of the phrase: “us.” I pitched my idea to a few people I knew who I thought might be interested and added Natalie, lead counselor here at Camp Thirlby, to the website. Today, there are four of us, and I hope we will continue to grow.
My ultimate goal for Give with us is to encourage others to donate whatever they can, no matter how little, to organizations that they care about—whether it’s commission you make from affiliate links, a portion of the profits from your side hustle, or your extra pocket change at the end of the day. No amount is too small, and $5 is always better than $0.
Not everyone is in a position where they can afford to donate any extra money that comes in, but for those of us who can, it’s the least we can do. It would be easy for any of us to keep the commission we make for ourselves, but it feels so much better to see that money go to someone who really needs it. Whether you’re selling or buying products, you can choose to do good by helping us give back what we can.
We donated a collective $44.08 to various organizations our first month. I’m proud of Give with us, I’m proud of our small, growing group of donors, and I’m proud of the people who help us donate every month by making the choice to shop with us. I’m so excited to see what we’re able to do every month after this, together.
About the Author
Jillian Meehan (she/her) is the creator of Give with us. She likes making stuff on the internet.