This article was published in the First Nations Development Institute’s Indian Giver newsletter on 9/30/21.
This feature highlights the importance of our small-dollar donations to drive big change. Our collective dollars have helped native communities whose struggle has only been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
When COVID-19 hit last year, Jacob Stein quickly learned about the damaging effects of the pandemic throughout the country and especially on Native communities. Then, he discovered First Nations Development Institute and the opportunity to help people through the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. That’s when he reached out to First Nations and told us about his small-dollar approach to creating a big impact for nonprofits, while instilling a habit of philanthropy in young people like himself.
Jacob is a high school senior in Florida and the founder of Dollar Donations, an online giving platform that leverages the power of micro-donations to create large monetary gifts for select nonprofits. In doing so, it eliminates an unnecessary hurdle people like him may experience—having the desire to help, but believing they do not have enough money to make a “real” difference.
The Power of One
It’s a hurdle Jacob discovered when his sister was diagnosed with type one diabetes in 2017. Jacob wanted to support research to find a cure. But, being a young person with limited disposable income, he came across a roadblock: The requirement some organizations implement for minimum donation amounts.
He figured he wasn’t alone, and soon the idea for Dollar Donations took hold. Working with advisors from his local Boys and Girls Club, Jacob developed a business model, won seed money to start his business, and obtained his 501(C)(3) nonprofit status. He then launched a website and donation platform where anyone who wants to give can give.
Through the Dollar Donations site, supporters can learn about the work and missions of Dollar Donations’ philanthropic partners and contribute to the charity of their choice with as little as one dollar. Each dollar donation is then pooled with other contributions to create a larger collective donation, which is presented as one gift to the partner nonprofit organization.
At once, the donor is empowered to give, and the minimum donation requirement is far exceeded, resulting in great philanthropic impact.
Jacob explains that Dollar Donations charges no fees and 100% of the money raised goes to the nonprofit partner selected.
Investing in Native Communities and More
In starting his nonprofit organization, Jacob initially reached out to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, and then to World Central Kitchen and UNICEF. Since then, he’s connected with seven others, including First Nations. We are honored he did.
Jacob says he only seeks out nonprofit organizations that are upstanding, have a positive reputation with their donors, and are in line with the causes and missions he believes in.
And, Jacob’s small-gift platform is helping First Nations make a big impact for Native communities. To date, Dollar Donations has consolidated hundreds of gifts to make a generous investment in the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, a designated and ongoing fund to support efforts toward pandemic response and recovery, critical services and infrastructure, communications and technology, and generating operating costs.
As valuable as this support is, just as important is the message Jacob is sending to young people.
“Young people have the notion that they are not of the right age to make a difference,” Jacob says. “They think that since they do not have enough to make a large donation that their gift won’t be worth anything.”
But Jacob’s model shows that giving is more about the volume of donations and not the monetary value of each individual gift. It’s a shift in focus that makes people see that their donations – no matter the amount – do matter, Jacob says.
Creating New Habits
In addition to maximizing individual giving, Dollar Donations does something equally as powerful: It creates a mindset of giving and life-long habits of philanthropy. Jacob explains how philanthropic behavior starts early. But, for young people or for people who do not have a lot of disposable income, the thought of giving $25 or $50 or $100 can seem overwhelming. It makes the concept of philanthropy cost-prohibitive and unobtainable.
“On the other hand,” Jacob explains, “when they see that they can give with only one dollar – that there is value in their dollar – they feel more welcomed to give. They feel they are able to have an impact, even if the donation is small by some organizations’ standards.”
It’s validation that can make donors feel good, and good feelings often lead to repeat behavior. The result: A new generation of people who are inclined to give back and recognize the potential of collaboration and collective intentions.
Jacob says the first set of donations has been transferred to First Nations, and further gifts are being collected. He is looking forward to continuing support for the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund and shifting to other program areas based on areas of greatest need.
As far as the future, Jacob plans to keep Dollar Donations going beyond his senior year of high school and into college, where he may pursue an interest in economics. Until then, he spends a handful of hours a week managing the site, optimizing social media and Google, and vetting new nonprofit partners. “The work I do through Dollar Donations is rewarding beyond measure. I don’t know why I would ever stop doing it,” Jacob shared.
“The board and staff at First Nations appreciates Jacob’s work and commitment,” says Development Officer Jona Charette. “What inspires us too is the innovation of young people like Jacob and the potential they bring out in others,” she says. “It’s very much in line with our approach to Native communities, and we are honored to be aligned with Dollar Donations and Jacob’s vision of philanthropy. Every donation adds up, and every First Nations’ supporter matters.”
Thank you, Jacob!
And thank you, First Nation’s Development Institute for the important work you do for our native communities.
Please consider making a $1 (or more) donation today.