“The mountains are calling and I must go.” ~John Muir
Summer is here—the days of longing for trail time and adventure have finally arrived.
I’ve had my summer planned for months. As a trail runner, I sign up for races months in advance and then wait (and train) in anticipation. This year, my itinerary includes two races out of my home state of Oregon, as well as a trip to Colorado for a running and yoga retreat. For every race or adventure, I donate to a nonprofit organization. But more on that later.
When I have a trip, I start packing weeks in advance; mostly from the excitement, but more often because I’m one of those planner types. I dust off my suitcase and start putting clothes and gear that has been hibernating during winter into a pile and take inventory. Usually, I don’t need anything.
Last year on a job application I had to describe myself. It was one of those cool Portland companies, so I knew general platitudes about my background and experience wouldn’t cut it. So, I rambled on for a bit and then shared the best job ever (besides X position at X company) would be a professional philanthropist. I professed I couldn’t think of anything better than giving away my money to those in need and organizations making the world a better place. I thought it made a powerful statement about who I am, my values, and what I care about (I didn’t get the job or an interview).
Since I’m far from realizing my dream as a professional philanthropist, I came up with Plan B—Small Change—an initiative to donate money to nonprofit organizations in the cities we visit for races and adventures. It’s a way to combine my love for running and adventure travel with giving back.
The concept is designed to create a movement of philanthropy—open to all adventurers. The idea is small change, be it $5, 15, or more adds up to big impact for organizations who take on issues we’re passionate about, be it environmental conservation, animal rights, or food recovery and assistance, among others. My first Small Change donation of $25 supported Push to the Finish as part of running Speedgoat 50K.
Here’s how Small Change works:
• Identify a nonprofit organization in your destination city, region, or state
• Donate a few dollars directly to the organization
• Fill out the short form on my website, adventuresinthumbholes, to share your donation story
Your donation story is repurposed into blog posts and social media stories, giving your nonprofit of choice added publicity. Many nonprofits, particularly smaller ones, struggle for awareness, and Small Change helps close the gap.
However, since starting Small Change nearly two years ago, I’ve found it could benefit from a little awareness. As I reflect on my journey of starting something of significance, I realize it’s analogous to running a tough race—it isn’t always easy, but with perseverance comes reward. And now my little initiative is gaining traction, but the reward I’ve been seeking isn’t for me, but rather the nonprofit organizations, the beneficiaries of adventurers near and far.
To date, over 40 organizations have benefited from Small Change and combined have received a total of over $4,200. I’m proud of what’s been raised and am grateful to those who have embraced the initiative. I’ve learned about organizations that are changing lives, empowering our neighbors, and making our communities stronger.
So, before you hit the dirt, splash through a stream, marvel at a mountaintop, or whatever adventure awaits you, I encourage you to join the movement of philanthropy and make a Small Change donation to a nonprofit in your next destination city.
As women of adventure, we care about the outdoors and our communities—together, our Small Change can add up to Big impact.
Erin Fitzgerald is a runner and philanthropist based in Oregon. Learn more about Small Change on her site.