Difference Making at the Heart of Giving

Difference Making at the Heart of Giving

This has been a year like none other. One that has caused us to double down on our commitments, recognize more fully what matters and participate in our communities in new and lasting ways. As we enter the holiday season we think it is important to remember a few key frames of reference to truly spread the spirit of difference making

Buy BIPOC. We have run the gamut of hope and despair this year with regards to civil rights movements. It is more important than ever to make the extra effort to support communities of color. Here are some extraordinary Black-Owned bookstores, and here’s another list of BIPOC owned businesses.

Buy local. COVID-19 has created immense challenges for local small businesses across the globe. This year, they will need our support to bounce back and thrive into 2021. Do some research on your community through neighborhood platforms like Facebook or NextDoor to figure out what local businesses are nearby, helping your community to thrive behind the scenes. 

Buy sustainable. Climate change is simply another pandemic, one that we must collaborate to face head-on. This year let’s put an emphasis on sustainable products that are built responsibly… and maybe even use recyclable wrapping paper?

Here are just a few gift ideas that we believe encourage contribution and ultimately work to make our world a better one for all. 


Difference Making at the Heart of Learning: An obligatory plug for the root of our contribution focus, the new book by Tom Vander Ark and Dr. Emily Liebtag is full of great examples of schools, organizations and communities empowering learners to contribute to their communities and seek to make a difference in the world. Buy it here and use code SELNOW to get 30% off. Pro tip: if you need to mail your copy to a friend or loved one, send via “media mail” to save on shipping!


Museum Membership: Oftentimes museums are the lifesource of a city. Unfortunately, this year has made finances tight for countless institutions. According to NPR, ⅓ of museums may not survive the year and even more are implementing mass lay-offs. These are essential businesses to the soul of the world — let’s help keep them afloat through a simple one-time donation or an annual membership. 

Community Garden: Check out local community gardens and buy someone a plot for the coming Spring. These cooperatives have outstanding resources for novice and seasoned gardeners!

Libraries: Local libraries are an absolute treasure. These institutions are gatekeepers of knowledge, collaboration and, as learning continues to evolve, perhaps even creation as well (many are creating podcasting/recording studios, makerspaces, etc.). Consider contributing to your local library through book donations, financial support or even volunteering your time.

Theatre: Few industries were hit as hard as the theatre business this year. Small venues in both stage and film shuttered their windows and doors and waited for good news. While that time isn’t here yet, we can still help keep the spotlights on by signing up for a membership or simply donating time and/or money to restorations or promotion. 

Zoo: Due to the semi-outdoor nature of zoos, they have been uniquely up-and-down throughout the pandemic dependent upon case quantity and location. Even though in many cities we can’t go right now, we can still support those who bring smiles and wonder to our faces. Consider supporting your local zoo! 

Charitable Donations

Givewell.org: It can be a challenge to know where your money is going when you are donating. This website makes it easy to choose based on impact and cause by using a robust database of charity performance. Give in the name of a loved one or encourage those around you to contribute to local charities this year. 

DonorsChoose.org: As a company that focuses on innovations in learning, we firmly believe in keeping the learning going. With this website, you can support teachers and schools by donating supplies to help fuel their learning experiences. 


Patreon: Since it’s the giving season, it’s time to give a little love to the *pay optional* content that gives you life every day. Whether that be a podcast host or a writer, many of these free content creators have a Patreon (or other platform equivalents) where you can support them in their creative endeavors. Make a difference in their lives by thanking them for the difference they make in yours. 

Causebox: “Send a box of socially-conscious products straight to their door each season with a Causebox subscription. Each box is packed with a curated assortment of six to eight products, ranging from skincare must-haves to leather goods — all of which are fairly, ethically, and sustainably-made.”

Mindfulness Apps: Give someone the gift of inner-peace by subscribing them to one of many mindfulness apps. Whether it be Headspace, Waking Up or Calm — this gift is sure to continue giving day after day. 

It’s never been easier or more important to make a difference. Let’s take this year’s giving season as a call to find and inspire purpose in ourselves and those around us as we work to create more loving and thoughtful communities, and ultimately a more sustainable world. If you have additional ideas for gifts that could inspire difference making or contribution, drop them in the comments below, or please email your ideas to [email protected].

For more, see:

  1. Difference Making Page
  2. Tom Vander Ark on Difference Making and Schools Alive with Possibility

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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