How to Change the World with Your Business (or Your Paycheck)

HUGE news, friend. Almost couldn’t wait to share this one with you.

Today I’d like to share my best ideas on how to change the world with your business (or your paycheck/other income, if you don’t have a business).

Whether you choose to focus on a project in your community or across the globe, you can make a significant difference by choosing to give.

You see, when I started my business in April, I had a plan to donate 10% of my biz income to an amazing organization called Holden Uganda Foundation. It took $2,200 to build our first well back in February, so that meant I’d need to make $22,000 with my business to happily cut a check for well #2. I specifically remember thinking it would take, like, a YEAR to get there.

But God had other plans.

Instead of taking a year, it took two months.

For no earthly explanation, nearly 100 bright entrepreneurs were willing to take a gamble on lil ol’ me based on a few Facebook posts and sheer enthusiasm back in April and May. (Long before I had a Happy Clients page to prove I wasn’t “all sizzle and no steak,” as some say.)

Crazy, right?

I couldn’t believe it either. Having an unexpectedly huge launch to my business was thrilling enough, but the day I officially passed the $22k mark and sent the check to Snyder, Texas was surreal. It was June 11th, exactly three months after I came up with the IDEA for this business.

And so, as a result of the fun work I’ve shared with my dream clients over the past few months and the amazingly quick and hard work of the Holden Uganda team, this happened:

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The Okanya Well provides clean, safe water for nearly 1,200 people.

Instead of this:

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They have this:

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It’s crazytown.

And there are THOUSANDS of other villages who need wells just like this one.

I’m not sharing this to make you feel bad about what you have (or haven’t) given till now. I’m sharing this to say LOOK WHAT YOU CAN DO!!! To remind you that no matter what you’ve got, you’ve got enough to give. 

You see, even though I’ve got my sights set on sugar mama status, we’re not rolling in the dough over here. My husband’s enlisted in the military. At the time I’m writing this, I’ve got a few weeks left at my (dreamy) day job with the National Park Service, and I can’t even remember the last time I had a comma in my paycheck.

You don’t have to be making six (or seven) figures to have “enough” to give. YOU ALREADY HAVE ENOUGH.  (Tweet that!)

Whether it’s money, time, water, food, clothes, mentorship, companionship, or school supplies – you’ve got something to share.

And the world needs it.

Am I right, or am I right? Okay then. Let’s talk about how YOU can change the world with your business.

No. mo. excuses.

Step 1: Decide to give.

Easier than it sounds. After a lifetime of holding on, it can be tough to let go. To send instead of spend. But think about it: Do you really NEED more than what you have? No.

Make the choice to share what you’ve got with people who need help. It could be time, money, services, food, clothes, shelter, supplies, mentorship – there are SO many possibilities.

For the rest of these steps, I’m going to assume we’re talking about giving money.

Step 2: Decide how much to give.

What are you comfortable with?

At first I said “5 or 10%.” After I said that a few times, I realized I felt cheap when I said five. I knew that meant I needed to hurry up and (publicly) commit 10 percent, even though it was kinda scary.

Truth is, even though we’re not gazillionaires, we don’t NEED this money. We live within our means (which is amazingly uncommon these days). We’ve got more than enough to live a life we’re happy with. Everything else is frosting on the cake. (And we all know frosting’s the best part of the cake.)

Why not share it?

Do a gut check percentage and stretch a little bit. Give more than is comfortable. (Definitely give more than you give to PayPal.)

It will come back to you in ways you can’t imagine :)

Step 3: Decide where to give.

This can be the sticking point. Don’t let this keep you in a holding pattern!!

Do some research. Ask your friends and family. Check sites like CharityNavigator to get the scoop. (Although there are great organizations like HUF that aren’t listed there yet!)

Choose a responsible organization that practices good stewardship – careful and responsible management of its resources (like your money!).

When we were deciding whether to donate my Jeep or sell it directly and donate the funds, I decided to sell it privately. I knew we’d get more for it if I crafted a juicy Craigslist ad, and that’s exactly what happened. (Full asking price. No negotiations needed.)

Once we made that choice to sell it ourselves (to maximize the donation), I carefully considered our options. Holden Uganda stood out because a) the founders are family friends, and b) I knew EVERY cent would go to the well, and quickly.

That “no-red-tape” factor was HUGELY important to me then, and it will be hugely important when I choose more non-profits to partner with in the future.

The point is: Pick a reputable organization (or a few) that you can get excited about, and move forward.

Step 4: Work your booty off.

“The best way to help the poor is to not become one of them.” – Lang Hancock

Controversial quote, perhaps, but do you see the message behind it?

GET BUSY! Work. Work hard. Earn more money so that you can give more away. (And don’t feel badly about keeping some for yourself – you’ve got one beautiful life to enjoy, after all!)

Be inspired by the fact that your hard work is doing a lot more than paying for your food, your house, your car, your wardrobe, and your cell phone bill.

It’s changing the lives of people who completely depend on the hard work, heart, and soul of generous people like YOU.

How’s that for motivation on Monday morning? :)

Step 5: Do the giving.

Figure out how often you’d like to give, and what makes the most sense for the organization(s) you partner with.

Little things matter. For example, I mail the checks directly to Holden Uganda so that not a cent is wasted on a wire transfer or credit card fee.

I will send my checks just as soon as each well is funded, because this is literally a life-and-death emergency. Fresh water is an immediate need for these folks.

You may choose to give quarterly. Annually. Whatev. Just pick a plan and stick to it.

No backin’ out.

Step 6: Repeat.

I’ve got a hunch that once you start, you won’t be able to stop.

You may switch organizations, you may switch how you raise funds or even the amount you give, but you won’t be able to stop giving.

What’s addicting is that feeling of connection. For me it’s the idea that people allll the way across the planet are able to enjoy SAFE water because of work we’ve done allll the way over here. This sounds cheeseball, but it’s like a tangible reminder of an intangible thread of humanity that strings us all together.

I used to be able to serve in more hands-on capacities – going on service trips at least once a year in high school and college. LOVED that.

Now that I’m in a different stage of life on a tiny island with a little one in tow, howev, it’s not as easy to get up and go and donate my time. Giving through my business is ONE way I can serve, rinse, and repeat. (And you can bet I’m gonna repeat.)

So what are you gonna do to change the world?

As a baby step, you can start by sharing this post using the cute buttons below. Who knows who you may inspire!?

Then, in the comments below, tell us:

What’s your favorite non-profit or cause to give to? How far will you stretch your giving this year?

Whatever you decide, just remember and trust: You have enough to give.

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LET’S TALK ABOUT IT.

  1. hjohnson11

    This is powerful stuff Nikki! I will commit to sketching out a plan for incorporate this into my infant business from the beginning. Thank you for the reminder that i already have enough to give!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Absolutely, HeatherLeigh! You’re going to do amazing things with your biz. No doubt in my mind :)

  2. Connie

    Love this! I’ve been playing around with incorporating a giveback program with my business for a while now. I’m thinking the Wounded Warrior Project, but still need to do some research. And then need to get some sales! Thanks for the encouragement!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      That’s a great idea, Connie!

      Next on my list will be an organization related to preserving the stories of WWII – the heart of what I’ve been doing with the National Park Service for the past three years. That way I can still stay connected, even with the new biz :)

      1. Connie

        That would be perfect for you Nikki…such an amazing generation of veterans.

    2. Teri Smart

      Connie I have a friend who is involved with the wounded warrior project, I could put you in touch if you like?

  3. Ryan Arnold

    Nikiki you’re a great example of taking action. Thanks for inspiration. I need to get the Pay it Forward part of my business going.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Thank YOU for the encouraging words, Ryan!

      Can’t wait to hear what you come up with. Please come back to share!

  4. Susan Seale

    Oh my goodness! You are such an inspiration:) Thank you for sharing.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Thank you for the thank you, Susan!

      Totally blessed and humbled to be able to give like this. So excited about what’s to come :)

  5. Denise Dare

    For sure we have enough to give…thank you for the uplifting reminder for us all!

    And, congrats on the well you (and your dream clients!) have already funded…just so RAD!

    Currently, we donate our funds to Greenpeace, IAVA, and SPCALA…feelin’ super excited to include some new organizations on our giving list.

    Thank you, again, Nikki, for the inspiration! :)

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      That’s a sweet variety you’ve got there, Denise! Amazing.

      Thanks for being part of well #3, coming up next :)

  6. Teri Smart

    Thank you Nikki, another wow reminder of why I’m here. I think giving back should be part of everyone’s “why” they are in business, and thanks to your kind and giving spirit, it is certainly being inserted at the top of my why list. Thanks for all you do in giving so much love!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Thanks for the note, Teri!

      When you plan to give from the beginning, it’s like that piece of the pie was never yours to keep in the first place :)

  7. Emma Lawrence

    Congratulations Nikki! What a big achievement both for your charity and your biz – you’re on fire lady! xx

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Thanks so much, Emma! This is all just crazy proof of what can happen when you just DO what you feel you were created to do :)

  8. Hannah Kallio

    Nikki, I was excited to read about your first well and it’s incredible how God has blessed you to be a blessing once again! The “why” behind my business is defending the fatherless, especially children who have been trafficked. That’s why freeing children from slavery is built into everything I do. You can read more about that here:
    http://hannahkallio.org/giving-back/
    I look forward to collaborating with you to inspire more entrepreneurs!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Absolutely, Hannah! Giving is contagious in the best kind of way.

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