“Life isn’t about how much you can gain, it’s about how much you can give.” – Mat Emerzian

On December 2 I participated in TEDxSanDiego, where Mat Emerzian, co-founder of Every Monday Matters, spoke about the journey that led him to begin a life of giving and making a difference, one Monday at a time.

It was a period of high anxiety and work-life balance related stress that led him to begin volunteering on a weekly basis. Whether he was picking up cigarette butts or feeding the homeless, he began to find peace and purpose in this one day of helping others. He looked forward to this day each week, as he finally realized that he mattered. Every Monday Matters is a really cool organization, so check it out when you’re done reading this, and go buy his book of the same name.

Sometimes, when trying to remain resilient through tough times and overcome obstacles, it’s necessary to disconnect from our own problems and open our minds to a bigger picture for a minute. It helps me count my blessings. Whether giving for you means donating your time or if donating money to a charitable cause is what you can offer, at the end of the day, your donation matters. I have a ton of friends who have these goals this year so figured I’d write a post about it.

“Where do I find local charities that need my help?”

1. Find a charity related to something you’re passionate about.

It will simply be more joyful and rewarding. I’ve had Arthritis since I was two-years-old, so I do a lot of work with The Arthritis Foundation. I serve on two committees and am an Advocate. It’s exhausting, but I love the kids and the reward is greater than the work.

2. Don’t overcommit yourself.

Determine how much money and/or time you can give before making any commitments.
This seriously seems like a no-brainer but for those of us who want to do everything, it’s very easy to get caught up in giving so much that you don’t have any time left for yourself or other ventures. Figure it out before you offer and know that it’s okay to say “no”. Most organizations are happy to have any help at all, and they understand that they are leading a volunteer army.

3. Get your friends to join you.

If you keep missing brunch with the girls, can’t fathom a weekend off the golf course without the guys, or your partner is irritated because you don’t have enough free time for him/ her, ask them to join you. It’s a great way to get to know each other better and reconnect while helping a greater cause.

4. Be patient and understanding.

Most non-profit agencies have employees who are, like a lot of you, overworked and underpaid – extremely underpaid. There may be a lack of communication, or what seems like disorganization. Be patient and understanding and if you’re an expert at making your office look like you just pulled it from a Pinterest “Dream Office” board, maybe you can use your skills to benefit the organization in that area.

5. Connect and reconnect.

Volunteering is such an incredible opportunity to meet other like-minded people. If you find someone you want to stay in touch with, trade business cards, get their Twitter username or email address, and send a follow-up message when the event is over. I write on the back of every business card I receive where I met the person and something unique about them. How can I forget you when I read that we met in the elevator and you had a button missing from your shirt (bless your heart.)?

“No, Monet, I mean literally… how do I find the right nonprofit organization for me?”

1 – Social Media. Tweet. If you don’t have a Twitter account, get one and start searching. It is an incredible way to connect. I promise you, Twitter is not a fad. Just do it and you’re welcome.
2 – Reach out to people you know. No one ever hated getting an email that said “I’d like to help.”
3 – Hands On Connect. See below. Also CharityNavigator.org or CharityWatch.org.

To get some of you started, here is a list of charitable organizations and several opportunities Nationwide, in California (my current state) and Pennsylvania (my home state). I got tired of writing. However, I’ll continue adding opportunities readers want to submit. If you work/volunteer/started a non-profit, let me know and I’ll add it. Include your website, @username, Facebook link, etc. Stay persistent, stay resilient, and remember, you matter.


In the wake of Sandy Hook, there have been millions of dollars and thousands of gifts sent to the families of the victims and all of the students at the school. Where the acts are much appreciated, locals have suggested donating to a local charity in memory of the victims. Try finding a school that specifically caters to homeless children (see California listings for one in our neighborhood) or a local organization working to educate children on the effects of peer pressure or substance abuse. If you provide a monetary donation to any large organization for a specific cause, be sure to earmark your checks for accounting purposes.

Hands On Connect. @HandsOnNetwork. This incredible database lists thousands of opportunities nationwide, based on your zip code. Check it out to see if there are any near you.
There is a Hands On Network in virtually every big city where you can find opportunities.
Operation Homefront. @op_homefront. Operation Homefront (OH) provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and wounded warriors. Find a local office or donate.
The Arthritis Foundation. @arthritis_org. Over 300,000 kids in the US have some form of Arthritis. This organization supports both the young and young at heart.


The San Diego Foundation. @sd_fdn. The San Diego Foundation enhances our community by working with individuals, businesses and organizations to set up charitable funds that are then managed at The Foundation. Grants from these funds support charitable groups and programs working to improve the quality of life in San Diego County.

The Monarch School. @SanDiegoMonarch. The mission of the Monarch School is to educate students impacted by homelessness and to help them develop hope for a future with the necessary skills and experiences for personal success.

Jeans 4 Justice. @Jeans4Justice. Jeans 4 Justice is a platform for healing and lasting social change by transforming the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that contribute to sexual violence.

San Diego Coastkeeper. @SD_Coastkeeper. SD Coastkeeper protects the region’s inland and coastal waters by blending education, community empowerment and advocacy.

Just Call Us Volunteers. @justcallusvols. Just Call Us Volunteers positively impacting the lives of low income and homeless adults and children in San Diego by serving healthy meals and hands on cooking classes.


Pittsburgh Cares. @PittsburghCares. A non-profit affiliate of HandsOn Network. View all opportunities or search by interest. Submit your info for future opportunity updates.

Focus On Renewal – Sto-Rox. I started volunteering here as an after-school tutor the minute I was old enough. I’ll never forget the progress one six-year-old boy made, and when his grandfather and legal guardian came to me with a tear in his eye one day and said: “Before he started coming here and meeting with you, he never did his homework. Now, I have to pull him away from it to eat dinner.”

Oprah.com The Year of Giving Brilliantly: 8 Great Charities to Give to This Year