Entry Title

Why Donate to a Non-Profit like EPI?

I began giving to a highly worthy non-profit, Ecology Project International. (EPI) in 2001. It’s been such a rich and satisfying experience for me to be a contributor to EPI that I’d like to encourage others along a similar path.

I’ll present six general reasons to give to any well-run non-profit and then elaborate regarding the personal relationship that I have with EPI (fondly pronounced “EP-EE” by many). Perhaps you’ll also consider supporting EPI, whose mission is to inspire the next generation of conservationists, or seek a different non-profit to whom you can contribute.

  1. Giving deepens your connections with other people. You can develop and/or strengthen friendships by giving. When you are in touch with an organization, there are possibilities to meet other donors, employees, and the individuals who benefit from your giving. Chances are good that there are some amazing people that you will be delighted to get to know.

During my yoga training in the year 2000, I was teaching yoga at Lawrence Berkeley Labs and met Julie Osborn. I still remember her beautiful backbends! She introduced me to her boyfriend one day, Scott Pankratz, and after yoga class, they shared with me their vision for Ecology Project. I was enthusiastic about their vision from the start, made a small donation, and asked them to keep me posted. As a donor from day one, my relationship with the co-directors of EPI strengthened over the years, culminating in the two of them, now husband and wife, inviting me to join the board in 2010.

I’ve benefited from so many wonderful relationships from being an EPI donor. The auspicious beginning friendship with Julie led to a whole cascading effect of other relationships: I’ve had the opportunity to convene with intelligent board members, meet dedicated employees, learn from field instructors, hear testimony from parents, experience camaraderie with other donors, and most rewardingly, see first-hand the pride and positivity that comes to international students who participate in an EPI experience.

EPI has also connected me to my own community. I’ve held house parties introducing neighbors, teachers, and fellow parents to the work EPI does.   I’ve held yoga workshops donating the proceeds to EPI. I’ve volunteered at local schools on their service days to share with high school students the opportunities EPI makes available to them. My daughter has given a presentation to her class about our trip to an EPI location. It is fun for me to share EPI’s unique mission with people and turn more people on to the learning/nature intensives that EPI offers international high school students.

  1. Giving brings hope, both to you and to the people that are helped by the organization. When you give to an organization, you are informed and connected to the benefits that the organization provides. It is both inspiring and comforting to see that you are a part of an effort to help. A little hope goes a long way to bolster faith and a positive worldview.

In the early years of my being a donor to EPI, I would look forward to reading the annual newsletters about the powerful student stories. With the internet, one can tune in to daily happenings and inspirational moments that are posted on the EPI website and social media. I can connect, whenever I choose, to get a boost of inspiration about what EPI students are doing around the world.

With my board service, I have delved a lot deeper into the organizational reach and am still in awe of the hope that EPI brings to so many. I’ve met field instructors who are overjoyed to have a job that allows them to share their passion for nature with young people. I’ve spoken with countless high school students, both in the U.S. and abroad, who can’t stop smiling when they talk about what they have learned with EPI and what they are inspired to do in their own communities as a result. I cannot forget the family in Mexico who traveled hours to visit us in their ‘Sunday Best’ because they heard EPI was “in town”.

And, I recently returned from a 15-year anniversary event in Costa Rica where student representatives from every field office joined together to share their enthusiasm for conservation. They thrived with the exchange! I heard first-hand about so many individual high school students committed to helping the environment and further their educations.

For me, the hope that these young people exude is reward beyond measure. My positive worldview is strengthened every time I meet EPI alumni.

3.Giving to a well-run non-profit creates jobs. While good non-profits will put less than 10% of funds raised to administrative expenses, successfully raising money sustains the jobs of the employees.

While EPI started with just Scott and Julie and operated with only one assistant, there are currently 10 employees in Costa Rica, 4 in Galapagos Islands, 4 in Belize, 12 in Mexico, and 26 in the U.S., based out of Montana. In addition, EPI contracts 32 field instructors, pays 2 students for internships, and hires numerous part time workers, too.

EPI makes strategic hiring decisions to leverage their mission and expand their operations to meet the rising demand of school/student interest. Through the wise use of their funds, EPI has been able to employ people and contributing to the economy both in the U.S. and abroad. Now that I know many of these people around the world and how diligently they work for such an amazing cause, I am happy that I play some role as a donor to sustain them and their families with a dependable salary.

I met the assistant program director of one field office who had such contagious enthusiasm for his job (of 3 years) that I have no doubt of the positive effect he extends to his network of friends, students and co-workers.

Co-Directory Julie Osborn recently gave a talk about her career to university students in Costa Rica who are preparing for a career in international biology. What a powerful message she sends to the next generation of biologists of the career possibilities for field science!


4. Giving invests you both in the process and the outcome of an organization’s mission. It’s easy to be a skeptic. It’s easy to be cynical about the overwhelming problems of the world. However, once you become a donor, you commit to being part of a solution.

I admit that I find the progress solutions for the world’s environmental problems underwhelming.   From unrelenting rainforest deforestation to widespread plastic pollution to irresponsible refuse disposal (to name only a few), I despair over having no real and final solution to preserving and protecting Mother Earth.

However, I recognize the futility of that train of thought, which means I now have a choice: ignore my planet’s problems or participate in finding solutions. Giving to EPI has been one choice that I have made that connects me to a solution, a way that makes a difference.

I want to be a part of EPI’s mission to inspire the next generation of conservationists. I commit both my finances, my time, and my heart to the path of education and working together to preserve some of the world’s most precious habitats.

5. Giving is therapeutic. Generosity — the act of giving itself– is actually good for your health.   Feel good about your giving and in return giving will help you feel good.

My Christian faith has shown me the way of a generous heart. Recognizing our blessings, we freely give to others not because we are expecting something in return, but because it feels good, loving, and right to do so. While this teaching comes from the Bible, it is also evident scientifically and available to anyone, regardless of their faith. The coolest thing is that you can test it for yourself! Give and see how it feels in the days, weeks, months following.

In the five years serving on the board of EPI, I’ve been privy to the ongoing development and crystallization of the organization’s strategy. I’ve been generous with my time and support, and have been rewarded by witnessing the organization’s progress, measured on so many levels. I am a proud EPI member and incredibly excited for the organization’s future.

6. Giving provides the opportunity for you to help others. It’s a helpful paradigm to see that giving is actually an opportunity for the giver.

Rather than the amount one gives, the spirit with which one gives is what “gets you in the game”, so to speak. Avoid discounting the power of a small gift and instead focus on the reward of being able to give. Your attention, awareness, and education about an organization is quite valuable.

My children’s private school is raising money for its annual fund and their goal is to get100% participation. How many people give is an excellent measure of an organization’s health, while how much people give is a variable measure. The concept for us to remember is to consider our intentions, above all else.

As I’ve held house parties and yoga workshops to raise money for EPI, each individual’s gift (even if it was just their presence) was what touched me. And such is the case for fundraising at EPI. Even though the organization regularly applies and receives grants, EPI highly values each individual gift, however big or small. I know from talking to the staff at EPI how excited they get to receive a handwritten note with a few dollars. My daughter once sent a note and a photo of herself selling our hens’ eggs by way of explaining her donation, which lit up the office that week.

When I look back at the moment when Scott and Julie told me about starting a non-profit and consider the sympathetic joy I felt for the mission, I can see that I was responding from a very genuine place. I let my heart go to that authentic place each year I make a donation to Ecology Project International, knowing that my funds support the mission of inspiring the next generation of conservationists.

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