AARP is the country’s largest nonprofit dedicated to helping empower Americans over 50 to choose how to live as they age. That’s more than 100 million Americans that AARP advocates for and supports to live their lives to the fullest!
Grapevine and AARP have the common goal of connecting people around shared interests. So we came together this summer to help connect even more people through collective giving by introducing the concept of Giving Circles to AARP’s “Create the Good” program.
Create the Good is an AARP-sponsored platform that connects their members to volunteer opportunities in their communities and beyond. Volunteerism has always been core to AARP’s ethos - the founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, coined the organization’s motto, “to serve, not be served.” AARP is led by volunteers, and the organization also manages a number of charitable programs and projects for their members to plug into. It’s safe to say that giving back is in the organization’s DNA.
Create the Good was started to give older Americans more flexibility when looking for charitable activities that can fit into their busy lives. On the platform, users can seek or post volunteer opportunities, as well as check out DIY guides if they want to design their own experiences. With over 7,000 volunteer opportunities and 200,000 users on the platform, Create the Good gives older Americans a range of choices for how to put their life experiences, passions, and skills to use for good.
The Benefits of Giving Back
The benefits of giving back - whether through charitable giving or spending time in volunteer activities - are well-known and well-documented. For all of us, it’s a boon for overall wellness; for older adults, studies have shown that giving back and helping others can likely slow cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia, and is associated with fewer symptoms of depression, better reported health, and even lower mortality rates.
The social connection that comes from helping others is extra-important for older Americans, who have a higher risk of experiencing the health outcomes associated with this country’s loneliness epidemic. But charitable activity can help: When people come together with others around a shared purpose or goal, they have the opportunity to make new connections, strengthen existing ones, and bond with their fellow volunteers. For older people, these connections can boost both mental and physical health, leading to better overall health down the road.
That’s why the Giving Circle model is a natural fit for AARP’s members. Social at their core, Giving Circles connect like-minded people, create greater impact for the causes that members care about, and build an even stronger community in the process. And Giving Circles are flexible by nature, allowing participants of all ages to invest their time and resources in a way that fits into their lives.
When Friends Come Together to Make Change
Like most things, the more you put into a Giving Circle, the more you’ll get out of it. Consider the case of Project W, a Giving Circle started by three women in Delaware County Pennsylvania. These friends wanted to spend more of their time making change in their community, and their early chats on the topic led them to start a Giving Circle on the Grapevine platform. They wanted to help struggling women and families in their area and began to spread the word. The idea of “women helping women,” aka Project W, launched in February 2019. Within the year, their Giving Circle had 64 members and had awarded $35,000 in grants to local area nonprofits. Since then, the project has granted over $270,000 to Delaware County organizations supporting women.
Grapevine is committed to growing the collective giving movement and supporting the growth of Giving Circles that address a range of causes and needs in our society. For AARP members interested in giving back to their communities or issues that are close to their hearts, Giving Circles offer a fun and flexible way to do just that, and in a setting that’s social and collaborative. Because members work together to decide where and how to direct their resources, the work can be democratic and non-hierarchical while building on the collective expertise, networks, and resources of the group.
The potential for older adults to build their networks, make social connections, and harness their passions and life experience while making a difference for others is part of what makes the Grapevine and AARP collaboration such a powerful one.