“ … truly, the big change happens right now with your mind and your heart, choosing to give of yourself, choosing to be caring, choosing to take time for that individual who needs it, and not just crossing off another to-do on your list. And so, that’s what I hope opens up or inspires for people; that sense of change and meaning could happen right now.”
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Toni Reece: Pamela, thank you so much for joining us today; and before we begin, can you please introduce yourself?
Pamela Hawley: Yes. My name is Pamela Hawley. I’m the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving, and we’re a web site that helps people give money and volunteer their time to the top performing projects across the world.
Toni: Wow! Well, let’s go right into that first question. Based on your organization, or even from a personal perspective, when you think about inspiration, Pamela, who do you inspire and how do you do that?
Pamela: You know, I think what’s so exciting is that what we’re really doing is inspiring anyone, quite frankly, across the world. We work with university students who want to use their spring breaks to help give back to the community by building a home in the community rather than necessarily going to Cancun.
We work with high network donors who are at a different stage of their lives, where they are going and they are helping invest their money in projects that are doing really great work on the ground; and they want to be a part of that and to see that.
And there’s even families, for example, who are going on a vacation, and as they are going on their vacation, they want to take their young children to maybe go on a volunteer trip or to donate. We even had a family donate soccer balls. But what it’s really, really working with is any kind of person who wants to make a difference; we’re helping them do so.
Toni: So that is where the inspiration is happening all over the place; your organization is inspiring others to give.
Pamela: Yes, absolutely. Give of themselves and their time and their money.
Toni: Now, for you personally, how do you think … I know within your organization, but outside of the organization … how do you think you inspire others, and how might you do that?
Pamela: I think that is a different question, Toni. I do think that that has to do very much … We’ve talked a lot about this in leadership and how one lives one’s life. And you know, when I look at kind of my own personal philosophy and mission for my life, it is about being able to express philanthropy in a moment-by-moment situation.
So for example, when you look at what philanthropy means, in the United States we assume that it means money, but it’s really not. It’s the love of people, it’s the love of humankind. And so what I like thinking about is every day, every moment, I have this opportunity to express love of people. And that could be as simple as the fact of when I’m going into the dry cleaners, I meet that person, I greet them — that person behind the counter is someone of importance — to know them by name, to ask them how their day is, and to really engage with them and express that sense of care with them. It’s not just an errand.
And so, I think hopefully – I say this humbly – so hopefully with my own life I’m helping to inspire people to see that philanthropy is not a separate sector, it’s not a separate business, it’s not just something you do from 9 to 5. Philanthropy is something you can do all the time. And what I love so much about this, Toni, is that it’s accessible to anyone at any age and any time.
Toni: When you talk about this — and I love that quote that you just said which is you are providing a sense of care, not just running an errand, and I think that’s a great way to put that — and when you’re doing that in you’re walking that path and your organization walks that path, how do you think that helps others to explore their potential?
Pamela: Well, what I hope it does is open up the landscape of how many possibilities there are for each individual each day. Sometimes I hear people say, “Oh, I want to change jobs, and I want to start making a difference, and I can’t wait until I can start making a difference.” But what is so exciting to me is that whether you’re working at a bank, or you’re working behind a deli counter, or if you’re sweeping the lawn or the front porch, you can make a difference right now, and you can do that right now and we don’t have to wait.
And I think that, for me, is the big message. Yes, it might be right to make a career change, it might be right to change cities or jobs. But truly, the big change happens right now with your mind and your heart, choosing to give of yourself, choosing to be caring, choosing to take time for that individual who needs it, and not just crossing off another to-do on your list. And so, that’s what I hope opens up or inspires for people; that sense of change and meaning could happen right now.
Toni: And it doesn’t have to cost them a dime.
Pamela: No, it doesn’t have to do that. I think, you know, sometimes we overlook the simplest things, Toni. One of the things that I started doing about a couple of years ago was not just paying for the person behind the toll booth for me, but paying for three people behind me. And that really, boy … that started to kind of up your standards as far as spending money when you crossed the bridge, right?
But when I look at it, I think wait a minute, those are three people who don’t know who I am, who might go home to their dinner that night and say to their companion, “Oh, I had this lovely thing happen at the toll booth.” And so instead of coming home and complaining about their boss, hopefully we just affected three other people at dinner who then went and told that story at work, who then went and told their neighbors, and instead of complaining about “Oh, this didn’t go well.”
People have something that seems unique to them – but it really shouldn’t be – but it seems unique to them that someone paid a toll that doesn’t know them, and they have something inspiring to talk about. And I think that’s the key to life. That is where change and meaning happens. And if you do those things in your daily life, then you’re already predisposing yourself to opening yourself up to other ways to give.
And so, people who want change right now start to change right now. Start giving right now. Talk to a homeless person and spend time with them on the street. Maybe be a little bit more loving with your companion at home. Make sure that you’re sitting down with your children and truly listening to them. Know the dry cleaner by name. I mean, those are the kinds of things that I think inspire and open up your life to this amazing, amazing sense of beauty.
Toni: What is it that you need to be inspired? What do you search for? What do you look for?
Pamela: For myself personally?
Toni: Yes – for you.
Pamela: Well, I definitely have a very strong spiritual foundation, so I think if you can connect into a greater sense of … divine sense of love or purpose or that the universe is a positive place to be, I think that’s very positive if you can have some grounding there. So that’s very important to me. I have a lot of quiet time and meditation and prayer, so that kind of grounding is very important to me in order to stay inspired and not just feel like I’m running around all the time; that’s not the way that I want to live my life.
Number two is family is incredibly inspiring to me. Both of my parents, Wally and Alex Hawley, are just literally beacons of light to me of being people of service and caring to our communities. And they’ve been married 46 years, and they are just best friends with a spark, and they just constantly outreach to care, listen, mentor other people. And so for me, the spirituality and the family is what really grounds me so that I can do more good in our world.
But if we don’t have our own personal lives in order — if there isn’t that sense of love and kindness and compassion there — we first need to work on that, and that will give you a wonderful basis of inspiration so that you can do other good in the world. And so I really attribute what is going on in my life to what my parents have modeled and have given me by their supreme sense of giving, caring, and love that they share with me and others.
Toni: What a way to describe your parents. And just so I can clarify, did you say that your parents were “best friends with a spark”?
Toni: I love that! I absolutely love that! When you talk about … You had this fantastic example, and the way that you’ve described that is so beautiful … so you’ve got this great sense of inspiration and the place that you can go for this inspiration as a model … how does that then transfer into exploring your own potential?
Pamela: Yes, and help me here if I’m not answering this exactly right. But for me then, once I started volunteering abroad, Toni — I started volunteering ever since the age of 12 – I saw a pretty disturbing situation in Mexico with my family when I was down there. My father and I were at a marketplace and were vacationing in Mexico, and we walked down a cul-de-sac, and I saw every single begging, starving child and I — just at 12 — I was like “This is unacceptable.”
And so there was this call very early on that was this juxtaposition of this completely loving and inspired life that my parents had given to me, and all of a sudden I saw this other world that was just not acceptable; and so I started volunteering.
And when I became an adult, I started to volunteer internationally in El Salvador in an earthquake crisis and microfinance in India and with paraplegics from Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia. And once I saw that, Toni, then I realized “Oh, my life has to be devoted to these most impoverished people across the world” in a way that is strategic and quality and impactful and inspires people to give; because they trust, because they know that we vet the organizations and that we’re working with quality organizations on the ground.
So what happened is that coming from this basis of inspiration, two things happened for me. Number one, I wanted to commit my own personal life to be a loving person, very much from the model my parents had given me. And number two, I wanted my – I guess you could say professional life – to be devoted to impoverished people across the world and to helping uplift the standard of living there in a strategic and quality way.
I would like to add one thing, however — which is when we talk about poverty – what is poverty? We have to be very careful with that definition. Many of these people might not have money, but there are a lot of impoverished people here in Silicon Valley who have a large bank account. And so when you talk about poverty, I’m talking about financial poverty.
When you work with people in developing nations, you will rarely see a stronger sense of family — time spent with family, family meals, low divorce rates, caring about the community, connectedness with the community, connectedness to ritual and history and culture — and so we have so much to learn. So when I’m talking about poverty, I’m only talking about financial poverty.
The point is, is that to your question, my life is devoted to helping provide opportunity for these people.
Toni: And that’s where you continuously explore your own potential, by providing that opportunity; is that what I’m hearing?
Pamela: Yes. I think I have certain business instincts and skills in creating web-based marketplaces that help match up donors and volunteers with these quality projects and with these people who need it on the ground. And so, that’s where I’m marrying the sense of compassion of wanting to help with the business skills, and it all comes from that basis of inspiration from my parents and from spirituality. And that is where it comes from; and then I can go and help and use my business skills as well as my compassion to help make a difference.
Toni: It’s really interesting how your base of inspiration, starting with your parents, has helped you to know what you need to stay inspired, which helps you then explore the potential and provide the opportunities you do, that you have then transferred into your own business that is helping people all over the world. That’s amazing.
Pamela: Thank you. Well, we feel honored and privileged every day. I have an amazing team here, and it’s so exciting. Every person on the UniversalGiving team is just someone who has that same balance of head and strategy and heart and compassion, and I am so grateful to have such an amazing, committed team who is helping me with this vision.
Toni: Pamela, thank you for bringing awareness to the Get Inspired! Project and those who maybe didn’t know about your organization now do. And also from the personal perspective, the information and the learning that you have given in this interview is so beneficial, and many, many people are going to take away value from this, and for that and your participation in this project, I thank you.
Pamela: Oh, Toni, thank you very much for your contribution to the world and inspiration. And every moment we’ve got a chance to be inspired, so I’m just very grateful to be a part of your project.
Toni: Thank you very, very much. Take care of yourself.
For more information about Pamela Hawley: www.universalgiving.org