As a longtime volunteer, Shazia Peeran says she knew the COVID-19 pandemic would have a devastating impact on nonprofit organizations, and wanted to find a way to virtually connect her community to give directly.
Jump starting critical socially-distanced donations by founding Giving Digitized, Shazia built a platform which allows nonprofits to request and receive in-kind resources, directly matching donors online with community organizations. By changing the way donors can give, Shazia is virtually powering giving back in nine states including New Jersey, California and Illinois, alongside hundreds of Giving Digitized volunteers across the United States. Facilitating the direct donation of tens of thousands of dollars of resources thus far, Shazia is providing much needed aid to those suffering amid the pandemic and is empowering community members to support one another.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I have been volunteering for a minute, service is just something that’s part of my DNA. Volunteering is the mission of my life.
How are you changing giving through your service?
While everyone was trying to work from home, there were many challenges for charities to quickly and easily disseminate needs to the community and know when those things were being sent over, and it was challenging for the community to know what was needed. I am helping charities thrive in a virtual environment with their donors.
Describe your volunteerism with Giving Digitized.
As founder, I connect with charities and volunteers. I first went through the rolodex of organizations I’d worked with to see what their needs were, and then started getting them matched with resources, from food and coat drives to basic items like bedspreads and kitchen utensils, health and hygiene baskets. We’ve worked with organizations like ADAPT Community Network, York Street Project, Hudson Pride, Salvation Army and Family Promise. Volunteers from around the U.S. log in and directly send aid to any nonprofit that has joined our community. The nonprofits can detail what they need, and our platform allows them to plan for donations and resources they will receive. Giving Digitized is one-stop shopping for people who want to safely contribute across various populations and people in need.
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
We participated in this year’s MLK National Day of Service, and it was really heartwarming to see how we empowered donors from around the country to help charities. We’ve helped to get resources for a newborn whose family was in a fire, got a coat to an unemployed Californian, matched disabled children in New York with educational services, and in the last year, donated more than 24,000 meals. The list goes on, but this is a small drop in the bucket. Our goal is to reach out to 1 million folks who need help.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your service?
It’s rewarding to see and hear stories of how our service has made an impact on the community. One organization in New Jersey serves an at-risk community, and we got coats out to the entire group. In an absolutely brutal winter, being able to deliver donated coats while safely socially distancing amid the pandemic meant the world.
What’s the future for your volunteerism?
It’s absolutely the plan to continue our service and find new ways to help charities work in a socially distant way. This volunteerism addresses issues worsened by the pandemic not limited to homelessness, hunger and people lacking basic access to resources. In the future, I want to further our assistance into case working and career opportunities. It’s a natural progression for the populations we are currently serving, as there are wonderful people out there who have lost certain opportunities. Through upscaling and career placement, we will continue to uplift the community.
In one word, what does volunteering mean to you?
Good community member. That’s three words (laughs). The reason for living is literally giving.
How can readers help?
To continue giving, we rely on volunteers, nonprofit engagement and our partners. We host quarterly drives to address specific needs. Please visit our website for more information about how nonprofits can join and how donors can help.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Shazia Peeran? Find local volunteer opportunities.