Living Philanthropic’s Carlo Garcia Reflects on Year 1

By Stacy Jeziorowski | Friday, April 22, 2011

Photo of Carlo Garcia from the Living Philanthropic website.

Today, Lincoln’s Square’s own Carlo Garcia will make his final donation to complete year one of Living Philanthrophic, his quest to give to 365 charities in 365 days. Last weekend, Garcia sat down with Center Square Journal on his plans as he moves into year two.

Carlo will be hosting a party Saturday night in at Collaboraction’s space in the Flat Iron Arts Complex in Wicker Park, 1575 N. Milwaukee Ave, Ste 336, from 10:30 p.m to 1:30 a.m. Donations will be taken at door benefiting Foundation Escalera. More details can be found on Living Philanthropic’s Facebook page.

CSJ: How are you choosing what charity to give to on day 365?  That’s a lot of pressure.

CG: For day 365, it is a lot of pressure. I think just charitable giving is a very personal experience, you tend to gravitate toward organizations that either you are affected by. For example, I’m really drawn to cancer organizations. Last year I lost three people that I held dear to me to cancer, different types or cancer, so for my birthday I had a benefit at The Viaduct and basically raised over $2,000 for the Livestrong Foundation in honor of those people that I lost. So I think it is a very personal experience. For me, day 365 is important and my mother has been a big inspiration for me. She’s kind have been the role model of giving in my life, even though she never had a lot of money.  She was making like $26,000 per year and supporting me and my five sisters. There was a period of time where we lived in a one-bedroom apartment, which was really rough but she never made it seem like it was out of the ordinary. There were moments where she would, they would have tag days for Misericordia and every time she would see someone on the street, when driving by or whatever, she would stop, and she would reach into the change that was in her car, and buy one of the tags. I always remember that as vivid memory of mine. She would always, no matter what, even if she couldn’t buy us food, have this giving spirit. She would display this giving spirit to us. When there was a food drive at school, she would pull cans out of our cabinets and say here, take this and put it in the box. So day 365 is going to be for Misericordia, just in honor of my mom and the organization.

CSJ: So far, how much money has been given through other people through you?

CG: I don’t know if it’s through me, or inspired by me.  It is over $14,000. (Note: The Living Philanthropic total as of day 364 totaled $14,384) That’s just reported to me. Anything I was able to check through Crowdrise or if they have reported it directly too me. There could be potentially more donations that were made that were just not reported.

CSJ: How much have you given personally?

CG: Personally, I have given (at the time of the interview) $4,100, which doesn’t seem like a lot. Every little bit makes a difference. The total impact so far has been $18,000.

CSJ: Did you make any mistakes along the way?

CG: Did I make any mistakes?  I was careful not to get into any political or religious debates. It’s very hard because it’s a universal idea and I don’t want to that to come from a place of politics or religion. I think its people, its humanity; it’s not about anything else. There’s an organization that I contributed to but I didn’t do a post on because there was a lot of flack that they had been receiving about the way they have been treating same-sex marriage. I don’t want to offend anyone with my giving. I want to inspire people. It’s hard. There are too many politics in the world and I prefer to stay out of it. I don’t think I made any mistakes, other than that one time. I just did it and was like fine, I’m just not going to post about it.

CSJ: What was the most rewarding part for you?

CG: The most rewarding part for me has definitely been all of the people who have reached back out to me and have told me I’ve inspired them. I didn’t expect that type of wide range of impact. I thought my friends and family would see it and they would be like, “yeah, I’m going to contribute a bit more of my daily life” and to have people from the U.K. and Australia and all over the world just to reach out to me and say thank you for what you are doing and you really inspired me to think about giving more and I’ve taken on a mission of giving myself.  Just being able to inspire people to give back has inspired me as well.

CSJ: Were you overwhelmed by the media coverage?

CG: You know I was. I refused to do any interviews for like the first 200 days. I just did not want to do it because I didn’t want the message to be skewed by people thinking “oh this is just for attention, this is just for media coverage.” And it’s not about that. It’s me. It’s not a new idea.  Charitable giving is not a new idea.  As long as there has been money, there has been giving. I wanted it to be about the message, giving just a little bit everyday and I just refused to do any media interviews. Then a friend of mine told me well if you don’t do any media interviews, you aren’t going to get your message out to other people. Then I started to accept a couple and it was very overwhelming. When the Huffington Post came out, the MSNBC came out, it jumped the numbers and I’m really glad that I did because prior to Huffington Post and MSNBC the “inspired by” tally was about 5,000. Three weeks later it tripled just from that coverage, which is amazing to me. It did get the message out to other people and that was one good thing about those interviews that I did.  I tried to keep it about what it was, not about me. People have asked me questions about myself but again I just want to keep it about the message. It’s been really crazy. It’s hard because you know you get out there on those open forums and people anonymously post stuff, negative comments and stuff like that, like charity shouldn’t be done publicly. I disagree with that. I think it’s a very old mentality to say no it should be done in private. I’m like no, I don’t think. People are sharing everything, like what they ate for breakfast or when they went to the bathroom or stupid stuff. You get to know all of these little things but not the good things. I wanted to show the good things.

CSJ: Would you do it again?

CG: Well I am going to do it again for year two. I am modifying it a little bit. I’m basically going to pick 12 different organizations, some might be repeats from year one, and I’m going to feature them for one month. I’m going to collect the daily donations that I have and give it to them in one lump sum to increase my impact. The blog has inspired a lot of people to contribute and I kind of want to have those people who have adopted the philosophy of giving every day, giving every week, whatever they have decided to incorporate into their lives, the opportunity to post on the blog as well. I’m going to invite those people to be guest bloggers and give a little bit of a reason why they donated to this featured organization for the month.

CSJ: Is this something you are going to post and be like shoot me an email here or?

CG: I did a brief post about it about a month ago and I got some traction on it. I got about a dozen people who signed up and said they would join me on year two. There have already been about a dozen who’ve started previously. There’s this guy William who has a blog called Philanthropy in Motion and he’s been donating every day since January or February. He’s like in day 122 now, just inspired by what I’ve been doing.

CSJ: What are your goals for year two?

CG: For me, personally, I just want to continue to give and to make sure that I keep it incorporated in my life because it’s important to me.  Secondly, if it can continue to inspire other people I think that would be a great thing. I don’t have like a true goal. I don’t want to write a book. I don’t want to have a television show or anything. I think that’s all garbage. I just want the spirit of giving, giving a little bit every day, just to carry on and trickle throughout the world. Whatever happens, happens. I’m just open to whatever. I’m open to suggestions. I’m open to ideas. I’m open to whatever happens.

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