The Budget Activist: How to Be Part of the Solution with Limited Time and Money

“Action is the antidote to despair.” – Joan Baez

In this rapidly changing and deeply disturbing political climate, how can we make meaningful change without deep pockets and hours of time? This is for the working parents, the busy students, the overwhelmed caretakers, the stay-at-home parents, the small business owners, the full-time employees working extra hours – this is for ALL OF US who have said:

“I want to do something I just don’t have time or money.”

Look, I get it. You’re working two jobs. You have six kids. You’re taking care of your aging parents. You’re taking care of your aging pets. You’re moving. You’re starting a new business. You’re going through a divorce. You feel like you just can’t handle anything else on your plate.

But here’s the thing about this plate: if we all don’t take action now, your plate won’t just be full – it might shatter.

So what can you realistically do?

There are services which will deliver you simple daily and weekly action items that take anywhere from 30 seconds (signing a petition) to two minutes (calling your elected officials).

Some of these call-to-action services:

“Fine, but I swear I don’t even have two minutes to make these calls.”

Here are some great times to make these calls:

      • While walking your dog
      • While your kid is in gymnastics class
      • While waiting in a checkout line
      • While waiting for a doctor’s appointments
      • While muting a conference call you don’t really need to pay attention to
      • While on the toilet (forgive me)

“Are these calls really effective?”

Required reading (seriously even if you just have time to skim this, it includes vital information on how to be effective): The Web site also offers a directory of hundreds of local organizing groups you can join either in person or online.

Shy? Introverted? Here is a great guide on how to call your reps when you have social anxiety!

And here is another good post on how to be an activist when you can’t get out of bed.

“OK, but for career or personal reasons, I can’t be public about my political views.”

I understand. Here are 5 Ways to be a Silent Donald Trump Protestor

You can also set up recurring donations to nonprofit organizations fighting for social and environmental justice. You can even have some fun with it and donate in the names of Trump, Pence, or any of their cabinet members! A few organizations to consider:

Planned Parenthood
Earth Justice
Jewish Voice for Peace
Southern Poverty Law Center
Safer Chemicals Healthy Families

And maybe most important: Donate to the campaigns of progressives running to win or retain leadership positions at the local, state, and federal level.

Learn about progressive Democratic women running for office on Emily’s List. Flippable will keep you posted on local and national races where you can flip red seats to blue. This site isn’t beautiful, but you can find information about what races are coming up in your state. Ballotpedia will let you see a sample ballot for upcoming elections in your area.

Or run for office yourself! Check out the free SheShouldRun incubator.

“Hey, I’m feeling inspired and have more time than I thought!”

Awesome! Get active with local advocacy groups. There are branches of “Pantsuit Nation Action Groups” all over the country (now under various different names for legal reasons). Despite the name of origin, you do NOT have to be a woman or even a Hillary voter to be involved with these groups. These private groups will help steer you toward general action items related to resisting the Trump agenda both locally and nationally.

For instance, here in Pennsylvania, we now have FIERCE PA with more than 13,000 members and dozens of hyperlocal off-shoots. In Philadelphia, Philly United for Progress with more than 8,000 strong. These groups are doing activism significant work including the statewide “Tuesdays with Toomey” movement to petition our local Republican senator to acknowledge constituent concerns.

You can find a wide range of local activism groups near you here.

Go deeper.

Here is a great free and quick tool to help you figure out what kind of changemaker you are and how you may be most effective.

Choose one or two causes that you feel most passionately about. Is it the environment? Education? Immigration? LGBT rights?

Find your people and use your skillset.

Connect with the groups that are doing the most work in these areas. Yes, there are a lot of them. But you can use sites like CharityNavigator to select the best-rated nonprofits, or look for smaller groups working on a local scale. In the Philadelphia area, there is a Web site where you can learn more about how to get involved with organizations specific to your interests.

Are you a writer/lawyer/artist/researcher/networker? Know your strengths and offer your particular skillset to these organizations – they need you.

Vote with your wallets.

This is something we can all do in some capacity – and not having money to spend can even be used to your advantage as a “non-consumer!” Simply put, try to avoid spending your money with businesses that don’t share your values (here is the #GrabYourWallet list of businesses that – to varying degrees – have direct financial ties to the Trump administration).

When you do need to invest money for things like food, clothing, and other necessities, try to support businesses that DO share your values, especially small, local businesses owned by women and minorities.

You may consider switching your bank accounts from big banks to credit unions, particularly if you are with a large bank funding the Dakota Access Pipeline or similarly detrimental projects. I’m personally looking to refinance my mortgage once I can find a better interest rate with a bank where I can feel better spending my money.

Suggested Reading/Watching:

Some great action items by Robert Reich: “How to Resist Trump’s First 100 Days”

Activism in America: Graphic to help guide your plan.

Congressman Steve Israel reveals the surprisingly simple way you can give your congressperson hell — and no, it isn’t calling or writing a letter.

A 12-Step Program for Responding to Trump by Nicholas Kristof, NY Times

Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life by Zoe Weil

Spit that Out!: The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids in the Age of Environmental Guilt by ME – Yes, I am shamelessly promoting my own book here because it has loads of tips for the budget activist!

Books I have not yet read but are highly suggested by smart friends:

Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving

My Green Manifesto by David Gessner

Between the World and Me  by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation by Drew Westen

Enough Is Enough: The Hell-Raiser’s Guide to Community Activism by Diane Maceachern (a bit dated but still cool and written by a great friend)

Loads of books by New Society Publishers, the progressive publishing house I am honored to be published with

The Stop Trump Reading List from Haymarket Books

11 Children’s Books to Learn Social Justice

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