You don’t need money to make a difference.

You’re part of a generation of change-makers.

In fact, Millennials and members of Generation Z are “the people most likely to call out racism and sexism…to shun companies and employers whose actions conflict with their personal values,” and are “…more persistent, more vocal, and more apt than others to question and even upset the status quo,” according to the Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z survey.

In other words, today’s students care about social issues—a lot—and we’re not afraid to make that known or to demand corporations and governments do something about them.

However, the survey also found, on top of our readiness to hold the powers that be accountable, we’re also a group that believes in personal responsibility. We’ll organize a protest to demand systemic changeand we’re confident donating to causes we care about makes a difference. We do both.

A little girl says, "Why don't we have both?" and is lifted up by her community.

And it’s good that we do—because, be it through mutual aid or to not-for-profit organizations, individual actions like donating are essential to effecting change.

So what do you do when you can’t?

Student budgets are, well, student budgets—which is to say, sometimes, we just don’t have enough money to contribute to movements and, like, stay alive.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t show up for your community. Here’s how to support your cause when donating isn’t an option:

Lend a hand

Cartoon hands of varying skin tones interconnected in a circle.

If you can’t donate money, donate your energy and your time.

Whatever cause you care about, there are almost certainly swathes of not-for-profit organizations and community co-operatives organizing for it—and those institutions are nearly always looking for extra help. To find the right place to volunteer, you can start by looking through Canada Helps’ directory of Toronto-based charities (or, like, Google, TBH. “[insert cause here] not-for-profit Toronto.” Search.)

Alternatively, you can volunteer more informally by practicing community care. Popularized by organizer Nakita Valerio, community care is, essentially, just being kinder to the people you encounter day-to-day. Bring a coffee for that co-worker who you know’s having a rough week. Spend 10 extra minutes on FaceTime with your sister so she can vent about her annoying assignment. Build time into your schedule to see people you love (because no one really has “free time” these days.)

You might think that sounds obvious or like it won’t change much anyway; but, being there for your community is radical.

“It’s trusting that your community will have you when you need support, and knowing you can be trusted to provide the same, ” Valerio writes.

Co-sign your cause

A pen writing a signature.

“But do petitions really work?” we can hear you ask.

And, the answer is (frustratingly, we know): “Maybe.

Essentially, petitions are a valuable way to support your cause when they’re targeted at a specific entity and goal (like, “Tell MP Smith to vote ‘No’ on amendment X to bill Y” instead of, “End homophobia”) and when petition organizers tie them to a tangible strategy—like using them to recruit testimony and participation.

So, no: you aren’t going to change the world by signing an online petition, closing your computer and thinking, “That’s enough activism for today.” But if you use your petition-signing as a way to keep up with issues related to your cause and those organizing for it, you can make your stance on important matters known and find other meaningful ways to contribute.

Show up

People holding signs at a protest

Remember how we said Millennials and Generation Z are likely to lead the fray of systemic change by carrying out large-scale actions, like organizing protests? Well, organizing them is only half the battle (though it’s no small task).

The other half is actually going to protests—and, for them to be effective, that takes hordes.

So, if you don’t have the money to donate to your cause, or the time and resources to organize for it, you can make a difference by attending the events others put on.

Just make sure to practice pandemic safety when gathering in groups.

Spread the word

Dave Grohl says, "The internet is the most powerful megaphone we have."

Social media activism is complicated.

While, on one hand, those aesthetically pleasing Canva infographics can be:

—they can also be helpful.

Social media has made information easier to access and share than ever—posting information about your cause could bring it to the attention of people who otherwise might not have heard about it. Online activism can also be a valuable way to generate engagement with your cause: providing links to petitions or mutual aid funds, getting vital information to people on the front lines of protests and creating networks of physically far-away people with shared values.

And, for those who are unable to participate in in-person events, sharing resources on social media can be a way to still contribute.

In short, be smart about it: share posts about your cause online if you want to, but make sure you fact-check them and—whether or not you post—make sure you back up your beliefs with behaviours.

Live your beliefs

Diane Nguyen in Bojack Horseman says "I don't think I believe in 'deep down.' I kind of think all you are is just the things that you do."

It’s not enough to believe in something. You need to act on those beliefs everyday.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you’re chatting with some classmates before a lecture and climate change comes up. “Look, I’m not a scientist,” one of your peers says, “but man-made global warming is just a hoax to stifle the fossil fuel industry. The best thing we can do for the planet is regulate less.”

You believe in climate change and in incentivizing governments and corporations to act sustainably. You know you believe in those things. But you knowing you believe in those things isn’t enough—there’s someone right in front of you propelling harmful rhetoric. You can’t absolve yourself of personal responsibility because of what you believe “deep down”; now’s the time to act.

You don’t have to get into a screaming match with this person, insult or humiliate them for their misguidedness, know all the science behind climate change to indisputably prove them wrong or convert them into a climate change activist on the spot. What you do have to do is speak up.

Ask meaningful, thoughtful, empathetic questions. Try to uncover why this person believes what they believe so you can change their mind by targeting their heart. Or, at least, encourage them to explore the roots of their views themselves.

You don’t need money to support your cause; you need to care. And IGNITE knows you do.

You need to buy clothes no matter what; so why not be socially conscious about it? Here’s how to start.

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