Chapel Hill: Opinion

Eileen Ferrell: Making good on my promise – by shaving my head

By Eileen Ferrell

At the start of 2015, I challenged you to join me in making a New Year’s resolution to give – to do and feel good by donating your time or money to a nonprofit. How’d you do?

I admittedly struggled at first to think of a way that I could give back and had plenty of excuses to renege on my own promise to you, to me and to 2015. Juggling family and work, I thought I hardly had the time to take a shower let alone to volunteer. And, against my own preaching, I doubted any small donation I made would really have much of an impact.

I was wrong.

Just as I was beginning to put my foot in my mouth, I remembered what I shared with you many months ago. That one small gift or act can have a ripple effect. That the individual philanthropic acts of people like you and me has more power to create positive change than we might realize. According to Giving USA, individuals remain the greatest source of charitable contributions. You and I account for 72 percent of total giving nationwide – not foundations like my employer, Strowd Roses, Inc. or even corporations.

Once I reminded myself that the sum is indeed greater than the parts, the rest followed.

On May 30, 8 days after I turned the big 4-0, I got my head shaved at the Crunkleton (bourbon cocktail in hand) to raise money for childhood cancer research through <a href="">St. Baldrick’s Foundation</a>. Many of the kids, families, doctors and nurses that are fighting cancer are right in our backyard at UNC’s N.C. Children’s Hospital.

I had faith that this one small act to celebrate my birthday could turn into something bigger.

With the goal of raising $4,000, I sent word out to friends, family and social networks. I suggested that if just 99 folks joined me in making a $40 donation to St. Baldrick’s we would hit our target.

In just 17 days we did just that.

Then, my husband, Casey, decided to also shave his head and we upped our fundraising goal to $6,000. All told, together with our family, friends, and coworkers we raised $5,626. In just three months, 95 people with a median gift size of $40 were able to accomplish a shared (birthday) wish.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you shave your head. What I am suggesting, is that there is still time to make good on your promise to yourself and to 2015 by joining forces with others to amplify your resolution to give.

On December 1, nonprofits and philanthropists (just a fancy word for givers like you and me) will celebrate Giving Tuesday. While Black Friday or Cyber Monday are for getting deals, Giving Tuesday is for making a deal – with yourself and your community. It’s a global movement solely dedicated to using the power of social networks and collective action to raise donations for nonprofits.

As you budget and plan for the holidays, please consider setting aside funds specifically for Giving Tuesday and your local nonprofits. You and your community will thank you for it.

Eileen Hannan Ferrell is executive director of Strowd Roses, Inc. To learn about the diversity of nonprofits, issues and populations Strowd Roses supports through its grantmaking and how you can give, go to or contact