RALEIGH — Across the country, hundreds of people are choosing to pass their stimulus payments along to neighbors or local nonprofits in an effort to help those who are struggling during the ongoing pandemic. Throughout much of the last year, a Wake County organization known as PledgeMyCheck.org has worked to connect the fortunate with the needy, improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans one donation at a time.
The initiative started when a group of young volunteers in Raleigh became passionate about the idea of supporting organizations and people who are in need. One of the group’s organizers Kevin Miller, 29, says many of his friends were able to work from home, remaining on stable incomes after the pandemic struck, unlike some organizations more significantly affected by lockdowns and financial uncertainty. Some, like Miller, started receiving stimulus checks of their own that they intended to donate. They wondered if others might do the same, made a website, and the idea quickly caught on. The group began volunteering in April 2020, and so far, has raised over $300,000 in pledges from 448 people across 32 states.
While many have relied heavily on these stimulus checks to get them through tough financial times, Miller says that those in stable financial situations can literally change lives by passing their checks along to a neighbor or organization that is not as stable. PledgeMyCheck.org does not handle the money directly or accept donations, but instead encourages individuals to give directly to people and organizations that they know and trust.
“Our community is best served when we band together and support each other. My family is weathering this well and wants to support others,” says a good Samaritan who pledged $1,000 to Lee’s Summit in Missouri. Kirsten, who donated $1,200, shared, “My husband and I decided to donate 50% of our total checks. We’ve made monthly gifts to several organizations.”
Pledge My Check does not collect or distribute money. It is simply a goodwill initiative that encourages a pay-it-forward community mentality. It also incorporates the honor system — I say I’m going to pledge, and then it is up to/on me to actually do it. Ever since the group got its start last April, Pledge My Check has seen incredible results of people donating their stimulus payments. While it may seem optimistic in theory, Miller says the model behind Pledge My Check gets to the essence of charity and the unselfishness of the human spirit. “When someone makes a pledge, we ask them where they’re donating and why. We check to see if they are using a real email, donating to a real organization, etc., then when stimulus checks start to go out, we send out a reminder to donate. We don’t handle any money – we’re encouraging people to donate directly to someone that they know who has had a tough year.”
Over the course of the last year since the pandemic first began, the federal government has passed two rounds of federal coronavirus relief aid with the prospect of a third payment on the way via President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Under this third wave of stimulus many Americans would receive checks for up to $1,400, as part of Biden’s $1.9 trillion package. Miller says he hopes once this third wave of stimulus starts landing in people’s pockets, people in stable positions will consider donating it to someone in need.
Last Spring at the onset of the pandemic, President Trump passed The CARES Act which initially provided Economic Impact Payments to American households of up to $1,200 per adult for individuals whose income was less than $100,000 and $500 per child under 17 years old – or up to $3,400 for a family of four. Additionally, this past January lawmakers authorized The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, which provided payments of up to $600 per adult and up to $600 for each qualifying child.
PledgeMyCheck.org records and displays recent pledges with full anonymity or first names only to protect privacy. Co-creator Ryan O’Donnell said, “This project is all about bringing out the best in our communities,” and lead designer Bethany Faulkner describes the site as “a bulletin board of generosity with people telling us where they’ve donated and why.”
Ever since its inception, media coverage in and around the Triangle and even on national news websites have played an outsize role in bringing in donations. According to Miller each news story has led to an average of $10,000 in pledges. “I haven’t worked with the media much in the past, and I am just blown away at how impactful the press reports have been,” he says. In addition, in the very early days of PMC getting its start, Miller says Raleigh Mayor Mary Ann Baldwin caught wind of the effort and tweeted it out to her followers at which point the media took note. This kickstarted a media frenzy that led to over one hundred thousand dollars in pledges.
Anyone interested in donating can visit PledgeMyCheck.org and look into making a pledge. Miller says that of course monetary donors play a huge part in making PMC successful, but he is equally struck by how incredible volunteers have been in terms of donating their time and turning what was just an idea into something that is actually changing people’s lives throughout the pandemic. The volunteer effort is made possible by generous brainpower and time from around 20 local volunteers in addition to Claremont Communications and Melinda Jackson who help with public relations.
According to Miller, PMC’s end goal is to raise $1,000,000 across all 50 states. PMC is hoping to see a jump in pledges in the months ahead. A sampling of personal testimonies from PMC donors and recipients are further proof of what a difference this organization has made so far:
Jessica and her family in Minnesota pledged $1,600 to neighbors who were behind on rent: “They need it more than we do right now!”
Hugh in Arizona pledged $1,200 to St Mary’s Food Bank: “I pointed out to my 12-year-old son that several of the cars in the food line were the exact same make and model as ours, and only the timing of this tragedy kept us from being in that line ourselves. I know the sheer panic that comes with not having the means to pay all of your bills and my heart goes out to those who find themselves in this position through no fault of their own. They didn’t mouth off to their boss, or fail a drug test, or come in late work every day. We all have to keep the faith and do what we can do.”
Bethany in North Carolina pledged $300 to her hairstylist: “She was out of work for 2 months and is now at half capacity.”
See all the pledges at www.PledgeMyCheck.org.