Behind the Scenes of Giving Up to Give: An Interview with Maria Brown

Perhaps one of the most exciting parts about nonprofit work is the collaborations that grow out of shared passions. For GBA, the recent partnership with Giving Up to Give’s Maria Brown, her family, and their community, has demonstrated both the power of personal connection and the joy of creative and communal giving. Curious about the Browns, their story, and the future of Giving Up to Give, I decided to dive in and find out more. For background on the Giving Up to Give blog and giving campaign, please click here (will link to previous blog post). Giving up to Give focuses on the part of DR Congo that most people don’t see—the smiles and dreams of the people that live there. Instead of giving to an image of DR Congo entrenched in suffering and civil conflict, Giving Up to Give aims to have people give while viewing the life and positivity of the Congolese people.

The Brown family, a Kentucky family of five, created Giving Up to Give; their son, Oliver, is Congolese. After doing research about the conflict in Congo, and after meeting GBA co-founder Ann Marie Thomson, the Browns were inspired to get involved with GBA’s work.

Maria Brown met Ann Marie at the annual benefit gala in 2012 and continued building the relationship. Maria says that the formulation of Giving Up to Give began, in part, with an experience the family had with friends.

Maria writes, “Some friends of ours were beginning the adoption process and were fundraising. We saw them selling things that they owned in order to raise the money they needed to adopt. We wanted to help, but we didn't have much extra money to give. We did have a few things we didn't have to have, so we sold them. In just a few days (and with minimal effort) we had $100 to donate. That got us thinking about how much excess we have and how our small "giving up" can make a big difference, while also making us more purposeful in our giving.”

The Browns thought that this idea of giving up could be applied to GBA. Through conversations with Ann Marie, Jim Calli, and Beth Yoder, the Browns turned their idea into a reality. Maria says that Beth thought of the calendar idea and helped with starting up the website.

Maria notes, though, that Giving Up to Give is designed to be more than just a fundraiser. “The ultimate goal is to connect people to what is happening in DRC and to the children at Centre Salisa, and to help us all realize that we don't just have to give out of our excess (or lack of it)--we can sacrifice, and in doing so connect ourselves more intimately with other human beings halfway around the world,” Maria writes. She encourages people to think about the ripple effect of their positive actions and to think about the boundary-less principles of generosity and love. She reminds us all that we are connected to DR Congo at almost all times—through our cell phones and other electronics and the conflict minerals used to create them.

The Browns and the network of Giving Up to Give offers lessons that everyone can relate to: “Every country has a story, and more importantly, every person has a story, and we need to listen. In a world that is increasingly smaller and more connected through the internet, we can no longer claim ignorance about the poverty, suffering, and injustice that is happening in so many different countries to so many different people. Being aware is the first step towards being a part of change and hope. And what we find when we listen to the story of DRC, of children at Centre Salisa, and of so many people around the world, is that they are not just a cause to give to or a terrible story to cry over--they are signs of hope and resilience and they are lessons of strength for us all.”

As for the future of Giving Up to Give and the children of DR Congo, life is bright, despite the inexplicable nature of poverty and cruelty in the world today. Maria hopes that the 2014 Giving Up to Give calendar can be filled with an act of giving for each day. She also hopes that the movement will continue to grow and move into new communities and can continue to raise awareness for DR Congo. GBA welcomed Maria as a new Board Member earlier this year.

“I hope that the students and teachers at Centre Salisa will be encouraged that a group of people who don't know them are supporting them,” she concludes. Of course, they’re supporting all of us too, as members of this ever-connected human family.

Thank you, Giving Up to Give for your valuable work!


If you would like to learn more about Giving Up to Give or commit to giving up something in 2014, please visit