Lulu Cerone is only 18 years old, but she’s been in the business of giving back for more than a decade now. At six, she started donating the profits she made from selling lemonade in her Encino neighborhood to charity, and at ten she founded her own philanthropic organization, LemonAID Warriors, as a way to raise money for victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. What started out as a boys versus girls lemonade-selling competition among her fifth-grade classmates has evolved into a multifaceted advocacy and mentorship program. She’s worked with her team of youth “warriors” to raise more than $100,000 for local and global causes and has inspired a number of children to kick-start their own charity projects.
In between finishing high school, applying for college (she started at Columbia University in September), and helping to save the world, she even found time to write a book, published in May and titled Philanthroparties! It teaches kids how to incorporate activism into their social lives by planning “par-ties with a purpose.” We asked Cerone to offer a few tips for people of all ages who want to get more involved but don’t necessarily know how or where to begin.
FOLLOW YOUR PASSION
“Your work is going to be the most meaningful and the most effective if you’re doing something that you re-ally care about,” says Cerone. Take a look at the problems in your own community—homelessness, poverty, discrimination, for instance—and choose the one that you feel most passionate about.
“There are so many other ways to give back than just by raising money,” she says. They don’t have to be big either; just think outside the box. Ask guests to bring donations of “gently used” clothing and blankets to your holiday party, turn your weekly book club meeting into a book drive, or have friends chip in a few bucks at game night and let the winner choose where to donate the money.
A little research can help you figure out where your time and effort will go the furthest. If you want to tackle hunger and participate in a holiday food drive, for instance, work to ensure that the foods collected aren’t sugary cakes and cranberry sauce but more nutritious options like peanut butter or dried beans.
If you decide to contribute in some way to a traditional charity, remember that they’re not all created equal. Cerone recommends using sites like Charity Navigator, which ranks philanthropic organizations based on financial health, accountability, and transparency.
This article is a part of Give Los Angeles 2017: A Charitable Registry. Click here for more.