Calling out to middle school girls everywhere and imploring you…be that girl. Not the one who only posts about the charities her favorite celebs are promoting. Not the one who insta-likes every nonprofit but actually learns about none of them. Nope…be the girl who dives deeply into a cause she loves and discovers what kind of difference she can truly make. Be the girl who cultivates kindness in her friends and inspires authentic giving.

The world needs that girl right now.

And you know what? She’s hard to find.

Here’s the thing: a lot of kids get volunteering wrong. They wake up one day, realize they need community service credits for school, and reach for the closest cause. Often it’s a nonprofit supported by their parents or the top trending charity on twitter. But what it’s usually NOT is a reflection of their core interests.

That doesn’t make it a bad choice…just a less personal one. And giving usually works best when the cause resonates deeply with you. So girls, middle school is the perfect time to ask yourselves: What do you love? What incites your fervor? Maybe hunger relief? Environmental protection? Animal rescue? There is no right answer, and there are seriously millions of organizations from which to choose. If you’re overwhelmed, websites like Charity Navigator or Volunteer Match are great places to start. This is worth thinking about carefully…you’ll spend valuable hours and precious energy working for the cause you pick.

Make sure you pick something close to your heart.

Once you’ve picked a cause to champion, it’s time to inspire others to join you. And girls, this is where you will shine. Admit it, you already play at the varsity level when it comes to rallying your friends. Let your social media prowess move into high gear here, and #spreadtheword. Let your followers know that there is a problem you think needs solving. Draw attention to organizations working on issues that speak to you. Remember, you don’t have to be the girl that donates all the funds (cough — the adults can handle that part — cough)…be the girl that highlights the need and moves others to action.

Because being philanthropic is important. And as you head into high school and college it’s only going to get more important. Earlier this year Harvard University published a report urging students to “engage in forms of service that are authentically chosen.” Dozens of other colleges agreed. This doesn’t mean open your calendars and your hearts because Harvard said so. But Harvard has a point — charitable efforts should start young, last long and stay true to what you love.

So be the girl who opens her heart at an early age and makes an impact.

Be the girl who inspires authentic giving.

For the sake of…you know, everything…be that girl.

Illana Raia is a lawyer, lecturer and founder of — new resources for world-changing girls

Originally published at


  • Illana Raia

    Founder & CEO


    Recently named one of the first 250 entrepreneurs on the Forbes Next 1000 List, Illana Raia is the founder and CEO of Être - a mentorship platform for girls. Believing that mentors matter as early as middle school, Illana brings girls directly into companies they select to meet female leaders face to face. The goal, as Être's French name suggests, is to help today's girls figure out who they want to be.    Named a Mogul Influencer in 2017, Illana appeared in the HuffPost "Talk To Me" video series, participated in the 2018 Balance Project Interviews and the 2019 #WomenWhoRock campaign, and has been featured on Cheddar TV and podcasts like The Other 50%, Her Money, Finding Brave and Women To Watch. Illana has authored 50+ articles for Thrive Global, HuffPost and Ms. Magazine, and her award-winning book Être: Girls, Who Do You Want To Be was released on Day of the Girl 2019. Her next book, The Epic Mentor Guide, is scheduled to arrive on International Women's Day 2022.   Prior to launching Être in 2016, Illana was a corporate attorney at Skadden, Arps in NYC and an occasional guest lecturer at Columbia University. She graduated from Smith College and the University of Chicago Law School, and remains unapologetically nerdy.