Sophia Bush wants everyone to get charitable on #GivingTuesday

Carly Milne
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle
Sophia Bush attends attends an Emmy Awards after-party. (Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Actress Sophia Bush has been called one of the most charitable celebrities, which makes perfect sense: Not only has she worked tirelessly in support of environmental initiatives and girls’ education, but she’s also raised a half million dollars for various charities. Talk about a giving nature!

“That’s always been in my DNA,” Bush tells Yahoo. “My parents tease me and say I was that crazy little kid who wanted to raise money for the Amazon and do beach cleanup on Saturdays when my friends were out playing.”

So it also makes perfect sense that PayPal would approach Bush to partner with the company on its #GivingTuesday initiative. From now until the end of December, PayPal will add 1 percent to donations made through the PayPal Giving Fund. The company’s 1 percent donations added up to an additional $48 million last year year in support of worthy causes.

To celebrate her partnership with PayPal, Bush spoke with Yahoo Lifestyle about what #GivingTuesday is all about, how you can make a difference to those in need, and why Hollywood is one of the most charitable industries around.

So we’ve had Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and now #GivingTuesday. What is Giving Tuesday and how does it work?

Giving Tuesday started years ago as, I’d say, a nice response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. A collective of charitable people said, “How can we highlight giving back in a time of year when money is moving around, and people are frantic about what to get people for the holidays?” I always joke, “Guys I don’t need another ugly sweater; I’d rather you donate to an organization that has meaning to me,” and I think others can do that for people as well. Giving Tuesday is about giving to piggyback this weekend of shopping, and it’s such a wonderful time of year for people to give to causes that are meaningful to them.

How did the partnership with PayPal come about, and how does it support Giving Tuesday?

PayPal has been working on this initiative for years now, and when they came to me, I laughed and said, “Do they know I use the service all the time when I’m buying weird vintage lights?” People want to know where their money goes and how much of it goes to charity. With the PayPal Giving Fund, they’re adding a 1 percent donation to yours, so 101 percent of the donation money goes to a charity of your choice. And that 1 percent adds up to $48 million in charitable donations every year, so it all really does count. It all adds up to make a massive difference.

Getting involved in charitable initiatives can be intimidating for some. There are so many to choose from, and sometimes it feels like if you can do only a little, it won’t be enough. What advice do you have for people who struggle with charitable involvement in this way?

That’s why I think you’ve got to just start somewhere — it’s all about taking the first step. And PayPal is making it easier with the PayPal Giving Fund because you can donate through that in support of any charity you like, and there are thousands of charities to choose from. You can even do a search. You can look for charities that support the environment, girls’ education, cancer research … that can help steer you in the right direction. You can even look through the app on your phone. So start, do a search, and find an organization that really strikes you and makes you say yes, then donate on behalf of someone, or donate on behalf of yourself. If that feels good, figure out what version of that charity is in your community and volunteer — take your family! I think that’s the jumping-off point — that’s how people figure out what they’re passionate about, and then they see that volunteerism changes their lives.

After raising a half million for charity, building three primary schools in Guatemala, and becoming a global ambassador for the Girl Project, you’re as known for your charity work as you are for your work in Hollywood. Was that an ideal you were raised with, or has it developed over time?

That’s always been in my DNA. My parents tease me and say I was that crazy little kid who wanted to raise money for the Amazon and do beach cleanup on Saturdays when my friends were out playing. I’ve always been passionate and hyper empathetic, which can be tough, but I think also, I love people and tell stories about people. That’s the reason why I’m an activist and an actor. I’m fortunate I have a job that has allowed me a platform that also allows me to take on activism, and that passion can take me into a space for me to highlight things that inspire me.

This is a very giving time of year, and there are a lot of organizations that need help. Plus, there’s family outings, office parties, shopping … it’s easy to get burned out. How do you practice self-care when you’re giving a lot to others during this time of year?

I think it’ is always important to prioritize self-care, because if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not taking care of anyone else. So get enough sleep, drink water, and if holiday gifts are stressful, instead of giving gifts, donate to charity this year — a lot of people who do find it very rewarding. And you can also make meals that are easier and healthier. After Thanksgiving, you know, it’s like, “I should eat veggies and chill.” It’s a really important thing to prioritize. You want to enjoy the holiday season. You don’t want to just survive it; you want it to enrich you.

Seeing you and the One Tree Hill gang come together in support of writer Audrey Wauchope, against alleged sexual harassment, was both heartening and amazing. Can you speak a little more about how that came together?

I don’t know that that’s a part of this conversation, when we’re talking about giving. I don’t want to pollute that message with someone else’s legacy. But I think women are each other’s allies, and supporting one another is the best thing I can do. That’s why I’m supportive of girls around the world, and like you said, I’ve built primary schools in Guatemala. Supporting women, and empowering women, does change communities.

How would you like to see Hollywood become more giving?

Hollywood is incredibly giving. I’m always amazed at the amount of charity events and donation drives and the highlighting of great causes that entertainers are always working on. By and large, these are a bunch of people who have come from not a lot, and we’ve fought to build these lives about stepping into other people’s shoes and caring about their lives. So many people in my industry work so hard for causes. From the outside, Hollywood looks very glamorous. Sure, there’s the Oscars — but that’s an event, it’s not real life. We’re on set 16 to 18 hours a day, we’re working with a lot of different people behind the scenes including people in catering, people in construction, and it’s a family. You’re all in it together, and you want the best for all those around you. And that desire for people to have good lives extends to those you work with throughout the neighborhoods you work in, and the community. Open empathy is what makes Hollywood a majorly charitable industry in the world.

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