This post is part of #GivingTuesday's #WomenWhoGive series, which celebrates women who are making a difference in their communities.

Kathryn Swartz, Executive Director at Solar Energy International

What inspired you to start giving?
In 2004, I received a generous scholarship from Solar Energy International (SEI) to participate in a Women’s Solar Electric Design and Installation training. At the time I was managing an environmental education camp for 4-6th graders in the Bay Area, California. We were teaching the students about solar energy and I wanted to learn more. The scholarship opened up a whole new world for me. Little did I know at the time, but two years later I would be working for SEI, and eight years later I would be serving as the Executive Director!

What does giving mean to you? Why do you give your time, talents, money, or more to your community?
My personal philosophy is “Give freely, live simply.” Life has been filled with the generosity of strangers who lent a helping hand when I most needed it, and I am where I am today because people believed in me. My goal is to pay it forward, many times over, in thanks to those who believed in me.

What would you tell others who are looking to start giving back?
Choose organizations that reflect your passions. You are investing your hard-earned dollars and your precious time into these organizations and your return is based in the advancement of your passion, not a return in dollars. For example, I invest in Solar Energy International because a world powered by renewable energy will not only significantly impact climate change but also reduce energy poverty, especially for women and girls. I also donate a lot to local organizations, including a local conservation group that’s actively monitoring the health of the river, Hospice because of how tenderly they cared for my dying grandparents, the local volunteer ambulance association, and animal rescue groups.

Don’t wait until the end of the year to donate, especially because the holidays can be expensive, but rather donate throughout the year!

Please share a favorite moment or story from when you volunteered or donated to an organization.
I organize a soup fundraiser for our local Chamber of Commerce at a local music festival in the park. I get to combine local food, cooking, feeding people, and raising money. Two years ago, it rained all day. Surprisingly the event was not canceled and lots of people came out, however, not many food vendors did. There were six of us working the table, and though we were thoroughly soaked, we had a blast drinking hot drinks and it was a successful fundraiser in spite of the rain!