Jenna Arnold Has Some Powerful Words On the Meaning of Giving Back

By Amy Elisa Jackson

Jenna Arnold is ready for a fight. As the co-founder of organ-donation startup Organize, she's got her gloves on every day as she disrupts the more than 50-year-old system of organ donation in America. Her goal? To create the first central organ-donation registry — a remarkable feat that would help thousands of Americans who require transplants every year. However, according to Arnold, not everyone wants to see Organize succeed.

"There have been many moments along the way that have been discouraging and demoralizing — it would have been easy to give up and accept the status quo," the 33 year old said. "Plenty of people wish we would just go away, but their resistance is just proof that we’re doing something right. If a few people don't hate it, you're not pushing hard enough."

And pushing hard is exactly what she and her co-founder Greg Segal are hell-bent on doing. An estimated 90 percent of Americans support organ donation, yet only 40 percent are registered organ donors. Arnold and Segal contend that this discrepancy is because organ donors are registered through the DMV (and we all know how slow that place can be!). In order to reach their goal of increasing donors, Organize has set out a large-scale marketing plan to attract a variety of demographics across the U.S. — including Millennials.

Sure, Arnold has heard the criticism that Gen Y only wants to get involved by clicking "Like" on Facebook or contributing to the occasional crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. However, she's determined to get those under 35 to do more — a whole lot more.

Arnold spoke to Levo and shared the reasons why she cares — and why you should, too!

1. The to-do list of solving the world’s problems is too long to ignore
"Why do I give a sh*t? Because I don’t have any other choice — and frankly, neither do you. There is no magic wand (though if a genie appeared, I’d ask for one that sparkles) to solving the world's problems. Since I witnessed my first human rights violation while on a class trip to Mexico City 20 years ago, a gentleman in a wheelchair was unable to get on the sidewalk for lack of ramps and consequently had to navigate dangerous traffic, I’ve been laser focused (some would say obsessed) with checking silly/stupid/archaic problems off the to-do list."

2. Giving back opens doors to seeing life in new ways
"My obsession with ticking tasks off the world’s list of things to fix has taken me to almost every continent on the planet — though I'm too scared of being cold to go to Antarctica. I have sought the guidance of much smarter individuals to guide me — turns out they're all chillin' at miniature desks in elementary classrooms around the world. Who knew! I continue to challenge my belief that humanity means well. I learned to jump from the Maasai, how to deliver speeches from Secretary Generals at the UN, how to spell from my first grade students and how to build successful companies from failing at building companies."


3. Humans all want the same things and have the same core values
"I'm a serial problem solver. I have stared trafficking, sanitation, and Fidel Castro in the face. I am committed to making things better — not perfect — just better. I know we can build wider roads to increase commerce in Nigeria. I know we can eliminate the waiting list for heart transplants in the US. I know that girls run the world (source: Beyonce). I'll throw the towel in when people realize that we’re all the same — that's all I want. Everyone wants the same thing. They all want safety, education, and healthcare for their families and everybody yearns to feel relevant in this great big world of ours."

4. Improving the lives of others is the gift that keeps on giving
"I'm decades away from inner peace, and I wrestle with my shortcomings as much as anyone else, but know that you can improve the life of another and the ripple effect is infinite. That it is your duty — to yourself first and everyone else on the planet — to find your purpose and own it. That women can build businesses that profit the world and their bank accounts, that should be — and will be — the new status quo. That you should recycle, hold doors for strangers and not beat yourself up as much as you do."

5. Raising the bar is second nature for Millennials
"Push harder faster. What I’ve found, both as an educator and social entrepreneur, is the higher you raise the bar for yourselves and others the more impressive and substantive the results. I can be bullish in pushing to get things done, and I can’t say that I’m particularly graceful in my efforts, but looking back, I wish I pushed even harder more frequently."

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jenna Arnold