At this point, I may have to change my name to “Unsolicited Advice on the Internet!” (Were you expecting more snark from this? You’re not alone, I was too).
I’m late on this one, apparently “Giving Tuesday” comes after cyber Monday. Donations make great gifts, and some places allow you to actually buy something tangible that then goes to a person in need, making it a little more personalized than just a dollar amount (though it’s all important). I can be a little skeptical when it comes to donations. It’s not that I don’t want to help, it’s that I worry about sending my hard-earned dollars someplace that isn’t going to appropriate them responsibly. Hearing about things like the suspected misuse of donations at organizations like Wyclef Jeans Yele Haiti Foundation make me nervous, and I also refuse to support any organization that discriminates against the people receiving the aid, so that rules out the Salvation Army. As an atheist, I also try to pick non-denominational charities, as those are the ones that I am more comfortable with, however if I think the group is doing good work for all people (and not just Christians) and doesn’t seem to have a hard-line evangelizing component they are good in my book. You’ll notice that some of the places I list are technically “Christian” organizations, but they lack a preachy or discriminatory element so I have no problem with their missions. So without further ado, here are my top picks for awesome organizations that are great to donate to, any time of the year.
1. Kiva Microloans– A microloan is just that, a small amount of money that is lent not given. The people do have to repay these loans, but at rates far, far lower than they would probably be able to get at a local bank. They use these microloans to start businesses that will help them and their families earn a living, attend schools that will help them get a career, and such. It’s the whole “teach a man to fish” attitude. You get to pick who you loan your money to (and you can loan as little as $25). The money IS repayed to you, and you can either pocket it, or reinvest it in another person. This gift can keep on giving as long as you want it to!
2. Heifer International- In the same “teach a man to fish” vein, we have Heifer International, one of the most popular organizations. With Heifer, you buy all or part of an animal (or basket of animals) that is donated to someone. These animals provide food and clothing for people, and often provide extra income (selling things knitted with the wool of a llama, selling the milk of a cow, etc). Heifer requests that the second generation of animal is gifted to another in the same area, so that a whole town can benefit from the original gift of one animal. Last year, I got my environmentalist best friend the Earth Gift Basket, and it was the perfect gift for someone who cares about activism and didn’t want useless trinkets for the holidays. Heifer may technically be a Christian organization, but in their mission statement they make it clear that “[…]Heifer works with people of all beliefs—and no belief—to overcome poverty and hunger.” Awesome!
3. Reece’s Rainbow– Ermahgerd, it has “ministry” right there in it’s full, official name. And honestly, I find they can be a little off-putting with the faith side of things. But there it is, in their Frequently Asked Questions: “There are no faith based restrictions on our adoption grants or donations.” That’s all I ask for. Reece’s Rainbow is an advocacy group for special needs adoptions, and their primary goal is helping families afford the high cost of adoption grants. I’m a person who is very, very passionate about adoption as a family building technique, and also a person who cares a lot about making sure people with special needs get the accommodations and potential medical treatments they deserve. Poverty is often a death sentence for a special needs child (especially one who may have expensive medical issues). I’m not one of those people who thinks that bringing a child to America is the best thing that could ever possibly happen to them, but I do believe that every child deserves a stable, loving family, and if they have to leave their home country to get that, then they have to leave their home country (I could write a whole post about my thoughts on adoption, but not today). Your donation (and you get to pick an amount) can go to a waiting child (so that a family interested in them knows there is already money available to help bring them home) or to a family that has already chosen/been matched with a child and needs that money to help with costs. You can browse all the children, or if there is a need close to your heart (as Down Syndrome is to mine) then you can donate specifically to children like that, and if you chose to donate to a family, you can pick which stage of the adoption process they are in. I really like that my money isn’t going to the organization, but to a family and a child, helping them directly. I find a lot of the language used on the site to be problematic in terms of my worldview, but still think it’s a valuable resource for these children and families and it’s one of the first places I head when I have some extra cash.
4. World Wildlife Fund– Haven’t we all wanted a three-toed sloth for Christmas? No, we haven’t. I think grown-up sloths have creepy, demonic faces (annnnd there’s the snark!). My partner, on the other hand, loves him some sloth. Whatever wild animal you’ve wanted for Christmas (like, say, a beautiful tiger or your very own blue-footed booby). Know someone who just don’t give a shit about Christmas? Get them a honey badger! You can chose from over 100 species of animal, and their gift options run from $25-$250. These “adoptions” help the preservation of the animals represented in the gifts. My aunt and uncle like to gift my family these, picking animals from places we’ve traveled to or are planning to travel to. Thanks to this program, I have my very own giant tortoise!
5. Your local charities- This one is such a cop-out. I have my favorites, but I’m committed to secrecy. You can do a lot of good in your own town by donating to you local food pantry, homeless shelter, animal shelter, nature preserve, your local chapter of Planned Parenthood. To quote a cliche “think globally, act locally.”
Not seeing something that piques your interest, or that of someone you need a gift for? A few years ago awesome website Cakewrecks did a charity challenge, asking all their readers to donate $1 to a different organization a day. With Cakewreck’s large reader base, they were able to do some serious good! I hope it’s an exercise they repeat this holiday season, but here is a list of the charities they endorsed, check them out. There’s some overlap with my personal list, but they have lots more than I do.