Nicholas Kristof has the right idea. When you give to organizations that make a difference in the world, your gifts inspire.
We are smack in the middle of the giving season, and the ways in which we celebrate our affection for others serve as examples to our loved ones. We can do more than seek a Kodak (or smartphone) moment, documenting a heap of treasure beneath a tree or a 12-year-old’s delight unwrapping the latest gadget. We can give one less shiny object tied up in a bow, and thereby model an investment in today and tomorrow, that won’t be tossed in a corner in a few weeks’ time.
In his column, “Gifts That Inspire,” Mr. Kristof suggests a holiday gift to eji.org, the Equal Justice Initiative, which “fights on behalf of low-income people snared unfairly by the justice system.” Another recommendation is camfed.org, the Campaign for Female Education, which supports girls’ education in Africa.
Mr. Kristoff also mentions OneGoal, onegoalgraduation.org, dealing with the college education-completion gap that parallels the growing income gap in the US, with a program that coaches disadvantaged high school students to increase the likelihood of higher education success.
Check out Mr. Kristof’s 2014 list, which includes several other nonprofits doing important work and making a difference, both nationally and internationally.
Additional options I might suggest include medical research or an organization like COTA.org, the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, which helps raise money to assist with the sky-high costs of organ transplants for children. You may choose to find organizations that are local and focus your funds there, including homeless shelters and food banks. It goes without saying that if you can make volunteering a priority and if you can do it with your children, that’s a whole other level of commitment that sets an excellent example.
We know this is a busy time of year, and when we’re already stretched thin (for both time and money), it’s easy to dismiss the non-stop solicitations that show up in the mail or online. Perhaps we should take a proactive approach. Consider what’s going on in our world that we wish we could change – and seek out organizations that are trying to do precisely that.
If you aren’t sure where to look to find organizations that suit your family’s or recipient’s values (and your own), a little Googling goes far. Try nonprofit organizations, nonprofit organizations (+ an area of interest such as education or climate change), or philanthropic organizations (+ an area of interest or your city / region), and so on.
You can also browse through the twitter feed of @NonProfitOrgs or Red Cross, United Way, Doctors Without Borders and other organizations you know about.
Do be sure to use Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org), which rates nonprofits on critical factors that you should care about, like percentage of funds that go to administrative overhead and accountability / transparency. And remember, employers may match certain donated funds, so check out that option as well.
Here’s the bottom line. As you continue to hunt for great deals on seasonal sweaters or flat screens or eReading devices, doesn’t it make sense to offer models of longer-term giving? And don’t we all enjoy feeling as though we’re making a difference?
I welcome your thoughts and recommendations.
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