Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm Not a Shill...

...I'm just a supporter.

The front page of The Washington Post is depressing me. The economy is crumbling, the presidential campaign season is farcical thus far at best, Iranian students are destroying the British Embassy.

So! To counter that, I am sharing with you some organizations that I believe do actual good in this world, and I hope that you will check them out as you make your holiday giving decisions. Even better, share them with your friends and family. In times of economic trouble, charities--especially the smaller ones--struggle even as their services grow so much more valuable.

As a federal employee, I've watched my retirement investments and my kids' college funds plummet and my pay freeze. I am pretty damn lucky. Each holiday season, I decide that as a solvent consumer with a decent paycheck, I should support retailers. I've been broadening my definition of doing economic good: I should support retailers, I should support craftsmen, and I should support charities.

So here they are, the places I turn when I want my money to do something more valuable than add yet another pair of unused shoes to my closet:


Kiva manages microlending. They partner with regional organizations to provide a framework in which you choose the project/entrepreneur and lend whatever amount of money in $25 increments. The entrepreneur then pays it back in regular installments, and you can lend it again as soon as you have a minimum of $25. I have been doing this for a few years now. It's fun, it makes a significant impact, and you can even give your friends and family funds to loan. Make sure you donate a bit as you check out for Kiva's overhead costs.

Donors Choose

Donors Choose is particularly close to my heart because I was the recipient of several funded projects when I was a teacher in the Bronx. I was broke, my school system was underfunded and overburdened, and those generous gifts helped me bring some innovative tools and ideas into my first grade classroom. You choose the project proposal and how much you want to donate toward it. In return, you might get some pretty sweet thank you notes.

The Liz Logelin Foundation

When Matt Logelin's young wife died the day after she delivered their preterm daughter, he was showered with love and material support from strangers across this vast thing we call the internet. In an effort to pay it forward, he created an organization that provides funds to struggling widows and widowers with children. LLF will cover their expenses for a month to soften the blow of losing not only their spouse, but often their only income. LLF has more applications than they can fund.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep matches volunteer photographers with grieving families after a stillbirth or loss of a newborn. Professional photographers capture those last few moments of life as parents and siblings love their little fading bundle. Sometimes they capture those moments after their son or daughter is already gone, before the nurses and doctors take the baby away forever. It's hard to go through their website emotionally unscathed.

I'm always happy to find an organization that has a short path from donor to recipient, so point me in the direction of foundations that make you warm and fuzzy. Share the love. 

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