Monday money: Be nice. (charitable giving)

We here at Grumpy Rumblings know that you thirst to discover our wisdom in regards to charitable giving.  At this time of year, a lot of people, including us, donate more money than we do year-round.  What follows are suggestions for you, the reader, of things that are awesome (and a few that aren’t).  You can also give to these charities in someone else’s name as a gift for the person who has everything.

Recommended charities that could use a little moolah:

  • Girl Scouts of America.  Their cookies are tasty and the organization has always emphasized diversity.
  • Goodwill.  If you don’t have any money, clean out your closet.
  • Planned Parenthood.  Providing sexual and reproductive healthcare for men and women — not just birth control & abortions but all sorts of vital health care and education. Every child a wanted child.
  • Child’s Play.  Won’t someone think of the children?  Toys for kids in hospitals is unassailable. When someone said gamers were violent and antisocial, these guys founded a charity.
  • Heifer International.  You can donate cute baby animals and know that HI emphasizes training for self-sufficiency and community collaboration.  If you do it through this link, you can even get cool stuff from fantasy author Pat Rothfuss (which, by the way, go buy all his books right now).
  • Your local…
    • library needs your donations and probably your political advocacy, too, if you wanna write a letter
    • food bank
    • animal shelters need your time and goods as well as money
    • school scholarship fund
  • Donors Choose.  #2 is really into this one.  You can fund math and science projects for inner-city kids, how cool is that?  Or really anything you want … do it or the pigeon will shank you.
  • Reading is Fundamental.  Because books are good and everyone should have access.
  • Living Beyond Breast Cancer — they help support and advocate for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  They helped #2’s mother with the emotional aspects of her recovery.
  • (a further list from Scalzi’s blog is here)


  • Boy Scouts of America.  Their stance on homosexuality is unacceptable.
  • Salvation Army.  Also hates the gays, is anti-gay marriage, and says that homosexual people should be celibate.  (Look it up if you don’t believe me!) [Disclosure:  #2 donated when the SA were the first folks to get to Katrina victims, but that was a special occasion.  They still send her lots of mail.]
  • Susan G. Komen foundation participates in Pinkwashing and is a big offender in what Twisty calls the Breast Cancer Brand Woman. Cancer is degrading enough already.

Are there any worthy causes our readers would like to plug?  Have at it in the comments!

49 Responses to “Monday money: Be nice. (charitable giving)”

  1. feMOMhist Says:

    love love love Heifer project, the charity of my youth (my mom always attempted to fundraise an ‘ark’) however in more recent years I’ve been going for direct provision to local charities as I’ve tired of the whole “overhead” $ issue. Our local group sponsors a “santa’s workshop” where parents can “shop” for a gift to give their child for the holidays.

  2. Says:

    826National; it’s a creative writing NPO that provides free tutoring, writing workshops, field trips, and in-school work to students in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Ann Arbor, LA, Washington DC (I might be missing a few). If you live in any of those areas, check them out! I’ve volunteered with them for a little over a year now, and they’re an amazing organization!

  3. Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

    I’d like to second the suggestions of your local food bank and animal shelter. They’re hurting these days, as more and more people need food help and can’t afford their pets any longer (which breaks my heart).

  4. Jacq Says:

    All good choices. Oddly enough, I also gave to Wikipedia this year. I use it so darn much, it only seemed right.

  5. Linda Says:

    Salvation Army gets a lot of stuff from me. There just isn’t a Goodwill near my house and when it comes down to making a choice about my time/fuel consumption and their ideals, I have to say that time/fuel wins. I have dropped off stuff at a Goodwill when I could arrange to be going by one, but that is a rare occurance.

    Since you’re both academics, what do you think about people giving money to either a local university/college or to one with which the donor has an affiliation? I’m always asked to give money to the uni where I completed undergrad but never do; the uni treated me like a faceless number and a PITA for so many years that I find it pathetic they think I would give them any money. I do give money to the uni where I completed graduate work. They treated me like a human being and gave me a great education, so I’m happy to support it.

    Heifer and PP get annual gifts from me, as does Habitat for Humanity and Doctors without Borders.

  6. profgrrrrl Says:

    Yes to the local stuff!

    I’ve been giving locally this year … for the family that B’s school has adopted, for another local adopt-a-family program, to a food bank, to a winter coat drive, to an organization that feeds/visits elderly shut-ins. I know there are people in my community who need food and clothes, and I’m happy to be able to help them out.

  7. femmefrugality Says:

    This is a great list. While I love the local stuff, too, I also love Heifer and Planned Parenthood. Great list.

  8. becca Says:

    + 1 for Heifer International. I am very fond of Nothing but Nets. $10 to save a life or three is a pretty good deal in charity giving.

    Komen is kinda weird, but they do fund some researchers I know, so I can’t really oppose them. Maybe someone has an idea for a better cancer charity that does fund research?

  9. Cloud Says:

    We give four big checks a year: one to our local food bank, one to UNICEF, and one to Halo Trust (my husband’s choice- based on our experiences traveling in Cambodia, he feels strongly about their work removing mines). The fourth floats a bit- sometimes a local homeless shelter, sometimes a second check to the food bank, sometimes a second check to UNICEF.

    I also occasionally send money out via Modest Needs. They work with people who are borderline solvent and have just had a big expense or unexpected illness bump them into problem territory. I confess that I haven’t exhaustively researched their overhead, etc., but I like the idea, so anytime I get a raise or a bonus, some of the money goes there.

    We also do an adopt a family via a local charity that works with families that have had problems with abuse or that are deemed “at risk”. We ask for a family of four, which is almost always a single parent + 3 kids. This charity also gets all of our old kids stuff (they’ll even take strollers, which Goodwill will not). I’d like to start giving them some cash, too, but haven’t worked that into our charity schedule yet.

    And I always support my local public radio/TV station. Plus random $25 donations for people doing charity walks, etc., if I don’t hate their cause.

  10. bogart Says:

    Hmmm. We’ve been known to give to Red Cross and Doctors without Borders, both because of their on-the-ground-in-a-disaster reputation (though perhaps this is ill-advised, I’m not sure of overhead, etc.?). And local United Way plus a local version of same, our foodbank / local council (similar to food bank but more inclusive needs), otherwise, yes, as per Cloud small amounts to local organizations our friends/families are involved with and NPR. Oh, and Heiffer.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m pretty sure DWB is nothing but awesome, and I think Red Cross is too, but I haven’t done much research. Still, I think you should feel great about what you’re doing!

      • bogart Says:

        Well, we should be doing (giving) more, but hopefully what we are giving is helping. We do also donate stuff to — usually — Goodwill, though our local schools also have good second-hand shops (really, through the local PTA). I have no particular preference for one over the other, but drive past the Goodwill at times its donation center is open. Also our Habitat for Humanity takes “big” stuff, including construction stuff, and we have at times donated to them, though not recently.

  11. Spanish Prof Says:

    I give to the local library (best cultural organization in the city, their range of activities is impressive), my high school, a local arts fund, random causes throughout the year (bloggers going through some hardship), donations to Goodwill. That’s what I can think of. I also coordinate my institution volunteers for tutoring Spanish in local public schools, but that is part of my job.

  12. Perpetua Says:

    Where I used to live, I shopped at a large, local supermarket chain (sounds like an oxymoron but isn’t). Anyway, they had this fabulous system wherein, right by the check out counter there were these little coupons you could tear off and add to your grocery basket for small amounts of money ($1, $5, $10), and the money would go direct to the local food bank. I loved that system, because every time I bought food for my family, I could help buy food for someone else’s family, too.

    We (used to) give money to Planned Parenthood and the local NPR, too, although the latter doesn’t seem like charity, it’s like putting a quarter in the juke box to keep it going. We’ve fallen off the charitable giving lately. We talked about giving donations instead of Christmas gifts from now on, though.

    • feMOMhist Says:

      we have those coupons, but I’m always wondering how it really work. Shame on me because it is so easy, but having a mom who professionally fundraised, I’m so leery of rip off places that take like 50% for “administrative overhead.”

      forgot to say that we have long tradition in our family of buying “alternative” xmas gifts (which take a bit of doing for IRL stuff, this year’s theme sports equipment for my athletically obsessed family) but if you go on one of the awesome sites like Donors Choose, or other direct provision sites (your school may have teacher wish lists for example) it is pretty easy.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I miss that system too. Our current place picks canned goods and bags them up and you buy the bag and stick it in a bin. It’s not as easy to do or to remember.

  13. Pika Says:

    Kiva – not a traditional charity, but microloans directly to people all over the world who need them:
    Best thing is you can re-lend it again and again once your loan is returned.

  14. feMOMhist Says:

    dear G.G., the econ-inclined one, could you do a post on the whole issue of overhead in charities. I know there is considerable concern about using that ham-fisted index alone, but honestly anything else takes such a huge amount of work. Any fabulous ideas?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      No… not my area of expertise. Sorry!

      • feMOMhist Says:

        damn because I swear I can’t sort it, and thus have simply defaulted to giving goods to local groups which employ people i know so I can vet them internally. I do grasp that some services cost more to administer than others etc and that there are other measures of quality than overhead, but …

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        And, as I’ve learned from our recent dealings with the local private school, highly qualified people won’t work for 24K/year. Sometimes they need closer to 80K, especially if they’d be making 250K in the private sector… and that is still better for the charity. It’s tough to sort out.

  15. Grace Says:

    I give to the Salvation Army anyway–the truth is, when working with poverty communities, I’ve found they are the single best source of pretty much anything a poor person needs, and, oddly enough, they give with the least amount of hassle or judgment.

    But there is a general problem here. I ljust got a card from a relative that said she’d made a donation in my name to an animal rescue charity. It’s a charity SHE supports, but not a cause that I give a rip about. When it comes to a choice between animals or people, I’m gonna always go with the people. So what’s up with that? Personally, I think choosing a charity FOR someone else is insensitive to say the least.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Well, it’s free disposal. So long as you’re not actively *against* animal rescue, then you can just pretend she didn’t get you anything. (If she were giving to say, “Traditional Family Values Against Single Adoptive Moms and all that is Good in the World,” then one might have cause for affront.) Probably better than an ugly sweater you can’t return, though I suppose you could always give that to the Salvation Army. It wasn’t really a choice between animals and people, but animals and a bath set or some other generic present.

      I do always wonder who gets the tax deduction with gifts in people’s names.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      p.s. If anybody would like to make a donation in grumpy rumblings name, #1’s charity of choice is Childsplay up top.
      #2’s charity of choice is currently her local private school, but she’d love a Donors Choose donation as a second option. Preferably for an inner city high poverty school that wants math stuff.

      And we’re both worried about planned parenthood.

      • First gen american Says:

        I am with grace. If you are going to donate money, it should be a cause the recipient cares about not the donor Same thing happened to me with the animal charity. There are so many others that mean more to me. The environment would have been better off without me getting that seasons tweetings bird t shirt last year. I guess I just hate thoughtless spending.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It’s good advice for a gift-giver who actually cares what the recipient wants… but for the gift receiver the best advice is free disposal. It wasn’t your money to begin with. I’m sure someone at Goodwill is enjoying the season’s tweetings shirt.

  16. Debbie M Says:

    If you don’t want to get on mailing lists, you can give via Yes, they do take a small percentage (3% I think), but it is a lot smaller than my employer takes (13%?), and I love, love, love not wasting the charities’ money on a bunch of junk mail and continuous begging. I do “donate” directly when I actually want the benefits (like free entry into the local wildflower center).

    I give 1% to stuff I use or have used (like public TV/radio, wikipedia) and am also undecided about giving to alma maters.

    I give up to 1% to causes that would benefit me directly (like more bike lanes or a local planetarium).

    And I give 10% to things that I hope are extremely important (saving the environment, fighting poverty, fighting abuse). Of the ones you listed, I do like Planned Parenthood (fewer kids means less poverty and less resource use, fewer unwanted kids means less abuse).

    For environmental issues I also like the Nature Conservancy (buying environmentally important land–do not give them your address, though), and Rainforest Foundation, Inc. (works with locals in saving rainforests), and The Non-GMO Project.

    For Poverty issues I used to like microlenders, but now I have mixed feelings. This year I went with Oxfam American-Oil, Gas and Mining (helps make sure the locals benefit from their own resources, recommended by a guy who studied oil around the world), Engineers without Borders (builds wells and schools–a friend of mine worked with them), Make It Right (rebuilding houses in a smart way in the 9th ward of New Orleans, highlighted by my local wildflower center), and God’s Littlest Angel (an orphanage doing disaster relief in Haiti, recommended by a friend who did some work with them).

    For pain/abuse/torture issues, I’ve given to Amnesty International and Arthritis and Chronic Pain Research Institute, and I’m looking for a local abuse prevention place, but I really don’t know anything about these organizations.

  17. chacha1 Says:

    I had to take a few years off from much giving due to voluntary and then involuntary downsizing. Things are looking good for 2012, though.

    I did keep up with Nature Conservancy and the California State Parks Association. Also sent some $ to Moonridge Animal Park, a small Alpine zoo in Big Bear, CA that is needing to relocate; to National Wildlife Federation, in response to the Gulf oil spill; to Red Cross, in response to Katrina. In the past my big gives were Heifer; Habitat for Humanity; Planned Parenthood; and Alley Cat Allies. Occasionally, the Sempervirens fund.

    I only give to people-oriented charities that are squarely in the “we help those who help themselves” turf. I don’t give to medical research charities, partially because there are too many to choose from, but also because I see their Roman-orgy fundraiser dinners and … it annoys me. And ultimately, to be honest, as unfair as it is, ya gotta die from something; and I would rather see these vast amounts of money being spent on developing effective *preventive* approaches for the #1 killer (heart disease) than on developing ever more complex (and expensive) surgical and medical treatments for rare cancers. If the money collected by rare-disease foundations went into re-funding physical education in the public schools, I’d be a happy camper.

  18. Rumpus Says:

    Your mention of Child’s Play reminds me of Extra Life It’s not a year-round operation, because it’s a once-a-year drive, but they both help sick kids.

  19. Louise Says:

    I completely agree with you on the Salvation Army, they are bad news and have many of the qualities of a cult, I know from personal experience!

  20. First gen american Says:

    NPR and united way are my two staples. I do UW because my company matches funds there and it’s easy. I keep about 1/2 of my budget for whatever strikes my fancy. I also have banned more charities than I can count for their unscrupulous fundraising techniques like selling my info and harassing me constantly for follow up donations.

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