Now that we’ve got our virtual festivities in place, and we’ve made some smarter shopping choices, let’s talk about donating during the holidays. It warms my heart to see just how many people contribute to charities around this time of year. I love seeing Toys 4 Toys boxes stuffed with gifts, bustling food drives, and reports of the national average of monetary giving climb up into the ten millions each December.
That said, there are organizations out there routinely taking advantage of people’s kindness and, by proxy, taking away from smaller organizations in desperate of need help. Instead of delegating donation funds to the communities they are supposed to serve, these organizations invest in mass marketing, publicity, and their CEO’s lucrative salary. Goodwill and The Salvation Army are among the biggest offenders, right up there with Autism Speaks and Susan B. Komen. The allocation of funds aside, these big-name non-profits also have reputations for mistreating and underpaying staff, disregarding representation, discriminating against minorities, and even abusing those in need at their shelters. Big yikes.
So, how do you avoid giving not-so-great non-profits your help? It’s not hard, but it does take a little bit of effort. Charity Navigator has a helpful tip sheet here to help you get started. I’m also happy to share some alternatives with you I believe deserve your consideration.
Before we get to that, here are some quick things to keep in mind prior to donating:
1. COVID-19 has severely limited what organizations are able to accept as donations. If possible, donate money in lieu of items. This is a good rule of thumb regardless of the pandemic — money will always go further than any number of items you donate. Charity Navigator puts it best: “By donating cash instead of goods you allow charities greater flexibility in spending the money so that it reaches the people or animals that need it the most.”
2. While it’s top of mind for us to donate around the holidays, organizations are in need of support January — November, too. Instead of going all-in during December, consider contributing smaller, monthly donations throughout the entire year.
3. It’s great to support charities that have a huge reach! But, just like supporting local businesses, donating to local charities will often make a larger impact than contributing to a national or global cause.
4. Never, ever, ever donate something you would not willingly give to a loved one. Those is need are not lesser than you. Don’t degrade them with expired or gross food, broken items, or clothes that are falling apart.
5. If you donate to someone in need directly (instead of an organization), please don’t film it. Performative charity is a plague upon millennials and it needs to die out.
Ready to give it a go? Great! Here are some cool places to start.
Alternatives to The Salvation Army:
· Toys 4 Tots (local chapter or national)
· Your local church, women’s shelter, or children’s hospital
DONATING CLOTHES & COATS
· Your local church, homeless or community center
DONATING CASH — YOUR LOCAL:
· Animal shelter
· Food pantry
· Women’s shelter
· Homeless shelter
· Check Charity Navigator for other causes in your area (here)
In addition to these, I’d like to highlight my personal favorite charities and nonprofits on this Giving Tuesday. Click any link below to learn more about these causes and how to get involved!
- I Support the Girls (NATIONAL): This is an incredible organization that collects and distributes bras, period products, and hygiene products to homeless women and girls. They accept both cash and product donations.
2. Blessings Bag Brigade (LOCAL): B.B.B. collects and distributes essential hygiene and personal care items to those experiencing homelessness. Their ‘blessings bags’ offer comfort and care to those they serve in the NJ/NY area. They accept both cash and product donations.
3. Project Write Now (LOCAL): PWN is a small nonprofit based in Red Bank that makes the art of writing accessible to everyone. No matter your age, skill, or financial situation, they offer classes and programs to bring out the budding creative in all of us. They also offer a safe, supportive community where everyone has a seat at the table.
4. M.C.F.O.O.D.S. (LOCAL): A great food bank that serves all residents of Middlesex County, New Jersey. They’re working extra hard right now to keep families safe and secure during COVID-19. They are currently accepting cash and food donations.
5. New Beginnings Animal Rescue (LOCAL): This is a cat-only animal shelter based in central New Jersey. It just so happens that my partner and I recently adopted our newest member of the family there! They are a very small operation working year-round to find their animals forever homes. They are currently accepting cash and product donations (mostly litter & food).
6. HiTOPS (LOCAL): HiTOPS is an LGBTQ+ positive organization that seeks to make sex education accessible and inclusive for all youth. Based in Princeton, they work to create safe spaces where young people can explore their identities, create communities, and access essential resources for their health and well-being.
7. Child’s Play (NATIONAL): This is a tremendous organization that provides games to children in hospitals and domestic violence shelters. They are currently partnered with over 180 hospitals and 200 shelters nationwide, and have raised closed to $45 million dollars since their launch!
It’s good to give, and you’re awesome for wanting to! I hope these tips and tidbits help to make your donation go that extra mile, and that you’ll pass on your experiences to others as they navigate their own journeys into charity. Speaking of journeys, thanks for joining me on mine through these holiday blogs! Before we part, know that I’m wishing you and yours a safe, cozy, and happy holiday wherever you are.
Take great care of yourself and each other.