The Internet has transformed charitable giving by making it simpler to contribute, more transparent to see how charities spend their money, and easier to learn about how your contributions are helping people. With that in mind, and since the Western World is in the midst of its "Season of Giving," I've put together a list of 10 worthy charities that take advantage of the benefits of the Internet age.
So here's my holiday challenge: For those of us who are able to do it, let's each make a $25 contribution to three different charities on this list. Will you help? If so, please post in the comments below after you've made your contributions. If you'd like to post the three charities you chose, that'd be great. If not, that's fine, too. If you can't afford to donate right now, you can still help by sharing this post on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and your favorite message boards.
Alright, so here's the list:
This has been my favorite charity for years because it's about "giving a hand up more than a hand out," as the saying goes. Here's how it works, your contribution becomes part of a loan to small business owner (most of them in the developing world) so that they can become self-sufficient. You can read through the Kiva.org site and pick the person you want to assist -- most of them are farmers and merchants. The great part is that the people eventually pay back the loan (98.96% repayment rate) so the money goes back into your Kiva account and then you can pick someone new to help (or even cash it out if you want). In many countries, this helps everyday people from being abused by organized crime or corrupt money lenders. What Kiva does is often called microlending or microfinance and it's making a significant impact on the world. 100% of your contribution goes directly to funding loans. Kiva doesn't take a cut, but is financed by separate, direct contributions.
This organization works to help solve the developing world's water crisis, which has a major impact on the health and education of children (see Why Water). I like this charity because there are lots of ways that governments and even the charities themselves can get in the way of helping real people. Charity Water has a simple, straightforward mission and 100% of the money donated goes directly to water projects that help people access or produce clean water in their area.
Another charity that deals with the water crisis is Blood Water Mission, which is focused on bringing clean water to Sub-Suharan Africa. It started with the goal of helping dig 1,000 wells to help 1,000 different communities. Eventually, they learned that the two biggest problems in Africa are clean water and clean blood and so they've organized the charity around tackling those issues. A $25 donation equals one year of water for 25 Africans.
This is the world's largest organization dedicated to fighting global hunger. It is run out of the United Nations but it's funded by contributions. A $25 donation provides a meal for 100 children.
According to the CDC, "Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States." (See more stats here.) These are our mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, daughters, and friends.
These folks are hard core and the world needs them. They work across the globe to stop modern slavery, including child trafficking, enslaved sex workers, and violence against the poor. They break up illegal brothels and rescue women and children from exploitation. The work they do reminds me of what Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
This group of doctors and journalists focuses on "bringing quality medical care to people in crisis regardless of their race, religion, or political affiliation." They often go into war zones and places where atrocities are happening -- often at great risk to their own safety -- to provide medical care to abused and oppressed people and genocide victims. It's a great cause that deserves support.
In the U.S we know this as the American Red Cross but it's also part of a wider global network called the International Red Cross and Red Crescent. The bottom line is that these are the folks who are often first on the scene when disasters happen -- hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, wars, etc. They bring blood, water, food, shelter, and medical supplies, and they often help organize the chaos. Whenever something like the disasters in Joplin, Missouri or Japan or Haiti happen, the best and quickest way to help is to donate to the Red Cross/Red Crescent. But, of course, they continue to help people in badly suffering areas long after the media stops reporting about it, so they need a steady stream of contributions in good times, too.
One of the most creative charities you'll find is the Heifer project, which raises donations to buy a cow and then donate the livestock (along with training for what to do with it) to a small farmer in the developing world in order to enable them to pull themselves out of poverty. Live Kiva.org, Heifer tries to live the philosophy "Give a man a fish he eats for a day; teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime."
10. Feeding America
It's important to help people in need around the world because their needs are often more acute and in many ways that's where your money can have the biggest impact. But, you should also look for ways to support your local community. My favorite local charity is Dare to Care, a food bank in Louisville, Kentucky that is part of the Feeding America network. You can use their site to find a local food bank, or you can research a local food bank on your own. There's are lots of good ones, like City Harvest in New York.
There are charities out there to fit every need, interest, faith (or no faith) and community. There are lots of great charities beyond the ones I've listed here, including ones like Project Linus, Keep A Child Alive, and Wounded Warrior. If you'd like to learn more about any of the charities I've mentioned before making a donation then take a look at CharityNavigator.org, which has details about the finances of most charities and is a great place to find new ones that fit your interests and priorities.
So take your pick, make your three donations, and then post in the comments below or send me a message. If you support the idea, I hope you'll also consider sharing this post with your friends. Again, that's something you can do even if aren't in a position to make donations right now. Every effort makes a difference.
Let's put a little dent in the universe!