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December 19, 2007

Holiday Charity Guide

We’ve talked a lot this month about buying things, and we’re certainly not the only ones. In the middle of all of this $$$$$ December noise, we thought we’d take a day to talk about charity, ESC style.

Don't just give...


Habitat for Humanity is an international “housing ministry” that is working to eliminate poverty and homelessness by partnering with volunteers and families in need to build affordable housing. They accept donations of money and materials and also invite people to volunteer locally or around the world. Habitat is a Christian organization, although they say that they welcome and help people of all religions. They work through a group of affiliate organizations—most are highly rated by charity evaluators, but there are a few that aren’t, so do a little research before deciding where to commit your money and time.

Sanctuary For Families is an organization dedicated to providing a whole range of services for victims of domestic violence. They have several shelters and safe houses, run a support hotline, provide counseling services, have special programs for children, help clients with housing and other issues, and also provide legal support. If that’s not enough, they are also dedicated to treating their clients as individuals and respecting their specific needs, which includes providing service in many different languages and having programs to address the unique needs of immigrant women. They accept donations and are always looking for volunteers to help with the many many support services and special programs that they provide.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness. They focus on policy, which means that they work with other nonprofits and private organizations and well as with local governments to try to help communities develop stronger programs to address the problem of homelessness. They provide lots of data and research on the issues surrounding homelessness and how they can best be addressed.

The Haven Coalition is a New York City based volunteer network that provides hosting services for women traveling to the city to have abortions. Abortion access is very limited in many parts of the country, which often puts women in the position of having to travel a long distance and spend a great deal of money in order to have an abortion. Haven volunteers will open their homes to these women and will also provide a meal and help with transportation to and from their appointments. The only way we’ll be able to fight for our reproductive freedom and win is if we all work together.


"The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust is dedicated to one, single purpose: building better lives for our nation's disabled veterans and their families. To carry out this responsibility, the Charitable Service Trust supports physical and psychological rehabilitation programs, meets the special needs of veterans with specific disabilities such as amputation and blindness, and aids and shelters homeless veterans. In addition, the Trust is a grant maker, expending more than $48.5 million in service to disabled veterans and their dependents since 1988."

Operation Homefront provides emergency assistance and morale to our troops, to the families they leave behind, and to wounded warriors when they return home. They provide financial assistance in crisis situations, as well as help with food, furniture, school supplies, moving services, and holiday programs.

The International Rescue Committee is a global network of “first responders, humanitarian relief workers, healthcare providers, educators, community leaders, activists, and volunteers” working in 25 countries to provide help to those who are affected by violent conflict. They work on resettlement of refugees, economic development, providing shelter and health care and other basic services, and advocacy on issues like gender-based violence, trafficking, and children’s issues.

We know that there are a lot of strong opinions out there about the current war in Iraq and Afghanistan and what should be done about it, and we're not going to tell anyone what to believe (at least, not in this blog entry). We're just suggesting that you look for opportunities to help those affected by war and violence in a way that feels right to you.


RAINN is the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. They operate a national sexual assault hotline 24/7 and are working on launching a 24/7 online hotline as well. They conduct college outreach programs and media campaigns, and are involved in political and legal issues related to sexual assault. RAINN "educates the public about sexual assault, and leads national efforts to improve services to victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice".

Dress For Success is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged women find and keep employment. They provide women with professional clothes to wear on job interviews, and services to help them once they are employed. They run the Professional Women's Group (PWG) program, which “provides ongoing support to enable women to successfully transition into the workforce, build thriving careers and prosper in the mainstream workplace. Once a woman joins PWG she is a member for life, able to attend meetings at any affiliate throughout the world and can benefit from additional employment retention and mentoring programs”. Economic independence for women is a beautiful thing.

HIVSA and the Perinatal HIV Research Unit (PHRU) are two closely related African organizations. HIVSA runs a wide range of educational and community programs to help those who are affected by HIV and AIDS, and PHRU is "one of the largest AIDS research centres in Africa. The early research focus on prevention of mother to child transmission has expanded and PHRU now leads studies on many different aspects of HIV prevention, treatment and care including medical and social research". The PHRU and HIVSA offices are at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa. HIVSA accepts donations to fund their programs.


Toys For Tots organizes collection drives all across the country, collecting new toys to distribute to needy kids at holiday time. Find a donation site, give a toy. It's simple and doesn't have to be expensive. You can also go to their website and 'sponsor a toy' by giving a cash donation. This allows you to be lazy, but also helps because it gives Toys For Tots the ability to make sure nobody misses out by buying toys for older kids, since donated toys tend to be geared towards younger kids.

The VH1 Save The Music Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring instrumental music education in America's public schools, and raising awareness about the importance of music as a part of each child's complete education. "VH1 Save The Music purchases new musical instruments to restore music education programs that have been cut due to budget reductions in the past or to save programs at risk of elimination due to lack of instruments. The Foundation also conducts awareness campaigns, musical instrument drives and fundraising events." They accept donations and also provide resources to help you advocate for music education in your own community.


Donors Choose is program designed to address inequity and scarcity in public schools. Basically, teachers submit proposals to the site and explain what materials or resources they need for the particular program that they want to teach their kids. You go to donorschoose.org, browse around and pick a program that you would like to help fund. When a project is funded, donors get a package with photos, letters, and info about how it worked. Donors Choose screens all of the projects and then purchases and ships the necessary materials.

Author Timothy Ferriss is working with the nonprofit group Room to Read to raise $15,000 to build a school in Nepal. "Room to Read provides under-privileged children with opportunities to gain the lifelong gift of education, in order to break the cycle of poverty and provide the means for self-determination." We wanted to link directly to Tim's project as well as to the Room to Read home page because he's more than halfway to his goal, and getting there means a school gets built and children's lives are changed.


We've written about V-Day a million times, but we can't leave them off if we're talking about giving and unity. We all need to work together until the violence stops.

The Humane Society of the United States promotes the protection of all animals. "With nearly ten million members and constituents, The HSUS is the nation's largest and most powerful animal protection organization, working in the United States and abroad to defend the interests of animals. We celebrate the human-animal bond, and we fight animal cruelty and abuse in all of its forms. We work to reduce suffering and to create meaningful social change for animals by advocating for public policies to protect animals, investigating cruelty and working to enforce existing laws, educating the public about the issues, and conducting hands-on programs, such as assisting animals when disasters strike."

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. HRC seeks to improve the lives of GLBT Americans by advocating for equal rights and benefits in the workplace, ensuring families are treated equally under the law and increasing public support among all Americans through innovative advocacy, education and outreach programs.

Oxfam is an international relief and development organization that works to combat poverty and injustice. They work for women's equality, the rights of minority and indigenous people, security, trade, and economic issues, and for basic needs like land and clean water. They believe that "conflict violates the inherent rights of all people" but also that victims of violence and injustice are not helpless and can work together for change. They accept donations, have programs for students, and also welcome volunteers.

And before you begin, don't forget one other important activity...


Independent Charities of America is a nonprofit association of America's best charities. “Our purpose is to represent charities that meet the highest standards of public accountability and program effectiveness and to facilitate gifts to those charities from contributors in fund drives conducted at work and on the web.”

Charity Navigator is an independent organization that evaluates charities and nonprofit organizations. They have a team of professional analysts and a rating system that looks at how charities spend their money, so they can help you decide which groups will make the best use of your donation.

Give.org is the home of the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. They have a Wise Giving Guide and a long list of evaluation reports on national charities.

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

Thanks for including the Haven Coalition.