My family believes you don’t have to be Bill Gates to be a philanthropist. Everyone has something to share, and every contribution makes a difference. We often give charitable donations in place of traditional gifts for Christmas or other occasions. To help narrow down the list from the hundreds of thousands of nonprofits out there, here’s a list of some that our family likes.
My current priority is pro-choice organizations!
This includes those who provide reproductive care directly to patients and/or those who are actively advocating for legislative change to protect reproductive rights nationwide. Excellent examples include Planned Parenthood, Gender Justice, and NARAL. Thank you!
If you’re not comfortable with that, I also always love the Cal Poly ASI Children’s Center, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Cal Poly ASI Children’s Center is a model for excellence in early childhood education. They taught me everything I know. I love them dearly. To donate, follow this link, then choose “Select College(s) and Program(s) for Pop-Up Menu” as the Designation. In the box that pops ups, type “ASI” into the search field and choose “Orfalea Family and ASI Children’s Center” when it comes up.
Baby2Baby is one we recently discovered while watching Celebrity Wheel of Fortune. As their mission statement describes, “Baby2Baby is a mega diaper bank and nonprofit organization providing essential items to children in need across the country. In the last 11 years, Baby2Baby has distributed over 270 million items to children in homeless shelters, domestic violence programs, foster care, hospitals and underserved schools as well as children who have lost everything in the wake of disaster.”
Cal Poly Cares is a special grant program for students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo who need help affording basic living expenses such as food, housing, clothing, or unexpected emergencies. In an era when more than 1 in 5 students in the CSU system experiences food insecurity, this is Cal Poly’s way of making sure their students’ basic needs are met so they can finish their education.
Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) breeds, raises, trains, and places exceptional service dogs for people with disabilities. A dear friend of ours, Lee Ann Laraway, had three service dogs in her lifetime, and they truly made all the difference.
FAME: Foundation for African Medicine & Education is a wonderful medical clinic in Tanzania founded by my grandfather’s friends, Frank and Susan. They focus on bringing high-quality care to everyone in the community, both at the hospital and through a mobile clinic reaching remote areas, as well as on training the next generation of Tanzanian doctors and nurses so the hospital can become self-sustaining. They also have a successful health education program to help the whole community learn to protect themselves from water-borne illnesses and STDs. In 2015 alone, they delivered 159 babies, admitted 867 patients to their hospital, and helped more than 20,000 people on an outpatient basis. You can watch this video to hear more about their story.
Happy Hollow Park & Zoo is a special not-for-profit park that has been a San Jose treasure for generations. Behind the scenes of this peaceful, family-friendly park and sweet little zoo, they are engaged in significant conservation work with endangered species around the world. To have an impact on countless local families and on animals worldwide, donate here.
The Human Rights Campaign is the nation’s largest civil rights organization working for LGBTQ equality. They work at a grass-roots level for both public awareness and legislative change through education campaigns and advocacy. Their mission is to “end discrimination against LGBTQ people and realize a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.”
The It Gets Better Project enables LGBTQ+ people to share their stories and messages of support with current LGBTQ+ youth who are struggling. The goal is to make sure these young people know they are not alone and that things do not have to stay as difficult, or often traumatic, as they feel right now. There is always hope.
Make-a-Wish Foundation grants wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions. In the United States and its territories, on average, a wish is granted every 37 minutes.
PATH supports innovative solutions for global health problems. They begin with a country’s needs and then partner with governments, nonprofits, individuals, companies, and other existing groups to bring the right people together to generate an idea and see it all the way through to delivery. I appreciate their big-picture creativity and attention to the little details that often stop others’ good intentions from ever coming to fruition.
Room to Read supports the building and maintenance of libraries and schools in developing countries. They seek to promote literacy and gender equality to help all children reach their full potential and contribute to their community. As of 2015, they had reached over 10 million children worldwide!
Sesame Workshop is the organization behind Sesame Street. They tailor programs to local communities’ needs around the world, promoting peace through education. Beyond academics, they focus on critical social messages, such as girls’ empowerment, AIDS awareness, peace between warring cultures, etc. They recently added a muppet who has autism to help children better understand their peers who may be on the autism spectrum. I absolutely love their work!
Show Hope, formerly known as Shaohannah’s Hope, is a fabulous organization founded by one of my favorite KLOVE artists, Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth. It began with the mission to help remove financial barriers to adoption, which has helped more than 4,000 children from over 50 countries connect with loving families. Show Hope has also expanded to include a variety of ways to serve children around the world, including the construction of a care facility in China to provide surgeries and medical care to orphans with special needs.
Smile Train is an international charity providing life-changing surgeries for children born with cleft lips or palates. Left untreated, clefts can interfere with eating, breathing, hearing, speaking, and integrating into the community. A single surgery can change that child’s future. Children also receive follow-up care including dental, orthodontic, speech therapy, and counseling when needed. Smile Train provides these services through a “teach a man to fish” model by training, funding, and empowering local medical professionals in over 90 countries to provide the cleft repair surgeries and care, 100% free of charge.
Together Rising is a bridge between people who want to help but don’t know how and organizations who are already doing great work. Rather than reinventing the wheel, TR identifies organizations who are working to address whatever causes or problems are moving people to want to give. TR then facilitates fundraising on social media and other platforms and provides 100% of the money raised directly to their partner organizations. It’s a great way for people to turn that vague sense of wanting to help into a tangible impact in the world.
The Trans Lifeline is a nonprofit providing a crisis hotline and other services and supports, as well as education and advocacy, for all transgender, genderfluid, and nonbinary individuals. Their mission is to improve the quality of life for all trans people by building more just and supportive communities. To date, they have answered more than 62,000 calls to the hotline and provided more than $200,000 in “microgrants” to help people through the process of legal name changes and updating their ID.
The Trevor Project is a leading organization for LGBTQ youth. They offer immediate support for those currently in crisis, but also focus on outreach and resources to prevent such crises in the first place. Although they’re not affiliated in any way, I think of the Trevor Project as the “micro” or individual level to complement HRC’s “macro” level legal and societal work.
Women for Women International supports women in wore-torn countries by providing business and life skills that transform their families and communities. You can donate to the organization in general or you can sponsor a particular woman going through this year-long program.
Alternative Gifts International has a catalog of specific ways to donate to various causes around the world. They also have a way to “host a gift fair” at your organization, usually around the holidays, to help more people see donations as a viable Christmas gift alternative.
ChildFund International is known for their child sponsorship program, but also offers a Real Gifts Catalog similar to Heifer’s gift catalog concept. For example, you can gift a pig, three chickens, fruit trees, mosquito netting, school supplies or scholarships, etc. to a community in need. All gifts are designed to help families become self-sufficient and increase their total well-being.
GreaterGood.org is a list of many lesser-known charitable partners that work worldwide on issues of hunger, poverty, women’s health, children’s health, literacy, the environment, and animals. For example, you can help girls stay in school all month or help train service dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD. There are also goods you can buy, such as fair-trade craft items, to give to someone along with your donation if you’d like to. My family has found many interesting gift opportunities here!
Heifer International is a gift catalog tailored specifically to empowering people in poverty around the world through sustainable programs. You can donate something specific, such as a goat, and then the family that receives it also receives education in how to care for the goat, to use its droppings to fertilize their crops, to use the milk to enhance their children’s nutrition, etc. Some of the goat’s offspring are given to nearby families, along with the same education program, to help keep the cycle of self-sufficiency growing. It’s a fantastic model.