What charities should I donate to?
October 28, 2012 3:31 AM   Subscribe

What charities should I donate to? Advocacy for your favourite cause welcome.

I've been feeling guilty for a while about the fact that I don't donate to charity. I'd like to fix this, but am unsure as to what a good choice of charities would be. I'd like advice, and am extremely open to advocacy on causes you feel are important (though I might of course disagree).

Some specifics:

* I'd like to donate to at least 2 or 3 different charities rather than just one.
* I'm prepared as a starting point to commit about £100/month. I may increase this as I sort out my finances.
* I'd like to donate to environmental causes. I'm considering reforestation projects as a possibility but don't know if that's effective.
* I'd like at least one charity to be targeting something local to the UK, possibly education related, but am not that set on it.
posted by DRMacIver to Society & Culture (26 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
If you have space in your 3 charities for a non-UK non environmental chairty then Stepping Stones is a great charity, tackling child abuse, illiteracy and religious ignorance in Nigeria.

They were behind the Dispatches documentary a while back on Africa's Witch Children.

It is not a simple undertaking. Because of its high profile campaiging, Stepping Stones has come under lots of fire from fundamentalist Christians in Nigeria, who have effectively launched a propaganda campaign against it. It has also had to deal with problems with the main charity it supported in Nigeria and where that has left it.

It's valuable work, dealing with incredibly vulnerable children, for very little thanks. They could really do with your cash.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:52 AM on October 28, 2012

For clarification: I definitely have space for non UK non environmental charities. Everything in the above list except for the amount of cash per month (and even that to a certain extent) is just a guideline and I'm extremely open to having my mind changed on it.
posted by DRMacIver at 3:55 AM on October 28, 2012

Have you considered a charity evaluator?
posted by katrielalex at 4:21 AM on October 28, 2012

Red Cross, WWF, and local cancer societies/hospital and food/hunger based programs. That's what I donate to. If you donate to one, usually you start getting mail from others, and it's very heartbreaking so I end up sending small donations to a wider variety of charities. I know Britain has Oxfam, not sure what the education based charities are. I think you should really read a bit (or watch various documentaries) and think about what charities hit home for YOU. That's the most important thing.
posted by bquarters at 4:35 AM on October 28, 2012

It's very specific but it is both education and UK and a very local in-community project: Sistema Scotland. It's music education project based out of Stirling Scotland, and it does amazing things. I have friends working there. El Sistema is a music education project that originally came out of Venezuela. There's an English version too... In Liverpool and Lambeth called In Harmony.

Also Medicines sans Frontiers, for their amazing international work.
posted by jujulalia at 4:36 AM on October 28, 2012

If you are interested in personal opinions, I tend to think that many charities, especially in developing countries, provide a sort of band-aid, which, while it obviously does improve lives in the short term and is therefore valuable, is less important than helping communities to make sustained changes themselves. So I think the best programs to sponsor are those that help people access education who would not otherwise be able to (which means mainly women), as I believe this is the best way to help societies to bootstrap themselves into political and economic change.
posted by lollusc at 4:50 AM on October 28, 2012

I live in the UK and give directly to my child's school.

I also give to Every Child is My Child, a Rwandan educational charity, and One World Futbol, which gives indestructible footballs to children. I chose this charity because when my boy was younger and I told him we'd be buying children mosquito nets (from Oxfam International) for Xmas, he said, 'I think children would prefer toys instead of mosquito nets.' And I think he's right.
posted by mgrrl at 5:17 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you'd like to split up your charitable giving, I suggest trying for one local/community cause, one national/regional charity, and a global charity. For example (I'm in the US), I'd donate to a group that fosters pets for families housed in the local domestic violence shelter, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Oxfam or similar for global outreach.
posted by xyzzy at 5:18 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

For environmental / reforestation (but not UK), look at Cool Earth Action, who I've donated to a couple of times. It's not reforestation as such, though: it's preventing existing rainforest from being cleared. This, to my mind, is more vital than planting or replanting forest that's already gone: an old-growth rainforest takes -- at least -- centuries to get that way, and can't be straightforwardly "substituted" by planting elsewhere. And, of course, an extinct species can never be brought back.

Basically you sponsor an acre or half-acre of rainforest in a region of your choosing, and they work with the local communities to protect these areas from logging or burning. You get a Google Maps link to "your" sponsored plot, but that's really just symbolic: they're not buying up these plots and surrounding them with razor-wire, they're helping the people who live there already to keep using them sustainably rather than being forced out by logging companies and ranchers.
posted by pont at 5:52 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

pont: I will definitely be donating to that, thank you.

However I think both are important. The thing is, existing rain forests don't actually lock down any new CO2 from the atmosphere: They're a steady carbon sink and cutting them down can release that carbon, but the amount of carbon in them is largely stable. So if you want to make a net decrease in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere you have to plant new forests as well as maintain old ones.
posted by DRMacIver at 5:57 AM on October 28, 2012

I half-seriously, half-jokingly recommend The Untied Way. (Withdraw money from the bank machine. Give it to people who ask you for it.)
Because I Am A Girl works specifically at empowering girls.
My local library posts a list of books, CDs, and DVDs that they would like people to donate. Children's books in particular tend to have a short life. Ask your local library if they want donations, too.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:33 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

World Land Trust does some reforestation work, although their primary goal is conservation of areas with high biodiversity and habitats for threatened/endangered species. Cool Earth Action seems pretty similar in terms of putting management in the hands of local organizations, but WLT has been around for 20 years, so they've built a network of protected areas all over the world.
posted by gueneverey at 7:10 AM on October 28, 2012

For a UK based reforestation project, I like Trees for Life. From their website: With most other countries now repeating the same ecological mistakes [of widespread deforestation], we believe that the onus is on Scotland to provide an example of reversing the damage which has been done here. Thus, at Trees for Life, we envision our work to restore the Caledonian Forest as not only helping to bring the land here back to a state of health and balance, but also having global relevance, as a model for similar projects in other countries.

Also, they do really nice calendars and diaries, so if you're stuck for a christmas present for anyone you can get them a collection of pretty pictures and maybe dedicate them a tree or two. And! The tastiest way to contribute to natural forest regeneration: eat more wild venison. That's one more deer that won't be eating baby trees....
posted by Lebannen at 7:52 AM on October 28, 2012

I like the suggestion of "Because I Am A Girl" as Womens' rights and equality are definitely something I care strongly about, but it seems to be specifically targeted at Canada. Is there any more international equivalent?
posted by DRMacIver at 8:13 AM on October 28, 2012

With the very important caveat that I am employed by them...

I think The International Center for Transitional Justice does work that is both very important, and somewhat neglected when it comes to international nonprofit work. Basically, we work in contexts where there has been massive repression or large-scale human rights violations, and we work with the government, civil society, and victims to develop methods for providing redress for those injuries and building a stable basis for continued peace and justice in the country. Very often, a dictator will die or a war will end and people think, "well, that's done, we can forget all that unpleasantness now," but it doesn't work that way- you have to address the victims of torture, the displaced people who lost their livelihoods, the perpetrators of these injuries sitting in the police and army and judiciary, and just the general lack of acknowledgement and remembrance of what happened. We place an emphasis on gender- and youth-related crimes, and on the rights of victims on general.

We work all over the world, but of course recently we have focused a good deal on the Arab Spring countries, which I always use as examples because people kind of 'get it'- the fact that, yeah, this amazing thing has happened, but clearly the work isn't done just because they pulled off the sexy uprising.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:17 AM on October 28, 2012

800 million people on this planet—about 1 person out of every 9 alive today—do not have easy access to clean, safe, drinking water. charity: water works to provide clean water to villages throughout the developing world.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:42 AM on October 28, 2012

May I suggest Acid Survivors Trust International?
Here are a couple of articles about the work they do.
posted by hot soup girl at 9:16 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Our annual planned giving consists of the EFF, MSF, and Scarleteen. We also donate monthly to SVP because they are feeding our neighbours. For us, this is the right giving topography.

One thing I will say in terms of giving is that with the caveat that all money is good money, it's regular money that does the most to support an organisation. Most organisations would rather have you commit to 5 quid / bucks / euros a month or 20 every year than drop 50 in the kitty and disappear. It's called sustained giving and it is what allows organisations to project operating budgets and thus, plan what services they can deliver.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:18 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

May I suggest that you go even more local than "the UK"? I realize that here in the US we have a different culture around charitable organizations than most countries, and we have an abundance of NGOs. But there must be some problem you see in your local community that somebody is trying to fix. Talk to people you respect locally and ask them this question. You may be able to put your charitable dollars to work in your community and see the results firsthand.
posted by chickenmagazine at 9:26 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there any more international equivalent?

Women for Women International.

Also another vote for Stepping Stones; they do excellent work.
posted by elizardbits at 9:29 AM on October 28, 2012

Animals. Especially raising a voice against animal abuse.
posted by pakora1 at 2:49 PM on October 28, 2012

I just learned about Plant a Fish. Basically a Cousteau family sponsored effort to restore damaged ocean habitats.
posted by mmf at 2:58 PM on October 28, 2012

I recommend Azafady... I volunteered with them in Madagascar. They work with rare coastal forest species and some of the poorest people in the country (southeast region). They welcome and train international volunteers. They work on the ragged edge -- any donations make a big difference.

While I was there, we taught village children about the importance of their environment, built fuel-efficient stoves for women (requiring less wood to be chopped down), researched and recorded species distribution of the forest fragments to be broadly distributed, and held community environmental awareness events. After I left, Azafady also began replanting critically endangered Beccariophoenix Madagascariensis palms. They have two offices, one based out of London/UK, one in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar.

Madagascar has a wonderful, insane amount of biodiversity... and is being rapidly deforested. You'll be helping adorable endangered frogs, lemurs, chameleons and more (not to mention some of the nicest people I've ever met).
posted by iadacanavon at 3:02 PM on October 28, 2012

Give Kids The World. They send terminally ill children and their families to the Orlando area for vacation, and provide the medical facilities that normally make these trips hard for Make A Wish kids.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:11 PM on October 28, 2012

If you want to give to a UK charity, on the years we have extra funds we donate to MySociety. They build many of the tools that allow action locally for many many charities, organisations and citizens. We are fond of them because we use their open-source code base to build and deliver many of the same tools for Ireland, where it is much more difficult as there is no commitment to open data or to civic ability the way there is in the UK.

And if you've got an extra tenner in your kitty this month, that lack of commitment means one of our projects was just burned to the ground and we're fundraising to rebuild. Plus, zombies!
posted by DarlingBri at 4:33 PM on October 28, 2012

I like the Union of Concerned Scientists, which presses governments on a number of environmental issues, especially climate change. It also has a good Charity Navigator rating.
posted by walla at 7:52 AM on October 30, 2012

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