What's the most rewarding charity to give to, in a selfish sense?
September 26, 2015 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to give money to charity regularly, but I'm still a little bit selfish so I'd like to see some kind of direct outcome from my donation, rather than feeling like it's a small drop in a giant pot of money. So, charities like Cancer Research, Oxfam, Save the Children - these are all great things which I support in various ways but I would consider those to be "giant pots of money" for the purpose of this question.

Sponsor-a-child schemes are the kind of thing I'm looking for, but I don't know if these are recommended.

My budget is something like £100-£200 per month.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water to Society & Culture (22 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
What about something like microloans? You can see someone grow a business with the money you loan. (Disclaimer: these are not the most effective way to give (or loan) money. If you want to explore effectiveness and forget something with outcomes you can monitor, check out these recommendations based on peer-reviewed studies).
posted by three_red_balloons at 12:17 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd like to give money to charity regularly, but I'm still a little bit selfish so I'd like to see some kind of direct outcome from my donation, rather than feeling like it's a small drop in a giant pot of money.

I used to work at the Boys & Girls Club (under 18 kids). Every so often somebody used to come along and want to donate something awesome just to give it to the kids. We all knew it was selfish, but we were all like "oh shit, new xbox".

So go to your local youth organization, ask them about their wishlist. Get the most fun items on there.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:20 PM on September 26, 2015 [6 favorites]

For $50, you can give sight to a blind person. (If you specifically want to help a child regain their vision, it's $100, I think because the surgery for children is more complicated )
posted by ManInSuit at 12:21 PM on September 26, 2015 [6 favorites]

Donor's Choose would be perfect. You are giving to very, very specific project for a specific classroom, you know exactly what your money is buying and if you give more than $50, you get some great hand-written thank you notes.

Only downside - it is, as far as I know US based - but you can pick projects that you believe in to help classrooms in poor communities that urgently need resources.
posted by metahawk at 12:23 PM on September 26, 2015 [10 favorites]

you could give a fiver (say) to each person you see begging until you exhaust your quota for the month.
posted by andrewcooke at 12:26 PM on September 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

Reece's Rainbow raises adoption funds for children with disabilities to be adopted internationally. You can contribute directly to the cost of any child's adoption.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:28 PM on September 26, 2015

This may be a little too anecdotal, but I used to donate to 'Save the Children' until they sent me a little form that was allegedly filled out by one of the children my donation was helping. The 7-year olds favorite food: organic sushi. Favorite movie: Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Where they lived: a large farm with lots and lots of ponies. Clearly it was filled out by some poor intern, but it unnerved me as a poor use of resources, enough to cancel my monthly donation.

I do donate to Planned Parenthood, Doctors Without Borders, the Melanoma Research Foundation (my mom had melanoma), and more local organizations/shelters that I know do good work in the community. You might want to clarify where you live, or what kinds of issues hit close to home, and maybe someone can chime in with more local, specific recommendations for you to direct your donations.
posted by raztaj at 12:30 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Donor's Choose is exactly what you're looking for. You donate to a specific classroom and for every donation, get a letter from the teacher and children with concrete examples of what your money bought and what it means to the kids. Kiva, a microloan site is great for this kind of very personal, targeted giving too, though it's not as close to home.
posted by armadillo1224 at 12:32 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Give locally! Instead of giving to a giant NGO, look at organizations that are doing good work in your community. Your money is likely to go a lot farther with a small local group, and you'll be able to see results where you live.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:34 PM on September 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

I really like Smile Train. There's clear information on where your money goes and $250 pays for a surgery to fix a child's cleft lip or palate.

It can literally change a child's life in places where they would be otherwise ostracized from society from this small imperfection that's fixed with a simple surgery. The company is great and transparent and work to save money on overhead to make sure as much money as possible can go to the problem - including having many of their employees work remotely.

My favorite podcast Never Not Funny with Jimmy Pardo hosts a once a year live streamed 12 hour telethon to raise money for them and it's amazing.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:36 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

For several years I took a name off an "angel tree" set up in my small town's library. It gets little tags with a kid's name, age, and a short wishlist.

I kept seeing other people take tags and the gifts, which were required to be in open gift bags, kept being kind of depressing. Kid hopes for Lego, needs size 4 winter boots -- kid gets the cheapest Walmart boots going, and a small set of Mega Bloks, done.

So I'd take a name and go full tilt to give the kid a standard middle class Xmas. Winter boots? Here's some super-warm and durable brand name ones that your parent can re-sell when you're done with them. Oh, you're in middle school? Here's some super-awesome school supply stuff. You like Lego? Here's this season's most awesome enormous set. It was a significant expenditure. I would gear up for it by keeping an eye on sales and coupons for relevant stores, and churning up 'frequent buyer rewards' things that I could stack on that.

And of course I thrilled to this excess myself. The giving was anonymous and you didn't hear anything back or anything like that, but, if you just want to make a small change in a random difficult life, it's a fun thing to do.
posted by kmennie at 12:37 PM on September 26, 2015 [7 favorites]

I worked in philanthropy for 10 years and the only place I do any private giving is DonorsChoose. During the course of my career I oversaw the distribution of almost 100 million dollars to all kinds of organizations both large and small, and none of it was even remotely as satisfying as giving disadvantaged kids the same learning opportunities I had handed to me by the luck of the draw.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:47 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Consider giving directly to people you come in contact with. Keep your ears open and you'll always find someone who needs help. It's very satisfying to see a co-worker get the dental work they need, or send the child of a friend to camp, or help with the rent of someone who had sudden loss of income.

Where I work, I suggested starting a fund, funded by staff donation, to help any co-worker in dire need. It has worked brilliantly. We've helped dozens of families overcome emergencies and hardships and directly see the results.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:50 PM on September 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

You might find it satisfying to go do volunteer work at a local charity and then just do for them whatever feels satisfying in terms of "extras."

Years ago, I volunteered at a homeless shelter. I would see a small need that the program had no means to meet and I would talk to the director and say "I would like to bring in over-the-door towel racks for every room because they have no place to hang their towels" or "I would like to bring in inspirational art to hang in the living room" and she would let me know if there was some issue with my idea that I had not been aware of. Or I would see that they had a bottomless need for small soaps and shampoos and I would go home and clean out the bathroom drawer where my husband tossed leftovers of that sort from his business trips and take a big pile of soaps and shampoos in to them and add it to the basket in their bathroom. I also brought in furniture I no longer wanted and books to create a small library and helped them get a domain name and PayPal account and set up a proper website, etc. etc. etc. Just whatever struck me as useful in the context of what I was seeing.

I know of instances of other people getting involved in that way with local charities. As long as you are reasonable about respecting any boundaries they need to set, you can do pretty much whatever floats your boat and they will be happy to get the help.
posted by Michele in California at 1:16 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Foodbanks often have specific lists of things they need at the moment, this might help fulfil the direct element of your question.

Alternatively, have you considered charities your friends or family may have had cause to come into contact with– I know that a lot of my family and friends donated to the premature baby charity which helped me and my son earlier this year.
posted by threetwentytwo at 1:29 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

As a worker at a tiny charity (who has also worked at one of the giant charities named in your post), in my experience the kind of donation that makes the most difference to small charities is if you give to their administration costs. I know that's not what anyone wants to hear and the press love to get irate about charitable donations going to admin instead of directly to needy people, but the people providing that direct support can't do it if they're not sure they're getting paid, and a lot of voluntary sector funding works on such a short-term basis that it makes strategic planning of work very difficult. CAFOD (I think?) just published their list of the 1000 most well-funded charities in the UK; if you pick almost any other small charity that's not on that list and that's working directly with people who are in need in some way, donating to them and not restricting your donation to any particular piece of work would be really useful. Restricted funds are great for donors who want to point to something and say they funded it, but they do stop charities from being flexible with their money.

Sorry, it's not as fun as buying xboxes for people! I totally understand why people don't want to give in that way, and will get it if you don't, but I figured it was worth giving that perspective.
posted by theseldomseenkid at 2:12 PM on September 26, 2015 [10 favorites]

You might want to check out Watsi, which uses small-group crowdfunding to pay for medical treatments for individual patients in the third world.

You can directly read about the patients that will receive your contribution, which certainly makes you feel great but may also come with some ethical concerns. In any case, it's certainly a nice feeling knowing that you're 1 of 5 people (for example) helping this child get a sorely needed visit from a surgeon and your money has made a direct impact. They're also highly transparent as far as tracking patients from start to finish so you can see how things are going.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:46 PM on September 26, 2015

Buy feminine hygiene products for local shelters in your area, or earmark your donation to be specifically used for a very under-represented donation good. I still personally think it's unjust that we have to pay for pads and tampons, but it's such sadness when domestic violence shelters have to choose between food or hygiene products :(

Otherwise, DonorsChoose was something a lot of teachers in my school districts used, or choose ones with special pet projects like Kindle Classroom Project. I'd also ask your local networks and see if there are any local organizations that are doing great work that is rather under the radar.
posted by yueliang at 2:49 PM on September 26, 2015 [6 favorites]

You can sponsor a guide dog puppy. A friend does this in Australia and gets the most adorable pictures and updates.
posted by kjs4 at 5:00 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sponsor a special needs animal (this is a US org, but there are similar UK orgs)
Heifer International has a bunch of projects and specific gift programs
Adopt a Beehive
monthly donation from a local womens' shelter's needed items list
Ask any local organization you support what they need -- library, womens' shelter, school, group home, animal shelter, etc.
posted by melissasaurus at 6:12 PM on September 26, 2015

Seconding the Angel Tree! I try to do that every year. I love trying to imagine the faces of the kids as they open the gifts on Christmas.

An animal rescue organization? I know smaller rescue groups always can use the assistance. I adopted my dog from WTCARES (Welsh Terrier breed rescue) and I like to support them. A similar UK-based group is Terrier SOS, but there are all kinds of breed and all-breed rescues you can check out.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:14 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Watsi partners with hospitals in developing countries to provide needed healthcare to specific patients. You can choose a patient to help, 100% of your donation will go to that patient and you will be updated with the results of their treatment.

Alternatively, there's Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption. The more money you send in, the more blessing will be returned to you. Praise be.
posted by FiveSecondRule at 11:00 AM on September 27, 2015

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