Charitable Giving 2014

By on 19 December, 2014 in Kate and Stephen with 0 Comments

Good news! In a recent nationwide study, our state of Alabama ranks Number 3 in the nation in highest percentage of donated income and number 5 in median donation size.

Despite our state’s overall low levels of wealth, we give away a lot of what we have. That’s a powerful thing.

It’s an especially timely observation during this season. People give during the holidays because it’s the so-called “spirit of the season” and, perhaps more cynically, because it’s the end of the tax year and donations are good for write-off purposes. For a lot of people, they don’t think a lot about which charities to support and simply give to their church, assuming that the church itself needs the money, or the church will make sure that the funds go to deserving entities. But other folks manage to both tithe to churches while giving to other charities. And some folks really grapple with which charities deserve the finite donations you’ve got sectioned off in the ol’ checking account.

For what it’s worth, we understand that everyone has different priorities. Some folks want to give to direct service providers. Others want to support political work that pushes for structural changes. And everyone ought to check into Guidestar or at least just read this piece before giving to an unfamiliar group. Still, it’s possible to make some distinctions between the universe of do-gooders out there.

Here, because we love categorization, we are offering our top five pics for giving locally, statewide and beyond. Please add yours in the comments!

Giving Locally

1. Love your rivers. Alabama is blessed with amazing rivers — no seriously, some of the most amazing in the world — and several great organizations to ensure our rivers stay clean and open to use. This season, make your Christmas greener by giving to an organization like the Coosa Riverkeeper (or the statewide umbrella group, the Alabama Rivers Alliance). In 2015, the Coosa Riverkeeper is launching a new program to monitor bacteria and make sure it is safe to swim in the river — our river. A $55 gift allows them to do one test – they plan to test 15 sites each over 15 weeks next year. It’s a small price to pay to help ensure one of our city’s most important natural resources.

2. Be a Hero to Animals. The Montgomery Humane Society always needs our support. We’ve written about them before. We’ve promoted benefits for them on social media. We’ve adopted a dog from them. More than 40,000 animals are brought into their facility every year. You could adopt a new friend for your home or provide support for the facility to continue matching pets with families. Just $52 buys a homeless dog a bed, so they don’t have to sleep on the floor while waiting for their “forever home.”

3. Feed the Needy. There are some criticisms out there of the concept of food banks, and we’re not oblivious to those. However, the Montgomery Area Food Bank serves 330,000 people every year across a staggering 35 counties. That’s nothing to sneeze at. That’s meeting real needs. Every dollar you give provides 6.5 pounds of food – that’s a good deal for your money, and you can be happy knowing that your dollars are going to help our neighbors at a fundamental level.

4. Support Historic Preservation. We promote these folks on MML all the time, but it’s worth saying again: Montgomery’s Landmarks Foundation fights the good fight to keep Montgomery’s historic buildings and neighborhoods alive and protected for the next generation. There’s no portal for online giving, but you can send them a donation using this form. That’ll churn a lot of butter at Old Alabama Town.

5. Give Holiday Cheer. Hands On River Region supports a program called the Christmas Clearing House designed to match donors with families in the holiday season. What’s more sad than a child without a toy in the season of giving? Nothing. A few years ago, Sandra Nickel wrote about this initiative here at MML, and it’s a post worth re-reading. Think about sending a few bucks their way.

Giving Statewide

1. Know Your History. We love to support the Alabama Historical Association. They keep our state’s history alive and accessible. As a bonus, when you join you get a cool quarterly journal full of articles to learn about Alabama’s amazing history. This is not as boring and academic as you might expect. This is something that probably flies under the radar, making it all the more important to support.

2. Support the Public Interest. This is one where you can boost a group seeking to do legislative work. One of our favorites is Alabama Appleseed. They’ve also done some really cool stuff about creating a culture of diversity in Alabama. Don’t be dissuaded by the concept of helping a group do political stuff. Appleseed is a non-partisan public interest organization that advocates for systemic policy reforms achieving justice and fairness for low-income and other vulnerable populations. Also, right now, they are trying to match a challenge grant – that means any money you give will be doubled!

3. See a Movie. GASP stands for the Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution. But they’re bigger than Birmingham – GASP is advocating for air quality across Alabama. And they’ve made a movie called “Toxic City” about the needs in Birmingham. It’s always fun to get something in exchange for your donation. All proceeds from the DVD benefit GASP – it’s a good cause and a good watch.

4. Love Your Coast. Mobile-based Alabama Coastal Foundation is doing important work to protect and preserve Alabama’s beautiful coastal waters and delicious seafood. You can join for only $40, and help coastal preservation efforts as well as education initiatives.

5. Prevent the Spread of HIV. Several charities are working to stop the spread of AIDS in Alabama, including AIDS Alabama and Medical Aids Outreach of Alabama. They sponsor testing and education, while supporting people living with HIV-AIDS, including many children.

Beyond Alabama

1. Provide Critical Medical Help. Doctors Without Borders is a well-established charity doing critical work in some of the world’s neediest areas. They’re on the front lines in the battle against Ebola right now as well as fighting cholera in Haiti and supporting hospitals in Ukraine. A gift of $50 provides vaccinations for 50 people against meningitis, measles, polio or other deadly epidemics.

2. Give Self-Sufficiency. Heifer International fights hunger and poverty by giving families the tools they need to become self-sufficient. The catalog is always an inspiration for great gifts. $60 will pay for a family to have three rabbits, allowing them to build a business. Or maybe you’d prefer to spend $30 to provide honeybees?

3. Make the World a Better Place. One of the world’s best regarded charities, Oxfam provides critical emergency support as well as long-term aid to help bring people and places out of poverty. This year’s catalog includes the gift of emergency soap to stop epidemics. Just $30 can help stop the spread of infectious diseases.

4. Support Journalists. Reporters Without Borders helps journalists working to bring news from the world’s most dangerous places. Every year, hundreds of journalists are killed, kidnapped and imprisoned while they try to bring information to the people. Freedom of the press is important everywhere.

5. Help Save Endangered Species. The World Wildlife Fund works in more than 100 countries to protect species at risk, from the cuddly to the spiny. For $55, you can adopt a tiger or another animal of your choice and help to make sure critical species stay around for generations to come.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with two cats, a dog, ten fish, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.


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