The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, the day when retailers hope to move from being in the red to being in the black. It has also become a day when shoppers go forth, hoping to find great deals, either for their Christmas and Hanukkah shopping, or perhaps for themselves. There is also Small Business Saturday, when shoppers are encouraged to frequent small, locally owned businesses, rather than the big box stores that are so popular on Black Friday. Yesterday was Cyber Monday, when shoppers go online and shop while they’re supposed to be working. A person can supposedly get really good deals on this particular Monday, though I find offers of such deals to be somewhat suspect. (I saw a deal on Amazon for a gift I am intending to purchase, and it was 1/3 of the regular price. But it was not available, because all at that price had been snapped up. I have no stomach for such games.)
Now there is Giving Tuesday, a day when we are encouraged to stop worrying about buying gifts and so on for a moment or two, and give some thought to non-profits. I do not, could not, and will not, offer a gift guide of shopping suggestions. However, I do have some giving ideas, if you’re looking for help in that arena. You can give goods, time, or money, whatever fits your situation the best.
- Food Banks – You can donate in several ways. You can write them a check (or donate online). You can put food in the barrel at the grocery store (peanut butter and canned tuna are always popular options). You can volunteer to go to the food bank and help sort food, which will be delivered to local soup kitchens, or picked up by those in need.
- Soup Kitchens – A lot of people come out and serve food on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and maybe Easter. Why not call them up and see if they’d like your help another time of year? I’m guessing they would.
- Schools – Public schools depend more and more upon foundations to support not only extracurricular activities, but also art, physical education, and science. Increasingly, this support funds teacher incomes, not just them staying late to tutor our children. I’m not sure how much this is a factor outside of California, but here, because of stupid Prop 13, it’s HUGE.
- Child Abuse Prevention Council – Again, both volunteering and monetary donations are welcome. A donation in your child’s teachers name might mean more to them than a mug or a box of candy.
- Meals on Wheels – They can always use more volunteer drivers. They also need people to go and visit the elders once in awhile, and of course, they can always use money to help them provide this needed service.
- Toys for Tots – If you really really like shopping, and you want to do some good at the same time, you can contribute to a local toy drive. Toys for Tots is the most famous one that I know. One year, my company supported ‘Adopt an Angel’, and my kid wished for a warm coat. He was 9. Gah, a 9 year old that wants a coat instead of a toy or a book or a game…it broke my heart. And duh, I bought the warmest coat I could find.
- Animal Shelter – All animal shelters can use cash donations. Some animal shelters use volunteers to help socialize animals, or to clean out cages, and so on. Some accept donations of food and animal toys.
- 18,000 other local organizations – There are undoubtedly plenty of other local non-profits that would be grateful for your help. Perhaps a group of kids that create cards that they sell, and use the money to buy sleeping bags and clothing for local homeless folks; a group that collects and sends care packages to soldiers deployed overseas; perhaps a dog rescue that brings in dogs for your particular favorite breed, cares for them (sometimes very expensive), and finds them home.
- American Red Cross – The Red Cross can use your help in so many ways. They are the first responders when natural disasters like the ’89 earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, and Superstorm Sandy hit. They are also there for smaller disasters, like house fires and floods. They collect blood for emergencies, blood which is needed by so many. People with cancer, people in car accidents, people having surgery, and so on. My grandma received a transfusion during her recent medical stay, and I’m thinking this weekend will find me donating at our local blood center and thinking of her. Want to help? You can donate money, you can donate blood, and I’ll bet there are plenty of ways for a person to donate time as well. Speaking of Superstorm Sandy, if you’re interested in helping out, the Red Cross is probably not the best place for longer term help. NPR had some other ideas, here. I was especially impressed by the organization of Occupy Sandy volunteers.
- Planned Parenthood – I don’t know if Planned Parenthood has much use for volunteers, but I do know they can use financial help. Planned Parenthood is sometimes the only healthcare women receive. They provide cancer screenings, birth control, and treatment when needed. They were there for me when I needed birth control, but did not have medical insurance. They are there for so many.
- Medical Research and Advocacy – The list is seemingly endless. Organizations devoted to research to end breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, just plain cancer cancer. Then there’s AIDS, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, Down’s syndrome, on and on and on. There are groups working to help burn victims, children with cleft lips and cleft palates, spina bifida, any group you can think of, they surely have a worthwhile organization that can help, and that needs your money.
- NPR/PBS – National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System, they both produce wonderful programs for children, adults, everyone. If you believe in the mission to bring this information to the public, if you listen and watch, this might be a good place to plant a few dollars.
- ACLU and/or Southern Poverty Law Center – These organizations work to defend the civil rights of Americans. The ACLU focuses more on the right to free speech and due process, and the SPLC focuses on protecting the civil rights of those who have been wronged, and bringing those who commit hate crimes to justice. They are both very worthwhile organizations.
- National Center for Family Literacy – Their mission is towards whole family literacy, because when the family and community are literate, the circumstances for the entire community improves, and the children have a better chance of graduating from High School.
- 18,000 other National Organizations – There are so, so, SO MANY worthwhile organizations out there. Think about what is important to you…the arts, medicine, animal welfare, hunger, poverty, civil rights, alcohol abuse treatment, etc. Find what you care about, and then find an organization that helps. Give them money, or time, whatever you have more of.
- Heifer Project – The Heifer Project works to alleviate hunger and poverty, both nationally and internationally, by giving animals to families in need. A goat that provides milk to a family, perhaps enough that they can sell some to neighbors. Perhaps they make enough money so that their children can go to school rather than working. The first offspring of this goat, they must donate to another family in their town or village, who must also pay it forward.
- Mercy Corps – The Mercy Corps works to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities.
- International Red Cross – Again, a first responder, there in times of crisis, to help people through the most difficult times in their lives.
There are so many more organizations that you can help out. Give blood. Put some peanut butter in a bin at the grocery store. Go serve food at a soup kitchen, or sort at a food bank. Visit some old people at a nursing home, donate flowers to make things more cheerful there. Adopt an animal, if you’re ready for an addition of love and laughter to your household. There are so many things you can do. Do them. Today and every day.