After almost four months of writing this blog, I’ve decided I need to put my money where my mouth is — literally. It’s December 31, the last day to donate to charities if you want to write off those donations on your 2009 taxes. In past years we have supported wonderful charities such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, which cured a close relative’s bone cancer, and Little Shelter, a wonderful no-kill animal organization. I also donate to Long Island Cares, a food bank which helps feed my community’s hungry, and does so with amazing grace and kindness. And of course we give to the local church, although — angry Catholic that I am — I write my checks directly to the church’s outreach. (Sorry, Pope Benedict, I won’t have my money going towards paying off abuse victims.) But until now, I haven’t really supported the green movement directly. Yes, I do vote with my dollars, buying organic food from good companies, and buying sustainable, smaller-footprint items. But now it’s time to actually jump into the fray, helping organizations that help change the world.
I got the idea from my daily Twitter read. (Every day I scour my favorite green sites for news to tweet.) Today I came upon an interesting site, WorldChanging, a nonprofit media organization. Basically, the site follows the journalistic tenants that I learned in J-school. The writers and editors report the truth about green-minded issues without kowtowing to sponsors or politicians. And, as a 501C3 non-profit, it’s supported by donations from people like me.
Once I found WorldChanging, which Time Magazine voted one of the top 15 green Web sites, I decided I would find four more organizations to put on my list of donation recipients. I Googled “Top Green Charities.” Kiplinger’s had a story from 2007 with a few ideas on finding the best charities to support. Things like executive salaries, overhead costs, and whether or not a charity expands its programs each year. Then it suggested that I check out Charity Navigator, a site that evaluates and ranks more than 5,400 U.S. charities. And there it was: an Environment category front and center. 241 organizations — most of which I have never heard of. And plenty that garner the site’s four star rating.
After reporting on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Oceana seemed to be a perfect recipient with its work protecting the oceans from pollution, overfishing, offshore drilling, and such. My next chosen charity — Beyond Pesticides — was impressive both for its low overhead (only 1.1 percent of its budget goes toward administrative costs) and its work in both public policy and public education. Here in New York the Natural Resources Defense Council has “lawyers, scientists and other professionals” fighting for causes I believe in. Big Oil and Big Pharma have lots of money and lobbyists behind them. The Natural Resources Defense Council levels the playing field a bit, putting lobbyists in Washington for all of us greenies. I needed one more charity to donate to. My pick: the Environmental Working Group. Tons of databases. Lots of public work. Lots of independent testing, research, and analysis exposing what big industry doesn’t want us to see.
In the end, I feel proud and sad. Proud that I could donate to five great charities (six if you count giving a little something to Charity Navigator, which is also a non-profit), but sad that I couldn’t do more. 2009 has been a tough year for a lot of us. Money is tight. Many of us are still scared about our economic outlook. One in ten of us are out of a job. However, we can’t change things unless we get involved. If you have the means, donate before the end of the year. If you don’t, consider volunteering your time and effort to help your favorite cause. If you do donate, please make sure you ask them not to sell or rent your name. This donating to charity thing is supposed to help our environment. Asking to stay off of a rental list will reduce the amount of junk mail out there.
No matter how you spend the last hours of 2009, I wish you nothing but good — and green and healthy –things for today and the coming year. Happy New Year, everyone!