Flashback Monday: Ten Bucks? Ten Charities

17th January 2011

In an effort to gather all my writing in one place, I’ve been posting articles that originally appeared elsewhere. This piece was published by the The Morning News in 2003.

You are a good person. You feel bad when other people are sad; you try not to laugh when someone trips; you’re fond of puppies.

Now, maybe you’re not rolling in cash. Most of us have some debt, and we’re all trying to build our savings. But you’ve got 10 bucks to spare, and there’s some disturbing shit going down in the world. Perhaps you’ve heard.

The surprisingly good people—the ones who are feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and pulling small children out of harm’s way—they could probably use that 10 bucks more constructively than we could. Give it up, and bask in the warm glow of self-satisfaction.

* * *

1. Southern Poverty Law Center started out as a small civil rights law firm in Montgomery, Alabama, and grew into a well-known center for tolerance. They sponsor tolerance-education programs, fight white supremacists in court, and track hate groups throughout the U.S.

Ten bucks in their pockets: fight evil

Ten bucks in our pockets: wineglass charms

2. The Carter Center is a non-partisan organization that works to alleviate human suffering, and they have one of the least-annoying mission statements I’ve ever seen. Among other points, they pledge not to ‘duplicate the effective efforts of others’ and to ‘[address] difficult problems and [recognize] the possibility of failure as an acceptable risk.’ They’re for peace, world health, and democracy. Coincidentally, I’m also a big fan of those things.

Ten bucks in their pockets: thwart corruption, fight social inequities in the Western Hemisphere

Ten bucks in our pockets: ticket to The Green Hornet 3D

3. Heifer International gives an animal to a needy family to help feed them or sustain the family economically—a cow, pig, duck, buffalo, some bees, you name it. The family signs a contract saying they’ll give the first female offspring of their animal to another hungry family. They also agree to teach their neighbors how to care for the animal.

Ten bucks in their pockets: milk and honey for hungry people

Ten bucks in our pockets: olive-oil mister

4. Habitat for Humanity finds a family that needs a house, helps them build it, and then lets them purchase the house at cost with no interest paid on the mortgage.

Ten bucks in their pockets: build a house every 26 minutes

Ten bucks in our pockets: another bud vase

5. Mine Action Group is dedicated to solving the problems caused by leftover landmines and unexploded bombs. Problems like how those things tend to blow up at hideously inconvenient times. The group locates, clears, and destroys leftover weapons so those weapons don’t destroy the lives of children who accidentally play too close.

Ten bucks in their pockets: protect lives

Ten bucks in our pockets: Lego cufflinks

6. Wings for Kids is an after-school program for 240 elementary-school kids in South Carolina. The organization’s focus is on ‘emotional competence,’ meaning they teach the kids empathy, self-awareness, and how to negotiate relationships and manage their emotions. If we give them some money, maybe they’ll let all of us in.

Ten bucks in their pockets: help little kids develop emotional intellect

Ten bucks in our pockets: new eye shadow!

7. Helping Hands trains capuchin monkeys to help quadriplegic people in their daily lives. I am not making this up. We’re talking about real, live trained helper monkeys. The monkeys feed people, pick up things they’ve dropped, operate lights, and generally provide a pair of hands and some company. All this, plus they’re friendly little monkeys!

Ten bucks in their pockets: monkey helpers!

Ten bucks in our pockets: chili-cheese poppers

8. WaterAid provides safe water and basic sanitation to 15 countries in Africa and Asia. Thanks to them, some of the poorest women and children in the world no longer have to walk miles for water, freeing up time for them to generate income or attend school. WaterAid also builds latrines in communities with open sewage systems.

Ten bucks in their pockets: safe drinking water

Ten bucks in our pockets: Cranberry Chutney scented candle

9. ProLiteracy Worldwide teaches adults how to read. They offer literacy programs and publications that are distributed to schools and libraries all over the world. Their work touches 45 developing countries and the United States.

Ten bucks in their pockets: teach 350,000 people how to read in a year

Ten bucks in our pockets: Girls Gone Wild: Spring Break III

10. Big Brothers Big Sisters provides one-on-one mentoring for at-risk kids from ages 5 to 18. This greatly decreases the odds of them skipping school, using illegal drugs, and generally becoming little punks. It’s the oldest and largest mentoring program in the United States.

Ten bucks in their pockets: friendship for 200,000 kids

Ten bucks in our pockets: heart-shaped pancake molds

19 thoughts on “Flashback Monday: Ten Bucks? Ten Charities

  1. Sassafras Mama

    My folks raised me to believe in the 1% theory……if all of us with jobs in the Western world would just donate 1% of our income, the world would be a much better place. I introduce this idea to my students all the time. I’ll be adding your argument to the syllabus.

  2. Lisa

    Thanks for this!
    My husband and I decided to start putting aside a certain amount of our monthly budget for charities, and I’ve since been researching to find more I want to support. Sometimes the whole shebang goes to one great charity that month, other times it is more fun to divide it up among a couple. Making it part of the budget has prevented us from saying “oh, great charity, we should donate!” and then never getting around to it. Now each month we have to send that money somewhere, and it has been so fun to pick worthy charities and support them!

  3. Rachel Biggs

    Brilliant post Maggie. For those of us who do not subscribe to the “donate to church philosophy”, you really widened our horizons to some new charities to think about. Our local food shelf is our fave, but it is fun to spread it around too.

  4. Anne

    Hi Maggie. I started reading your post about a month ago. I am always telling my rellies around the holidays to just make a donation in my name. It’s a gift you never have to exchange. I also tell my kids constantly that they don’t need more cheap plastic crap and that a small donation can make a big impact. I will definitely save this post.

  5. Heather

    I’ve been pushing Kiva, where your 25 bucks become a loan to a small business person around the world (or in the US). I started out with a little bit, and have added to it, but each time I get my 25 dollars paid back, I loan it out again! Maybe I changed the lives of 6 people who, combined with other people’s 25 bucks, were able to start or expand their business!

  6. Diana

    I just gave 25 to The Carter Center. I was listening to NPR a few weeks ago when they were talking about what they are doing to eradicate the Guinea worm, so this was the last little reminder I needed – thank you.

  7. ElJay

    My favorite charity is Meds & Food for Kids: http://mfkhaiti.org/

    They are fighting malnutrition in children in Haiti in a way that focuses on helping Haiti’s economy as well — they provide a fortified peanut butter product that can reverse malnutrition in toddlers over the course of 6 – 8 weeks, and is produced in Haiti mainly from agricultural products grown in Haiti. It’s so much better than traditional food aid, which just keeps countries dependent on more food aid. And I don’t know if it’s because they’re a fairly small organization, but every time I’ve donated I’ve gotten a card with a handwritten thank you note from either the founder of the organization or a board member. It’s an incredible touch that really makes me feel like they are careful and prudent with their donations, which all the research I’ve done about them seems to back up.

    Haiti is so close to us, and has so many problems, many of which traditional aid just isn’t helping. Sending $10 to save a child’s life is much more satisfying than buying a second martini, which is probably where it would go for me otherwise.

  8. Samantha

    Great post about how even a small amount of money can be turned into a lot of good. My father works for Southern Poverty, and it was exciting to see it mentioned along with so many other worthy causes.

  9. Matilda

    Hi Maggie, the link for Wings for Kids leads to “Wigs for Kids” which gives cancer kids head coverings. I’m sure they are a very deserving charity, too, only it wasn’t the place you intended to point people. Thanks for the post, though–I’m intrigued by many of these charities and will definitely look into them.

  10. Jet Harrington

    This might be one of the best things you have ever written – and that is saying something, as I am a huge fan. Actually, I am a very enthusiastic fan, not a fan or significant girth. Well, more significant than… oh, never mind.

    I especially appreciate the comparison of what ten bucks can do in the hands of someone using their powers for good, and what ten bucks can do at Target. Jeepers. That really put things in perspective.

    Well done, and thank you for putting this where we can see it.

  11. dana

    this piece warms the cockles of my heart! it is so poignant – especially the part about the heart shaped pancake mold because how many times have i thought I NEED THAT!!! Also, thank you so much for mentioning big brothers big sisters, that is where i work and i see the value in those friendships every day :)

  12. Laura

    Thanks for re-publishing this. I love, love, love that you mentioned the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Carter Center. Yay.

  13. Jenn M

    Two of my friends and I are currently in the process of founding a non-profit organization called Lori’s Hands that mobilizes college students to help individuals and families affected by chronic illness. As seniors in college ourselves, we know little about the non-profit world and are doing a LOT of research on successful causes, charities, non-profits, etc. in the hopes of not screwing up. We’ve been especially impressed with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program, Helping Hands, and Habitat for Humanity; I was so pleased to see them listed here! We’ve also gotten great help from Active Minds, a non-profit that that engages college students in promoting mental health (http://www.activeminds.org/).

    Furthermore, I can’t stress enough how true this post is: most of the donations we’ve received for Lori’s Hands so far have been under $50, but they make a HUGE difference for us, especially now as we’re starting from scratch.

    Thank you for supplying some excellent outlets for our disposable income, no matter how small, and for providing some outstanding examples for those of us who are trying to make a good thing go great!

  14. Debbie

    Thanks for putting things in perspective. Sometimes we let things get out of hand. There are too many doing without or suffering. It is up to us to help. It gives me a good feeling and a smile when I donate things or help someone less fortunate.

  15. Sharalee

    Fantastic! How about 11 more for 2011? =)

    I nominate the Adaptive Riding Institute, a nonprofit that provides therapeutic horseback riding for children with disabilities in the Salem, Oregon area. This is a tiny organization with only 2.5 full-time-equivalent staff, yet is able to serve more than 300 children a year thanks to devoted volunteers and supporters. Individual donations are what keep the doors open at ARI. The children of ARI have special needs as diverse as Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Brain Injuries, sensory-processing disorders and Autism. Over the years, many have sat up straight for the first time or spoken their first words while on horseback. Being on horseback lets wheelchair-bound children experience the FREEDOM of a 4-legged companion, and riding brings sustained improvements in balance, strength, coordination. Many of ARI’s riders are from low-income families. Even a small donation will go a LONG way to help the loving therapy teams at ARI. See http://www.adaptiveridinginstitute.org for more information. Thank you! PS: Their motto is “Health, Happiness and Healing through Horses”!

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