I feel weird posting about this but it seems that "Current Thinking" says that you are supposed to be more open about charitable donations in order for everyone to see donating as a normal, popular, and positive activity.
So, ok. I give all year, in very small amounts, to whatever charity or cause catches my fancy or interest or gets my blood up. I do not donate to many of the huge non-profit organizations because I think that some of them (Susan G. Komen, for example) have allowed themselves to be co-opted by their biggest funders, like pharmaceutical and chemical companies, and because most of the larger non-profits don't give enough of the money to the cause it's supposed to go toward. I also tend to give more to animal related charities, because I think that people are able to help themselves more than they do, while animals are at the mercy of people.
I tend go a little nuts at Christmas, but, again, I keep them amounts very, very small. This year I have donated to:
Heifer International - Giving families the means to support and feed themselves and then requiring them to help others. Brilliant! I buy someone a flock of chicks at Christmas and on my birthday each year. We have started a family tradition where my niece and nephew look the catalog over and choose a gift for us to give Heifer in their names as part of their Christmas. It makes them happy that they can help other children feed themselves. www.heifer.org
We will be giving a toy to the Toys For Tots drive at Bren's office.
Petfinder - The best place to turn to when you want to adopt a pet and so much more These folks do a lot to help animals. www.petfinder.com
Daffy's Pet Soup Kitchen - What a great idea! Helping people who are struggling financially so that they can keep their pets and keep them fed. This is one organization I have volunteered with. www.daffyspetsoupkitchen.com
Edgewood Longears Sanctuary - A donkey rescue that recently saved many, many pregnant jennies. Wowza, that's a lot of long ears! I don't have a webiste for them but the donation info and the story on those jennies can be found on Morning Bray Farm's blog www.morningbrayfarm.com
Angel Acres Horse Rescue - I donate to their nationwide anti horse slaughter billboard campaign. www.saveahorsenow.com
Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund - I love these folks for being there for those who have the nerve to raise sheep instead of being sheep. www.farmtoconsumer.org Boy, have they been busy this year with all of the government raids of raw milk producers, organic food growers' dinner parties, etc. Their t-shirts make me laugh out loud, especially the Got Moo'shine? one.
The Horse Rescue, Relief, and Retirement Fund is a horse rescue in Cumming, GA. These people are amazing. Not only have they taken in approximately half a bazillion horses and other assorted equines, they also do dog rescue and have taken in pigs, chickens, the biggest goat I have ever seen in my life (really, he's almost scary!), and more. I have volunteered with these folks a time or two and I would do more of it if they were closer to my home. www.savethehorses.org
Farm Aid -I have no idea if their efforts are actually helping family farmers but I do know that they consistently bring the problem to the public's attention, bless them. www.farmaid.org
My favorite way to give back, though, has to be when I see an immediate, specific need and address it personally and directly.
Being a Secret Santa for underprivileged kids (There are so many places and ways to do this. Try local news or radio station websites) and filling their Christmas wish lists is an awesome way to give and know for sure you are making someone happy.
When Katrina devastated New Orleans, one of my co-workers took in a displaced family. They literally had only what they were wearing. We were able to provide them with food, brand new clothing, and other necessities.
Earlier this year I heard about a recently widowed local woman with a house full of kids and grandkids who lost absolutely everything in a fire. We managed to get in touch with her, found out what they needed (everything) and started looking for stuff for them. We got my family, my office, Face Book and other friends, and even a church involved and we checked almost everything off of their list, item by item. They were so grateful and relieved to have beds to sleep in, and underwear, and toothbrushes, and plates, and shoes, and so on. What a great experience, to be able to do that for someone.
These projects were really satisfying and meaningful to me. It seems that looking for meaning is a common theme in the lives of homesteading type folks, don't you think?
How do you give back?