Do you guys have some suggestions for good organizations to donate money and/or time and resources? I’d like to do something now that I’m finally in a place where I’m financially solvent and have time on the weekends, but it’s hard to just go out and pick a place at random when the largest and most prominent organizations also tend to have the most problematic baggage taken on the macro level…
Supporting an organization isn’t always the most useful way to spend your resources. If there’s not a group or anything you’re already really thrilled about or passionate about, it’s probably better to think outside of that paradigm.
Support your local community. You’d be surprised how many people this helps. Get involved in local politics (not necessarily statism, I just mean learn about what needs people have in your community and how you as a member of this community can work to meet or help them) and work to make lives better for the people living there — making your city/town/village/whatever better for its citizens.
Learn what people in need actually need and want. There are so many organizations that supposedly help needy/homeless people, for example, even local ones, but they really are not helpful at all. Sure, on paper they can say they’ve done a lot, and even list all the ‘helpful’ things they’ve done. But these groups will never learn about the homeless people in the city they’re helping. They have no idea what they actually need or want. They have no idea how to actually make their lives better, give them more opportunities, etc. because they will not connect with them. They just “give them charity” for the sake of giving them charity. It makes everyone feel good except the people supposedly on the receiving end of the help.
Saving money usually helps more than giving it to organizations. Reduce the things you buy. Upcycle and recycle instead of buying new things. Start a local borrowing group so people can share resources instead of buying new things when they need something. Start events that benefit people in this way. Break away from consumerism as much as possible.
Start a ‘Food not Bombs’ chapter in your town. If there’s already one, go hang out with them (they’re not going to ask you for money). Learn about movements to support sustainability in your area and contribute to them. Often the contribution will not include money.
Find groups of people who are not being represented in local decisions. Perhaps in your community it’s people with disabilities, people with autism, transgender people, whatever. Find people whose voices are not being heard and support those voices, Becomes a part of those voices.
Throwing money at a charity, even the most noble ones, usually does next to nothing to make a difference in the world or even to the lives of people who need it. If you can find one that really seems important to you, go for it. But the less ‘middle’ there is, the more impact you can make. Do things on your own, don’t just throw money at problems. You’ll find that you can actually help other people and do more charitable work completely for free than you can with money.
Charity organizations can be helpful on paper — “Look at how many trees we planted!” but they’re industrial — you just see the positive results in the reports. But how many sweatshop laborers built the parts to the trucks they used to get the trees everywhere they needed to go (and how many plants and animals died from the pollution caused by not only the trucks but the factories used to build them)? How much toxic plastic did they dump into the environment where it never would have been to deliver mostly-failed vaccines to people across the world who didn’t even want them in the first place? And how many foreign diseases did they introduce to them in order to do so? You don’t hear that. You just hear “X number of people were helped!” But were they even helped? Ask the people, not the group wanting your money. If you can’t ask them, I’d hesitate to trust them enough to support them.
If you really want to spend money on something helpful, support scientific research that aims for sustainability. Support something like solar roadways. Support research that isn’t being done by a company or a government, but by a group specifically aiming for an important cause.
Give money to people you actually know who need it. “Charity recipients” are just as much human beings as anyone. I know so many people who will donate $500-1000/month to some charity they know very little about, meanwhile watching their friends and family suffer because they can’t afford health care, food, or shelter. if they were to just hand out the money to the people they knew who needed it, the benefit would be much greater. The recipients in this case would not only get all of the money without any of it going to industrial charity costs and all the harmful products of that, but they also can focus the money to suit their needs exactly. Of course, you should help them try to find ways to meet their needs without using money. Money should really be a last resort for everything, but people feel like it’s the only solution to anything. It’s usually the least helpful and most harmful solution (but also usually the laziest and most convenient, so I guess I understand why people have become so attached to it…?)
And perhaps your charity doesn’t even need to be so traditional and go to ‘needy’ people. You’d be surprised how many people receive charity who don’t want or need it. Meanwhile people who are not labeled as victims struggle simply because they live in a harsh world. Buy from a local business instead of a huge corporation. Support local artists. Start a community garden.Visit state parks. Visit farmers’ markets. Support school extra-curriculars. Give to beggars. Hell, pay for a prostitute.
This is…a lovely response, and a good outline for summarizing some of the bigger pitfalls of organizational charity work, but while I appreciate that you took the time to write this it’s also not information that I didn’t already mostly know when I wrote the original post. The reason I asked for people’s opinions instead of just using a search engine was because I was hoping to find examples of organizations that people had observed making a difference firsthand, instead of just sending off their money after seeing a commercial. While I’ll happily support any initiatives I find that directly improve the conditions in my community, I do not have the ability now to commit to a consistent schedule when it comes to volunteering—and I am absolutely not someone with the free time, social energy, sensitivity, background awareness, or frankly the desire to start my own chapter of any movement that would place me in charge of organizing people for any reason. At most, I know I can give one or two afternoons of my time a week, along with monetary support, and a few conscientious shopping/lifestyle habits that would support causes or organizations that I think are worth it. That isn’t a lot, and I’m not pretending it’s a lot, but I’m also not pretending I’d be prepared to offer more at this point in my life.