charitable giving

I’ve been super-busy these past few days with family things and other social commitments, but I just wanted to drop by the site and say hello to everyone and wish you all a happy New Year (in case I don’t get a chance to come back before then).

I was going to suggest a few weeks ago that you use the Amazon links on the side of the page to do your Christmas shopping (so that I could make enough money to pay for hosting the site). It seemed kind of in bad taste though, so I didn’t do it. I also didn’t suggest, even though I was tempted to do so, that you buy back issues of Crimewave, or Ypsipanties for your loved ones. I didn’t even pitch the newly released Monkey Power Trio record, “Spiders in the Blood Supply.” I guess I could say, “Now that the holidays are over, isn’t it time you think of yourself? Don’t you deserve something nice from MM.com?” I can’t bring myself to do it though. There are just too many more important things to spend your money on. Not that my merchandise isn’t great, but the stakes are just too high this year.

So, with that in mind, I thought that I’d take this opportunity to make a few suggestions in case you might be in a position to make a tax-deductible donation to a non-profit before the end of the year… I know I don’t need to tell you this, but as “social spending” is drying up in Congress, it really is imperative that those of us who have a few extra dollars at the end of year pass them along to organizations that can put them to good use helping others who might not be as well off. I know that a lot of us probably aren’t in much of a position to help this year, but maybe, if that’s the case, you could still lend a hand by forwarding on a few links to your friends and family members who might be more able to pitch in… Anyway, I just thought that the subject warranted a post. Sorry if it comes across as too “preachy,” but sometimes I can’t control myself. (Just ask the MTV crew filming in Fort Lauderdale in ’87 if you don’t believe me.)

OK, so here’s my list of ideas… I’m sure there are tons of other deserving groups, but these are just the first ones that came to mind. If you feel passionately about any that I didn’t mention, please leave a comment. (Where applicable, I’ve also included a link to the organization’s Charity Navigator rating.)

The Les Turner Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Foundation: I watched my grandmother dealing with ALS (commonly referred to as “Lou Gherigs’s Disease”) up until the point when she chose to take her own life, and I’ve always told myself that when I had the resources I’d contribute toward research. While I haven’t done a great deal yet, I have done a little digging and it seems as though the Les Turner Foundation is at the forefront when it comes to funding research in the area. (rating)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation: Kind of like a digital ACLU, the EFF works to protect civil liberties online. And, if you’ve been reading the news this past week, you know just how important that is. (rating)

826 Valencia: Started by Dave Eggers, the man behind the McSweeney’s machine, this non-profit helps students (ages 8–18), especially those with few resources of their own, to develop their writing skills. (As I’ve never been able to make my way though anything published by McSweeney’s, I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan, but they put out my friend Amy’s book (which I did read — and very much liked), and this non-profit of theirs is one of the most interesting and innovative that I’ve heard about in a long time.)

The American Visionary Art Museum: It’s my favorite museum. It doesn’t really come through from the website, but the place has a lot of heart and I’m sure the money would go a long way toward making programs available to kids in underserved communities, who could really benefit from the underlying message – everyone is capable of creating unique works of art reflecting their own experience. It really is an inspirational place.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities: “One of the nation’s premier policy organizations working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals.” (rating)

The American Progress Action Fund: The group behind the Think Progress site that I’m always linking to. There are a lot of people doing good, important work these days, but these folks are among the best. They do an incredible job of explaining things simply, and I’m sure that with a little more money they could disseminate that information even more broadly.

Along the same lines, you might also want to consider a contribution to Media Matters: “A progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.” They are also doing vital work.

WFMU: The best radio station in the free world, and I’d say that even if they didn’t play my records. (Speaking of people who play and appreciate my records, word is that there may one day be a “John Peel Memorial Music Foundation,” but so far I can’t find any sign of its existence. (Will someone remind me on New Year’s Eve to have a drink in memory of Mr. Peel?))

WNYC: The National Public Radio station that produces my favorite program, On the Media. (rating)

The American Civil Liberties Union: The CEO makes a mint, but the organization still gets a great rating from outside auditors like Charity Navigator. If you aren’t already a member, you should be. If there was ever a time in our nation’s history that the ACLU was absolutely indespensible, it’r right now. (rating)

I wanted to link to People for the American Way also, as I’m a member and I like what they have to say when it comes to the separation of church and state, but they get a bad Charity Navigator rating… Perhaps you’d be better served to give to The Council for Secular Humanism . (They get the highest rating possible, and seem to be working on a lot of the same issues.)

Then there are always international aid organizations like The Red Cross (rating) and CARE (rating).

Of course, it’s also nice to keep you money local to where you are. If you’d like to that, I’m sure you can find a well-run soup kitchen or local branch of Habitat for Humanity. If you’re in southeastern Michigan three very good alternatives are: Growing Hope, Food Gatherers (rating), and The Detroit Institute of the Arts (rating).

(I don’t know of any good charities doing work with anxiety disorders (like OCD), but I’d love to hear about them if you know of any. (The anxiety disorders association of America gets a really bad write-up from Charity Navigator.) I’d also be interested to hear if anyone knows of any charities doing good work in depression and suicide prevention.)

Groups I won’t be supporting this year: Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (rating), Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association (rating), James Dobson’s Focus on the Family (rating), Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis Ministries (rating), The Thomas More Law Center (rating), or the newly founded group Mothers Against Noise. (There are dozens of so-called charitable organizations that I don’t choose to support, but these were the first ones that popped into my mind. If your organization isn’t listed, please don’t take it as evidence of the fact that I approve of what you are doing.)

OK, so there are my thoughts on end-of-the-year charitable giving. If you have a moment and feel like leaving a note in the comments section, let me know where, if at all, you plan on sending a check. I’m sure there are hundreds of extremely worthy non-profits out there that I’ve never heard of and I’d like to hear about what some of them are doing. (Also, if you have comments on any of the organizations that I’ve recommended — either positive of negative — leave a note. I’m interested in hearing what you think.)

(I should also mention that Charity Navigator reviews that I’ve linked to don’t necessarily mean that non-profits are, or aren’t, doing good work. I’m sure that several of the organizations that scored poorly still do very good things.)

One last thing, while we’re on the subject… I was talking with a woman at a party a few days ago about charities and such, and she mentioned that in her family they give their daughter an allowance, but they do so with the understanding that she’s to set aside a certain percentage of it to a charity of her choice. That was the coolest thing I heard all Christmas season. It made my heart warm up and grow like the Grinch’s at the end of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

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12 Comments

  1. kez
    Posted December 29, 2005 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    the obsessive-compulsive foundation has a good info website, but i don’t suggest joining their mailing list. i joined about ten years ago, before i had email, and they continue to mail me large envelopes full of ocd info continuously, like wedding invitation envelopes stuffed with other little envelopes within other smaller envelopes. it’s enough to lead anyone into an anxiety-panic attack just opening all these fuckin’ envelopes every week, and why must they put every single letter or articlae in a separate envelope… enough i say!

    http://www.ocfoundation.org/

    -kez

  2. chris
    Posted December 29, 2005 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    OK, so I will just turn my firewall off every time need to comment.

    This is what I asked for for Xmas. Told hubby…just give money to stuff. I got 20 lukewarm meals in tin trays for 20 old people who have managed to alienate themselves from their kids or have bad kids, or better yet…no kids!

    Enough dry wall for a 3 br house in New Orleans.

    And a bunch a food for the foodbank (note-foodbanks have hit an all time low for donations while experiencing an ever growing demand for food…I guess that cottage industry of ebay sellers is not lucrative enough to buy food).

    I would love to know what charities received gifts from the Bush cabinet members. In fact, I would love to know GOP giving patterns in general.

    The mom you met Mark had a great idea. Seeing as the religious right has taken away church from me and mine (as well as evolution, In and Out burgers, Chronicles of Narnia, the joy of celebrating holiday spirit w/ friends not X-ian, the Constitution, and etc) I was thinking of trying to get the family to volunteer for something once a week.

    Happy New Year all of you fantastic wonderful people that I wish lived in my neighborhood!

  3. j7uy5
    Posted December 29, 2005 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Based on peripheral exposure to such things, I would say that NARSAD is one of the most respected mental health advocacy foundations. Their support is not specific to depression or suicide prevention, but they do provide a lot of support to research in those areas.

    http://www.narsad.org/

    The reason I say this is that the chairman of pychiatry at the University of Michigan, John Greden, has done some work with them, and has mentioned them favorably in some of his lectures.

  4. ChelseaL
    Posted December 29, 2005 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid I’m one of those who wasn’t able to do much this year. (Or any year since I became a freelance writer.) Made worse by the fact that I was lucky enough to receive a couple of comparatively extravagant gifts.

    In any case, I ask anyone who can to consider donating to hunger relief. I feel very good about the United Nations World Food Programme–founded, I believe, by George McGovern.

    There’s also a small organization called “Food For Free,” which seems like such an incredibly good group, they make me feel evil by comparison. (Foodforfree.org.)

    I believe we can’t accomplish much in this world if people are hungry.

    Happy ’06, everyone.

  5. Dave
    Posted December 29, 2005 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Mark, FYI — there’s a local version of 826 that recently began: http://www.826michigan.org/.

  6. terry
    Posted December 29, 2005 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    I gave money this year to KRFC a communtiy radio station in Fort Collins, CO. Everything cool?

  7. mark
    Posted December 29, 2005 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I had to read that twice, Terry. I thought that you said you gave to KFC.

    And thnks for the comments everybody… Keep ’em coming.

  8. kez
    Posted December 29, 2005 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    i gave to the KFC once… and they handed me a red ‘n white cardboard bucket full of fried animal parts. not sure if that’s a good thing though… but the folks at the firehouse sure enjoyed it.

    -kez

  9. terry
    Posted December 29, 2005 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    I gave a lot to KFC earlier this year when I had dental work done and had to eat a lot of their mashed potatoes. They taste like a warm milkshake made of salt.

  10. muppster
    Posted December 30, 2005 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    thanks for the growing hope plug, mark… bummer about the site being hacked…

  11. Theodore Glass
    Posted January 3, 2006 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    $25 to the Beat Mark Maynard into Submission fund.

  12. Giving
    Posted June 26, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps it’s time to revisit this subject now that a few years have passed.

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