Causes, Holidays

2013 Holiday Gift Guide, Part II: Charitable Giving

A little while ago, I posted this guide to gifts for your friends and family in the 2013 holiday season. And I told you that by clicking through and purchasing any of them — or even by clicking this link to get to and then buying anything at all — you’d be supporting Twice Cooked, and helping me out with stuff like hosting costs for the year to come.

I stand by those recommendations, and I stand by that rationale.

But that — dear readers — is not what I’m giving to my friends and family this holiday season. The questions that I ask myself — this year and most every year — are these:  how do I help the people in my life curb their clutter accumulation syndrome? How do I avoid devoting too much time and energy to the (online or IRL versions of) big box stores? And how do I do that while still giving gifts that are meaningful and satisfying?

And that’s where this list comes in. What I’ve done here is suggested five causes that do important work, that need your help, and that offer some compelling options for how to make a charitable donation that is also a viable gift. Most of these you’ve seen featured here before in one form or another. A couple I’ve even shilled for in posts like this one and this one.

But you shouldn’t take that to be a sign that I’m losing my mind. While I usually abhor repeating myself — at least too often — on this blog, for causes like these, I don’t mind going to bat again and again. All of these groups do amazing, important work. And they all rely on donations from people like us to keep on doing it.

So onto … not Mammon! Here’s the list.

2013 Holiday Gift Guide, Part II: Charitable Giving

Do-Gooder Gifts: I’ve talked about Kiva many times before. They’re a microfinance facilitator that matches folks like you and I, here in the United States, with budding entrepreneurs in the developing world. The idea is that you kick in twenty-five or fifty dollars to help a rancher, for example, in Tajikistan. And when she gets her business off the ground, she pays the money back to Kiva, and you get to lend it again — and help somebody else. The beauty of Kiva is that it isn’t charity. It’s capitalism. It’s a great way of using that same small quantity of money over and over to do good in lots of places. Kiva offers a Kiva Card, which is like a gift card, delivered in hard copy or by email to get your gift recipient started on the road to international (micro)finance. Click through to get one now!

Feeding America This year has seen cuts of $5 billion to Federal nutrition assistance programs. And states — probably including yours — are taking steps to shrink the pool of families eligible for aid. It turns out that almost 49 million people in the United States, at some point in 2012 (the last year for which we have data), had difficulty meeting basic nutritional requirements for themselves, their families, and their children. And the problem is only getting worse. What Feeding America does is try to pick up the slack. They are a non-profit that represents a network of food banks across the country that offer things like low-cost and no-cost groceries to people for whom SNAP simply is not enough. Feeding America offers lots of ways to give — in your own name, or in honor of your friends and family. So click and donate. Or check out their listing of food banks near you.

The Southern Poverty Law Center These people are amazing. They are a non-profit organization that has made it their mission to track and expose the activities of hate groups. Our lawsuits, they say, have toppled institutional racism in the South, bankrupted some of the nation’s most violent white supremacist groups and won justice for exploited workers, abused prison inmates, disabled children and other victims of discrimination. But they do even more than that. The SPLC runs the website which teaches teachers how to talk about ending racism and hatred in their classrooms. And they publish Intelligence Report, a quarterly magazine that does in-depth reporting on groups from separatist and survivalist organizations, to white supremacists, to black nationalists. Make a donation. Or get great swag from their CafePress store. Because, yeah.

Wikimedia Foundation Almost every image that you see on Twice Cooked that I have not taken with my own camera comes from Wikimedia Commons. Almost every bit of research I do for this site — from recipes to historical topics — involves a trip to the Wikipedia at some point. The purpose of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally. They are committed to a democracy of data, in which everybody gets to make it, and everybody gets to use it. They are committed to editorial independence, which means that they don’t take any ad money to get it done. And so they need us. If you use Wikimedia projects (and I know that you do!), click and donate. They can use our support.

Creative Commons When the Wikimedia Foundation says free license, they largely mean licenses developed by these guys. Creative Commons offers free, easy-to-use copyright licenses that provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. Twice Cooked uses one. Because of Creative Commons, you have the right to use anything you like from this site, so long as you’re not using it for commercial purposes, and so long as you share alike. But their licenses range from just requiring attribution for the materials you take to CC0 — which is a way of putting works that you’ve created into the public domain. In a world where folks named Disney or Microsoft or even Google run the intellectual property show, sensible copyright reform isn’t likely to happen. So isn’t it lucky that we have this nice group of legal experts out there writing licenses that fill in the gap? Give! Or give swag (including XKCD-themed swag) from their very cool store.