It’s not just the thought that counts

Gift Giving

Gift Giving

Every year as December rolls around, a good chunk of my work pivots to that philanthropic panacea – Year-End Giving.  This year, however, nonprofits like the one I work for are struggling as individual donors curtail their charitable giving while demand for services rises.  In addition, private foundations that fund many vital organizations have taken major hits to their endowments, making grants fewer and far between.

This is all to say that while I spend not a few hours thinking about how to increase year-end giving at my job, I’m not very good at doling it out myself.  I get the direct mail, the emails and the youtube videos, evaluate them like a good communications professional and promptly ignore them, figuring that I do my part by working for a nonprofit organization myself.

This year, it’s not just the thought that counts.

So, here are the organizations I’m giving to this year.  Mind you, these are not large gifts –  but I’d encourage everyone to think about giving to these (and other) worthy organizations this year, even as it feels like you are stretching more and more.  Please feel free to add your own list in the comments.


Minnpost has become an invaluable resource for me — an island of good journalism in a sea of… well, you get the idea.  I particularly valued Eric Black’s pieces on what’s been going on in the Attorney General’s office, David Brauer’s Daily Glean, and general election and recount coverage.

The Uptake

Thanks to The Uptake, citizen journalism is showing that it can break big stories, and, perhaps more importantly, play a critical role in documenting and shedding the light of transparency on the fabric of civic life.  See:  RNC, Senate debate, and recount coverage.

Good Magazine

This is a twofer — Support a great publication that thinks outside the magazine box, telling stories about how to make our world a better place with data, visualization, video and more — but also 100% of your subscription goes to nonprofits.  In addition, you can choose how much you want to pay for your subscription.

Social Justice:

Admission Possible

Admission Possible is one of those nonprofit organizations, like the one I work for, that believes that tax status is no excuse for timidity, and that you have to be as aggressive and entrepreneurial as the for-profit world if you really want to make change on a large scale.  Founded in 2000, AP works in Twin Cities high schools to help low-income students gain admission to college.  Their success rate is incredible — 99% of students they work with get into college — and 80% of students admitted are still working towards their degree or have graduated.  In addition, they get all this done by supporting the spirit of service that President-elect Obama extolled in his election night speech — sending over 50 Americorps members as coaches into the schools.

Southern Poverty Law Center

After starting in 1971 as a small civil rights firm, SPLC now is on the forefront of tracking, documenting, and fighting white supremacists and other hate groups.  Through this work, they’ve taken an increasingly critical role as the immigration rights debate heated up in the last couple of years.  For me, I’m particularly fond of their Teaching Tolerance program, which provides resources to educators on anti-bias curricula.

Mikva Challenge

There are many “civic engagement” programs for young people, but I think Mikva Challenge gets it right.  They’ve worked with over 10,000 low-income Chicago youth since 2000 building skills and experiences in democracy focusing on all three key elements of change: youth policy making, electoral participation, and activism.  They consider themselves a leadership pipeline, inspiring young leaders into lives of public service and civic participation.  See them in action with this video from the 2008 New Hampshire primaries, where Mikva Challenge brought 60 students to be active on behalf of their candidate of choice.

Photo by the_moog


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