It’s been a whirlwind of a week — first Thanksgiving on Friday, and then basically a four-day long weekend of spending incentives, from Black Friday to Small Business Saturday to Cyber Monday. Somewhere along the line, though, somebody decided that after all that buying, it would be a good idea to establish a day for giving, and #GivingTuesday was born.
Giving Your Money
Here’s where most of us start, and why not? Giving Tuesday is a good time to take stock of your financial resources, which you’ve maybe been spending quite a bit of on yourself. But don’t just dump some money into the first charity you see and pat yourself on the back. Make sure you’re doing some homework so that you’re only donating to an organization that’s doing good work. Here are some resources for doing just that:
- Charity Navigator rates charities based on financial documents they’ve evaluated, focusing on financial health and accountability & transparency.
- GuideStar isn’t a charity watchdog or evaluator per se — instead, they aggregate as much data as they can on charities and create a comprehensive database to make the data accessible.
- The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance rates charities based on 20 different criteria, from board compensation to effectiveness reports to program costs, all of which you can see here.
- Charity Watch rates charities A through F based on independent analysis of charity efficiency, the criteria of which you can find here. They also provide a list of their top-rated charities broken down by category.
- GiveWell focuses on recommending a few top choice, thoroughly vetted organizations, rather than evaluating large numbers. Their criteria include focusing on the global poor and using evidence-backed intervention. Their current top charities are Against Malaria Foundation, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, Deworm the World Initiative from Evidence Action, and GiveDirectly.
Giving Your Time
Maybe giving financially isn’t in the cards for you right now, or maybe you are giving financially but want to be a little more hands-on in your giving. Whether it’s a one-time service project or an ongoing volunteer relationship with an organization, try using this Tuesday as a day to give of yourself.
The Giving Tuesday website I linked to above has links to events in cities in the US and internationally. If your city isn’t represented there, try checking VolunteerMatch, Create The Good, and Network for Good for opportunities. No good there, either? Try contacting your local houses of worship or community centers–they’ll likely have somewhere you can contribute. Googling “volunteer [your city]” isn’t a bad idea, either! If Tuesday’s a bit too soon to actually go out and volunteer, try using it to set up your first (or next) volunteer experience for another day.
Giving Your Talent
I actually think this is the kind of giving that most often gets neglected. We know we’re supposed to give our time, but we forget that the best way to do this sometimes is giving our talent. Sometimes, the soup kitchen has too many hands serving food, but maybe they need a marketing person or a web copy writer. Some of the volunteer websites above will let you plug in keywords or create profiles. See what happens when you look for opportunities based on the skills you have.
Another option is to contact organizations directly. Find a local charity you like, but hate their website? If you’re a web designer, give them a call and see if they want their website revamped. If you love photography, find out if you can come in and take some pictures for their fundraising materials. If you did really great in math in college, look for local tutoring opportunities or offer your services to a local high school or youth center.
In addition to offering your services cold call-style to surrounding orgs, here are some of my favorite off-the-beaten-path ways of giving your talent:
- Knit for charity! Lots of organizations would love to take your knit or crocheted projects. Warm Up America! is always taking 7″x9″ afghan sections, finished afghans, and finished accessories for people in need. They also have a page dedicated to specific needs from their partner organizations. Don’t know how to knit? Check out their tutorials! Project Linus also has local chapters that accept knitted and crocheted projects.
- Love the performing arts? Put together a talent show or an open mic night with the proceeds going to your favorite charity. Or, maybe even better, put together a talent show at your local hospital, shelter, or assisted living home.
- If you love to sing but feel like organizing a show might be a little much, now is the perfect time of year to go caroling! Call around to hospitals or assisted living homes nearby to find out if you can bring a caroling group. Alternatively, if you have some talented friends and carol around the neighborhood, you can collect money for your favorite charity.
- If you’re a runner or a biker, lots of local races raise money for charity. Use a site like Active to find and enter local charity races. It’s a good incentive to keep healthy over the holidays, and you’re helping people. Win win!
- Today: Use the links above to find at least one charity you’re interested in supporting (now or in the future) and at least one way you’d like to volunteer.
- This week: Use Giving Tuesday as a day to give back, both monetarily and in terms of time, if you can manage it. Otherwise, use the day to set up a future donation and/or future day of volunteering.
- This year: Don’t let Giving Tuesday be the only day you give. Once you find a place you like to give and a place you like to volunteer, integrate them into your life. Even if it’s just once a month or once every few months, maintain a relationship and let giving become something you do without even thinking about it. Schedule them now so you won’t be tempted to forget about it later.
Anything I missed? Great giving resources I should know about? Let me know in the comments below!