If you're looking for a worthy organization to give to right now, whether it's for a tax right-off or to give you good juju for the new year, I got you. It's extremely hard to find financially sound organizations with high-impact and/or sustainable development models, especially when they're the lesser known nonprofits worthy of your hard-earned money that get out-shined by the big multimillion dollar orgs (not saying they're bad, but it's hard for the little guys to get noticed).
I'll preface this by saying that I'm no expert on this, it's just a personal list of my faves. In my past life, I worked for a nonprofit based in sub-Saharan Africa for 4 years, so I know a little bit, but mostly it just introduced me to some awesome organizations.
So without further ado, here's my short list of nonprofits worthy of your money:
Ruby's Rainbow is my favorite new organization that I just recently heard of that is so worthy of support and donations. It helps adults with Down syndrome reach their highest potential by awarding scholarships to those seeking post-secondary education or vocational classes.
My best friend who has a baby boy, Ray, with a special extra chromosome talks about it best:
"Liz is the Founder. She named the organization for her daughter, Ruby, who has Down syndrome. When Ruby was born, Liz felt like one of the hardest things to let go of was the dream of her daughter going to college one day. So, she decided she wasn't going to. She started this organization to:
1. raise money for scholarships for students with Down syndrome to attend college or post-secondary education, and
2. help connect families to the many colleges and universities that have programs that support students with intellectual disabilities
She's a HUGE advocate for including people with Down syndrome in higher education so they can access better jobs and live more meaningful lives. Every time I watch the videos she posts in May of the recipients getting their scholarship money and the parents saying "we never dreamed that we would be sending him to college. We never thought that was a possibility for us." I bawl my face off.
My friends Taylor and Pablo, and their son, the seriously heart-melting Ray. See more of them, their adventures, and their inspiration on Instagram at @aworldwithray
I can't say enough positive things about Ruby's Rainbow. Obviously because it's personal, but it's not just about the money and opportunity that she's providing these students, it's also what she's doing for parents like me. The hope that she has built in a community that thought this was something off-limits for them is huge. The idea that Ray could actually go to college one day, like anyone else... it's everything. And she made me believe that was possible!"
(I'm not crying,, you're crying).
And here it is, the organization I used to work for.
I left the Peace Corps in Mozambique frustrated with International Development methods and models. None of them seemed to work, they created dependency and nothing was sustainable—just quick, temporary fixes. I vowed to never work for a nonprofit working in Africa because of it. Then I found KickStart.
Me and my old colleague, Mainza, visiting farmers in Zambia
They created a solution that enables poor farmers in Africa to lift themselves out of poverty, and it's as simple as a low-cost pump that let's them water their crops all year long instead of hauling buckets or just simply waiting for the rain to come. I have traveled throughout Eastern Africa visiting these farmers and their children and each and every one of their stories has touched my heart The mother and father are always proud of their accomplishments, how they can send all of their children to school for the first time, how they don't have to ever worry about putting food on the table, and how they can afford medicine and healthcare if their children get sick—a stark contrast from their lives before.
With KickStart, your money goes into giving a family the opportunity and ability to get out of poverty, providing them safe drinking water, healthcare, food, and education for their children forever, and not just a handout that temporarily alleviates just one challenge poor families face.
I was a believer then, and I'm a believer now.
I've been obsessed and impressed with this organization since I heard about it (and since I ate their maple syrup grilled cheese.....ohmygod).
Drive Change is a nonprofit organization that uses food trucks to run a year long fellowship for young people (17-25) returning home from adult prison so they can obtain employment and educational opportunities. This organization gives incarcerated youth opportunity and transferable job skills to lower the recidivism rate and just basically give good people that made bad decisions a second chance. Their videos with the young adults who are enrolled in the program telling their stories are a must-see if you're looking for a good cry.
Also, if you're in NYC, find their flagship food truck, Snow Day, and order the maple syrup grilled cheese. It's life-changing.
Living Goods empowers people to improve the lives of their families, friends and communities in Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and Myanmar. They do this by supporting networks of ‘Avon-like’ health entrepreneurs who go door to door to teach families how to improve their health and wealth and sell life-changing products such as simple treatments for malaria and diarrhea, safe delivery kits, fortified foods, clean cook stoves, water filters, and solar lights. They are dramatically lowering child mortality AND creating livelihoods for thousands of enterprising women.
This organization taps into a solution for a variety of challenges developing countries face, like child mortality, healthcare, and the disempowerment of women. It's impacts are impressive and it's model is sustainable.
So that's my list! There are many many other organizations that deserve our support that are not listed. Go with your heart, but be sure to do a little research on the nonprofit before you commit if you want to ensure your money is going to good use!