We at Sightline share our favorite organizations to help inspire your end-of-year giving. We imagine these organizations will need our support more than ever in the coming years and want to amplify the great work that is happening in Cascadia and beyond. Have a favorite organization you’re giving to this year? Share it in the comments below!
For the past month, I’ve found myself vacillating between the patriotic belief that I should spend every moment protecting the civil rights of all Americans, and the hopeless belief that I can’t do very much to shield people from the horrors of hate. Luckily there are organizations whose sole mission is to protect the civil rights of all Americans, and I can contribute to the surge in donations those organizations have received over the past month. Organizations like Lambda Legal, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Southern Poverty Law Center have been working for many years to protect people of color, LGBTQ individuals and women, not to mention those of us who fall into more than one of those categories. It’s more important to me than ever to support these organizations, which will focus and help lead the tremendous work ahead.
The White Helmets, a.k.a. the Syrian Civil Defense, do some of the most dangerous work rescuing their fellow Syrians from recently bombed areas. This PBS Newshour video gives an excellent, if heartbreaking, overview of their work.
Showing Up for Racial Justice is the umbrella organization for a bunch of local chapters of white folks working to dismantle racism among fellow white folks. It asks that anyone donating also make a matching donation to a Black-led organization.
Thoughtful local media outlets are more important than ever. Seattle Globalist is doing awesome, community-led journalism centering the voices of diverse local writers and change-makers. UPDATE: The Seattle Globalist will lose nearly half of its funding in the new year. Learn why and find out more about the powerful Globalist community in this Evergrey newsletter update.
To me, among the most egregious failings of the United States is its mental health “system.” That system, too often, consists of a rotation between homelessness and jail. Ten times as many people with schizophrenia and other forms of severe mental illness are locked in American prison as are in the nation’s psychiatric hospitals and other residential recovery facilities. My favorite organization working for mental health reform is the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), which aims to eliminate barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness. This month, it won a giant victory with Congress’s passage of the most comprehensive reform law on mental illness in many years.
In 1986, right after college, I spent three months in Nicaragua in the midst of the US-funded contra war. While there, I lived with a family that included a 16-year-old boy named Bladimir. For much of 2016, my daughter was in Nicaragua for a year of study abroad. I visited her, and we paid a call on Bladimir and his family. Bladimir, I learned, had been blinded at 23 while removing land mines along the country’s northern border. He has since dedicated himself to the non-profit Nicaraguan Association of the Blind and is now its president. The group helps Nicaraguan children and adults who lack sight to live happy and productive lives. One of the association’s fundraising strategies is especially near to my heart. It has formed a partnership with a nonprofit in Montreal called CycloNordSur, which has the mission of “recycling bikes up north, transforming lives down south.”
This Canadian charity collects thousands of donated bicycles, all used but working, and loads them into cargo containers. These containers fan out across the world, to grassroots groups that reassemble and sell the bikes for thrift-store prices, boosting local mobility in impoverished communities and advancing carbon-free transportation at the same time. Bladimir’s association is among these bike reassemblers. It has equipped its own bike shop and trained young mechanics. Over the years, it’s gone through several cargo-containers of used two-wheelers, and the proceeds have all paid for programs for the blind. This fall, my family, friends, and I contributed enough to send Bladimir his next cargo container of used bikes. (I have looked for but not found a similar group in Cascadia. If you know of one, please let me know! A similar US charity is Bikes for the World in Arlington, Virginia.)
We’re post-election 2016 and it has never been more clear to me that independent media—one that actively challenges and refuses to normalize bigotry—is more important than ever, which is why I am increasing my giving to Bitch Media. Founded and based in the Cascadian city of Portland, OR, Bitch is “a feminist media organization dedicated to providing and encouraging an engaged, thoughtful feminist response to mainstream media and popular culture.” Bitch produces a quarterly magazine, online articles, a curated daily news service, and weekly podcasts. It has been creating an inclusive, no-bullsh*t space for discourse for over 20 years.
Puget Sound Goat Rescue is an organization that has my heartstrings wrapped around its little goat hooves. This volunteer-run nonprofit rescues goats from all across the state of Washington from abusive homes, slaughterhouses, abandonment, and more. The foster goats will be taken care of until they find a loving forever home. Click here for some baby goat cuteness!
Seattle is the 23rd largest city in the US but has the fourth largest homeless population. This is a bad problem year-round. But in the dark, bitter cold months, I fear more than ever for those in our community without shelter. I donate money as well as clothes and baby supplies to Mary’s Place. I also like engaging my own kids in gift drives for kids without the means or stability for the kind of holiday every kid should enjoy. In Seattle, check out Treehouse, serving children in foster care, and links to volunteer and gift opportunities via United Way, and lists of a whole bunch more in counties across Washington.
And with “real news” getting bad and ever worse, thank goodness for outspoken comics who will help sustain us with humor and collective introspection over the holidays and the next few years. After a (IMO satisfying) rant, John Oliver implores us to do what we can to actively stand up for one another, including, for those who can afford it, financial support of organizations working on people and causes that are vulnerable during a Trump administration. In a surprising move for late night comedy television, he names specific organizations to give to (you can hear it around 19 minutes in this clip):
If you can afford the time or money, support organizations that are going to need help under a Trump administration. For instance, if you’re concerned about women’s health, donate to Planned Parenthood, or the Center for Reproductive Rights. If you don’t believe man-made global warming is a silly issue, donate to the Natural Resources Defense Council. If you don’t think refugees are a terrorist army in disguise, donate to the International Refugee Assistance Project.
Oliver goes on to remind us to both support and key an eye on the press in their role as watchdog, recommending that instead of sharing partisan memes circulating in our own echo chambers, people should support actual journalism and donate to organizations like ProPublica, “a non-profit that does great investigative journalism.” To do my part, I’ll be giving subscriptions to my loved ones instead of stuff this Christmas, to support magazines like the New Yorker who still pay professional journalists to do in-depth reporting. This is a gift that keeps on giving.
John Oliver also reminds us to check the box on the online donation pages we visit to sign up for recurring gifts. I used to give sporadically when I could or when the mood hit me, but I’m committing now to small (that’s what I can afford) monthly donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU.
Strengthening democracy is feeling pretty important right about now, so I’m giving to the Brennan Center for Justice, FairVote, and ACLU this year. Also GiveDirectly. And our local soup kitchen: St. Francis Dining Hall.
This past month has left me searching for people that seek change and embrace the idea that we need to take care of one another. We need to champion acts of love and not fall subject to more fearmongering and hate. Below are two causes I’ll be supporting this year:
My friend Jae has launched a new project called PATYL (Pay Attention to Your Life). She’s a charismatic, grab life by the horns, occupational therapist living in Ohio that schemed up a fun way to showcase people that go that extra mile. Her motto: “Healing can’t happen if we don’t pay attention. Change can’t happen if we don’t pay attention. Kindness doesn’t happen if we’re not paying attention.” I’m looking forward to watch her idea grow and see the results of the collaboration. Check out her story here.
This year I stepped away from my backyard garden beds and into a community garden. It was one of the more rewarding choices I made this year. Forging friendships in my new community, taking control of what would be on my dinner table, and encouraging curiosity amongst the neighborhood kids is just the tip of the iceberg. Consider donating to your local community garden and if you’re in need of inspiration, I give you Ron Finley.
Before I became a parent, I didn’t pay any attention to the organizations out there working on behalf of kids and families. But, as other parents, I’m sure, will be shocked to hear, raising a kid is a whole lot easier when you have the support of a knowledgeable and resourceful community to back you up. As it turns out, there are quite a few good and deserving organizations out there working to provide this kind of community, and I figured if I hadn’t heard of them, many other people probably haven’t either. So, here is a short-list of the ones my family has personally benefited from since our first kid came along almost exactly a year ago.
The Program for Early Parenting Support, or PEPS “strengthens families, increases family wellness, and prepares families to cope with life stresses by creating social, thriving neighborhood-based parent groups.” Basically this is a combination of group therapy and social hour for new parents, which, as you will know if you’ve ever been a new parent, are both welcome relief from the bewilderment and isolation of suddenly being responsible for the life and well-being of such a tiny, helpless, squalling and perpetually needy thing as a newborn baby. Peps also offers parenting workshops and a quarterly newsletter, and all of its programs offer financial assistance for those who need it. This was especially important to my family, as my husband and I both experienced unexpectedly lengthy periods of unemployment after the birth of our son. This could have substantially increased our sense of isolation and despair during the already stressful period of learning how to care for our newborn, but thanks to PEPS we had both a reason to leave the house every week and a reliable source of support and commiseration.
Parent Trust for Washington Children “creates lasting change and hope for the future by promoting safe, healthy families and communities.” It does this through a number of programs, including offering birth and parenting classes, an emergency hotline with live parenting coaches, and free developmental screenings for children from 1 month – 5 ½ years. I can’t say enough about Marni, who does the developmental screenings. We always leave feeling both empowered by the knowledge that she shares and confident that our son is securely attached and growing well.
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And finally, Pike Market Childcare and Preschool offers subsidized child care to over 2/3 of the families in their program. This is especially important in Seattle, where, as we discovered to our chagrin only after our child was born, quality childcare is egregiously expensive and difficult to find. Donations go toward supporting its Tuition Assistance program as well as a Crisis Fund that helps families who are experiencing a crisis or unexpected hardship.
The 4 year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting is next week (December 14) and since then very little has been done across the nation in the way of passing common sense gun control laws. One local organization getting some traction is the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. In the most recent election, it was able to pass Initiative 1491, Extreme Risk Protection Orders:
“Extreme Risk Protection Orders allows families and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms if there is documented evidence that an individual is threatening harm to themselves or others. The person subject to that order must surrender their guns to police and will not be able to buy, sell, or possess other firearms for up to one year.”
We need to address the violence and systemic racism toward black people and the Black Lives Matter movement has been a powerful force in bringing the issues that have existed in our communities, in our country, to the forefront of public eye. And it (as well as other organizations doing the same) needs our support. As the baton gets passed in January, I fear that groups like Black Lives Matter will need our support more than ever.
Legal Voice, formerly Northwest Women’s Law Center (a long time ago now but may be helpful to some), this small but mighty organization led by dynamo Lisa Stone has been doing critical work on behalf of women and LGBTQ folks for many years. It has focused on ending gender-based violence, ensuring access to health care, eradicating discrimination, and protecting reproductive freedom, among other things. It has a great staff, are local, and have done a lot of good for our communities.
Planned Parenthood is a 100-year-old organization “founded on the revolutionary idea that women should have the information and care they need to live strong, healthy lives and fulfill their dreams—no ceilings, no limits.” A woman’s right to make choices for her own body, have access to critical healthcare services and family planning resources will always have my support. I’ve been a Planned Parenthood supporter for many years and with what’s on the horizon, and what just happened in Ohio, it needs support more than ever.
“ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.”
I first heard about ProPublica and became a donor close to its founding in 2007 and appreciate the perspective it brings. Investigative journalism is at risk and this is an organization digging into stories and issues in a complex and meaningful way.
A new addition for me will be Southern Poverty Law Center. When you look at its website under the What We Do section, fighting hate, teaching tolerance and seeking justice are the first three things. I’m in. In the ten days after our national election, the SPLC counted 867 incidents of hateful harassment—in just ten days. Churches are being set ablaze, mosques targeted, Nazi swastikas are finding more prominence than before, and hate has been given permission to be part of our national politics. This is not the country that I want to live in. It’s not the democracy that I know and believe in. I think the SPLC will be very busy in the coming years and will need our support. The justice system, for better or worse, cannot be dismantled in the snap of a finger so it’s possible that the law will become an even more important avenue for prosecuting hateful, unlawful, illegal acts and I want to make sure it has the support it needs.
I’d like to highlight the work that YMCA Earth Service Corps (YESC) does to unlock the incredible power of young environmental leaders through programming in public schools around the Puget Sound region. YESC holds a huge place in my heart—it’s what motivated me to get involved in sustainability work in high school and has fueled this passion of mine ever since. Every year, YESC does a ton with very little: it organizes leadership retreats, outdoor trips, sustainability symposiums, and helps young environmental leaders find their voice and power.
Got Green’s snazzy new website alone makes me want to donate! This grassroots organization led by people of color and low income people organizes for environmental, racial, and economic justice in Seattle and beyond. Got Green constantly inspires me with its passion and programming that focuses on providing green jobs, healthy food, public transit, and healthy homes for all.
The South Seattle Emerald is another local media outlet that “acts as a powerful megaphone amplifying the voice and experience of South Seattle.” It’s written for the community, by the community, and highlights critical voices left out of mainstream news. Editor and Founder Marcus Green and other South Seattle residents can explain why you should support the Emerald better than I can in this short video.