DEBORAH CROMBIE: There has been an outpouring of charitable donations in the US in the weeks since the election. People are feeling very strongly that they want to make a difference in the country and in their communities.
But there are so many choices, so many worthwhile organizations that could use a dollar here or a few dollars there, and so many you might never have heard of! (TV host John Oliver's list got a lot of attention.) And the more you read, the more groups you learn about.
So how on earth do you choose? Where can you do the most good? Most of us have limited resources, but even Bill Gates has to pick a few causes to focus on. I was feeling more than a bit overwhelmed, I can tell you.
After some serious thinking and reading, I decided to concentrate on the organizations and causes I've supported, regularly or intermittently, over the years. They are causes that have mattered to me on many levels for a long time, and nothing about that has changed, except that giving seems more crucial than ever.
This is my list, for the moment:
--I subscribe to three print newspapers, one local and two national. While this isn't exactly a donation, it's something I feel very strongly about. Reputable journalism is an absolute must, and it mustn't be dependent solely on advertiser dollars.
--Public television and radio. Again, as above, reputable, non-partisan, independent reporting is indispensable. But so is creative, inventive, and challenging programming, both for adults and children.
--The Nature Conservancy
--Habitat for Humanity
All these organizations make a difference both locally and nationally.
On a local level, I want to do more for LIFT (Literacy Instruction for Texas) a non-profit that promotes adult literacy. (LIFT is also the designated charity for Bouchercon 2019 in Dallas.)
On an international level, we've supported Doctors without Borders for years, and will continue to do so.
We also give at Christmas to The Dallas Morning News Charities, and to the North Texas Food Bank.
The one thing I've added is a regular donation to the ACLU.
And on a nice very grass roots note, we've seen people doing a lot in our own neighborhood. One woman has set up a free food pantry in her front yard. Neighbors keep it stocked for anyone who is hungry.
REDS, have you figured out a way to choose how best you can help?
HALLIE EPHRON: In the past, I've given a percentage of my income to the same list of not-for-profits. But this year was different. My giving focuses on what I value and what I feel are under threat: free press, legal advocacy, environmental science, and women's health.
So like Debs, my list starts with subscriptions to The New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, The New Yorker. For legal advocacy the ACLU. For environmental science, following Lucy's sister's advice, I donated to The Union of Concerned Scientists. For women's health, Planned Parenthood. And of course my local library, PBS, the Audubon Society, and the Salvation Army.
Interesting aside. When I went to the ACLU site to donate, I looked for a mail-in form. (I like to avoid the online forms, hoping in my handwriting to make it clear that I do NOT want my contact information shared and I do not want to be called.) No form, so I emailed them and asked. It took days to get a personal response, and it began:
"Thank you for your message to the ACLU, and for your patience, as we are currently experiencing an unprecedented volume of messages."
That came just after reading that Vanity Fair, the NY Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, and and and are all having a banner year.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: As a reporter, it's not wise for me to talk about specifics--but I am having a powerful giving year. Yes, though, to Times. Post, Globe and New Yorker. And literacy groups. My last newsletter offered a donation in each readers name to Feeding America--and as a result I sent big check. Yay.
And I am tipping like crazy. Out of control. My favorite is to do it when the person doesn't notice where it's from. I walk away and smile, imagining the moment I'll never see.
DEBS: I love this, Hank. I'm tipping like crazy, too.
RHYS BOWEN: I have a big beef about the way charities behave. I give year round to certain charities and am deluged with begging letters from similar charities. If I've given to one Indian school then I get requests from twenty others--which must mean they all sell my info. Not right! So no more Indian schools!
At Christmas I give to Save the Children in the name of my grandkids. I give education of a girl, education of an orphan, art and music supplies for schools etc.
I give to Habitat to Humanity at Christmas too.
But year round my charities are divided between local and international. Women to Women International and Finca micro-loans. The local food bank, local Catholic Charities and local PBS station.
DEBS: Those are some great ideas! Readers, how do you manage to make choices among all the needy causes, especially in this season of giving?