Today is Giving Tuesday. It’s the altruists’ response to the nightmare that is the holiday shopping season, and it’s a big deal for charities — a lot of them depend on a solid Giving Tuesday to meet their year-end goals. The idea is simple: after a weekend of holiday shopping (big box stores on Black Friday, small brick-and-mortar shops on Small Business Saturday, and online on Cyber Monday), you take some of that year-end bonus money and put it towards a charity.
Travelers tend to not be a super materialistic lot, so it’s possible that you skipped the consumer frenzy until now, but Giving Tuesday is worth your time and money. Travel has a tendency to confront you with uncomfortable truths about your world, and I, personally, have rarely come across a traveler who hasn’t been changed by their wanderings.
1. For the humanitarians
There are a number of services out there that monitor and rate charities (the most famous and reputable of which is Charity Navigator), but GiveWell and The Life You Can Save are different. They operate off of the utilitarian principles of effective altruism, which means that they only recommend charities that are extremely transparent, and do the greatest amount of good for the least money. Charities that are recommended by GiveWell and The Life You Can Save (like GiveDirectlyand the Against Malaria Foundation) are actively saving and improving lives on a scale unrivaled by most other charities. In order to do this, they mostly work in impoverished countries where it is less expensive to save a single life, and where many of the infrastructural and public health improvements that we enjoy in the US have not been made.
2. For the conservationists
I, for one, would like my kids to be able to visit the same parks and protected areas that I have been able to visit. In order to keep these wild places and wild animals around for future generations, we need to do some serious work in protecting our planet. There are a few standout charities in the conservation field that you should consider giving to:
- The Union of Concerned Scientists has been at the forefront of pushing fact-based research on the environment and climate change in the media for decades.
- The Natural Resources Defense Council does incredible work in fighting corporations and government agencies that want to plunder the earth. Donate by the end of the day and your gift will be matched.
- Aside from carbon emissions, a major driver of climate change and mass extinction is deforestation. The Rainforest Alliance is fighting that fight.
- The Sierra Club is an excellent charity that has been protecting America’s wild places for 125 years.
3. For the politically woke
For many travelers, going abroad kicks off a pretty intense political awakening — it is easy to believe cultural caricatures of different people when you’re seeing them through a book, news story, or movie screen. When you’re living in this bubble, people in other countries are not fully human, and it is much easier to not think about their suffering.
Travel pops this bubble. You go to another country and are suddenly confronted with the humanity of millions of other people. You are forced to reckon with the fact that their lives are just as vivid as yours, that their hopes and dreams differ from yours in the details, but not in the broad strokes. It is impossible to return from this and behave the way you once did.
This has been a rough political year, and it is all too easy, sitting in front of a computer, to get jaded and hopeless. But there are a lot of charities that are doing some really good work both in the country and around the world in breaking down the barriers between people. Here are just a few:
- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) does great work in breaking down cultural barriers between Muslims and non-Muslims. Their work has been particularly important this year.
- The American Immigration Council does incredible work in protecting the rights of immigrants and in pushing back against myths and lies. Full disclosure: I worked for the AIC for several years, so I’m biased. But that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong, or that they aren’t still awesome.
- The Southern Poverty Law Center does excellent work in tracking and reporting on hate groups in the US.
- The National Organization of Women advocates for equal rights for women.
- The Human Rights Campaign advocates for LGBTQ causes across the US.
- The International Rescue Committee was founded by Albert Einstein, and works on behalf of refugees around the world.
- Oxfam fights poverty in a serious way.
Great as all of these organizations are, there are a ton of other worthy, smaller organizations be working in your area. Give to those local organizations first — they need it the most.
4. For the ethical traveler
Ethical Traveler is a small, scrappy organization trying to redirect the economic power of the world’s tourism industry in ways that support human rights and sustainability. Each year, they do a report on the 10 most ethical tourism destinations, which rewards countries that have been making strides towards improving their human rights records and their environmental policies. They also run some pretty cool trips.
Also check out Sustainable Travel — they also fight to improve communities through the power of travel.