Christmas is the season of giving and receiving. From baking treats that your loved ones will enjoy to sending holiday cards with well-wishes to shopping for the perfect gift for that someone special, this is the time of year when we all get into the giving spirit.
Along with family, friends, and co-workers there are countless humanitarian organizations that would greatly benefit the gift of your time and support.
Charities give to the community year-round, yet receive 31 percent of their donations in the month of December. In other words, a gift you make this holiday season could help others all year ‘round! That’s pretty magical.
Here are some heartwarming organizations for your consideration this holiday season.
The Blessings of Food and Water
Feeding America is a nationwide network of food banks that work with local food pantries to feed the hungry. Through a combination of retail and manufacturing donations, purchased food and fresh produce, they distribute 4.3 billion meals a year.
An astonishing 25-40 percent of food in the United States that is grown and processed will never be consumed. (I’ll let you read that again. Wowza!)
Feeding America works to gather this excess food and distribute it before it goes to waste, filling hungry tummies instead of landfills.
Thirst is another real issue. In our First World society, we take clean water for granted. Yet 1 in 9 people in the world – about 785 million people – don’t have access to clean water in their homes. CharityWater has funded over 44,000 projects to bring healthy water to over 10 million people.
Partnering with organizations around the world, CharityWater drills wells and works with local community leaders to educate citizens on hygiene and sanitation practices. By employing local workers, they create jobs and develop sustainable water projects to improve overall health and well-being.
Because private donors cover all the organization's administrative expenses, every dollar you donate goes directly to fund water projects for those in need.
Humanitarian Organizations For Kids
Since 1947, the United States Marines have sponsored Toys For Tots and have made Christmas brighter for children around the nation. Consistently a top-rated charity, they distribute an average of 18 million toys to 7 million less fortunate children each year.
(A bit of Christmas trivia: Toys for Tots’ miniature three-car train logo was designed by Walt Disney!)
Another incredibly altruistic charity is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. During the holiday season, kids send letters to Santa telling him what toys they want for Christmas… and cancer is never on the list. Since 1962, St. Jude’s has been helping families fight this insidious disease.
Founded by entertainer Danny Thomas, his wish was that “no child should die in the dawn of life.” St. Jude’s commitment is that no child is denied treatment based on race, religion, or a family’s ability to pay.
A leader in research and development of cancer treatment, the organization has helped push the childhood cancer survival rate from 20% in 1962 to 80% today.
Helping Others Overcome Challenges
Some physical impairments cause permanent, stressful challenges. For those who have lost their sight, the Guide Dog Foundation has been breeding and training dogs to help blind and visually impaired individuals live better lives.
Founded in 1946 and headquartered in Smithtown, New York, the organization receives no government funding. Depending solely on donations from companies, individuals, and fraternal organizations, they provide service dogs to those in need free of charge.
Disabilities present themselves in different ways. Six million people in the world struggle with Parkinson's disease, an illness that occurs when brain cells that make dopamine (a chemical that coordinates movement) stop working or die. Described as a "movement disorder" the condition is lifelong and progressive.
Michael J. Fox, the well-known actor, has become both the face of and activist for this disease. The Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson's Research is dedicated to finding a cure through aggressively funded research. Their stated goal is to "go out of business.”
The organization purposely fails to maintain large cash reserves or endowments, pouring all donations into immediate research. Deemed one of the most efficient charities, only 12 cents of every dollar goes toward administrative costs.
Donating For Maximum Impact
Speaking of administrative costs, a question everyone should ask is, "Where does my donation go?" More money spent on administration means less money for the actual cause.
One way to gauge the efficiency of humanitarian organizations is to visit Charity Watch, an independent watchdog group that digs deep into humanitarian organizations to measure their fiscal efficiency.
Charity Watch examines how donated dollars are actually used. Rating over 600 charities on a scale of A+ to F, they are an excellent resource to consult before you give.
Give freely. Give intelligently. Give generously. Our world will be better for it. Who can you bless this holiday season? Tell us about some of your favorite good-doing humanitarian organizations below.