I would like to know, to the extent to which you would like to tell me, where you like to do social good with MONEY. That is, I know some of you volunteer your time and/or skills, and some of you use your position/power to pull other people up, and some of you write letters and make calls and circulate petitions, and some of you fundraise, and some of you coordinate workplace efforts that benefit the community, and some of you loan your possessions, and there are lots of other good non-money ways to do good—but right now I am only wondering about the things you do that involve giving away your own actual money. Well, or things that involve giving away items you have to buy with your own actual money, such as if you buy diapers and donate them, or if you buy presents to donate to a family at the holidays.
If you would like to discuss it (and feel free to go anonymous: the comment form asks for an email address, but it accepts fake ones), this would be a very useful place to mention some of the ways you yourself were helped at a time in your life when you needed it. Paul and I were extremely helped by a local, non-government program that helps to pay dental expenses for children: Rob was about six, and we were so strapped for cash we weren’t going to the dentist, and a school dental screening showed Rob had several small cavities. There was no way we could pay for that, but there was a fund, and there was a matter-of-fact person running the fund, and she matter-of-factly connected us to a dentist and paid the bill, and also arranged for him to have sealants (sealants are an excellent example of “it’s more expensive to be poor”: not being able to afford them can lead to expensive dental problems). I can get weepy just thinking about it.
This is a fine moment to mention charities you like, but I am particularly interested in other ideas. Here are some of the neat ones I’ve seen:
• donating money to a school, asking them to use it to help pay off lunch-account debts
• donating money to a library, asking them to use it to help pay off fines and lost-material fees (the library SHOULD be the perfect resource for people without much money—but anyone’s kid can accidentally lose a book, and some libraries won’t let you check out anything else until the fines are paid down, or a family might be embarrassed to keep being asked at check-out if they will be paying off their account)
• donating money to an auto mechanic, asking them to put it toward someone who needs help paying for a repair
• donating money to a vet, asking them to put it toward someone who needs help paying for a treatment
• buying pants/underpants on good clearances for the school nurse’s office; the nurse can use them for kids who have an accident or a muddy fall, but nurses are also in a good position to find a way to discreetly get the clothes to kids who may need them
• buying backpacks on good clearances in the fall, and donating them in early summer to local welfare groups who collect such things
• buying winter outerwear on good post-season clearances, and donating them in the fall to local welfare groups who collect such things
• buying the really-good-sale foods at your grocery store each week, having them bagged separately, dropping those bags in the donation bins on your way out
• banding together with a group (church, social, work) to put together a scholarship for a local high school senior (when Rob was a senior, there were a lot of scholarships in the $500 range)
But I am not ONLY interested in creative/non-traditional ideas. I want to hear ALL of them: one person’s “well, this isn’t creative or interesting, but I…” is another person’s “OH, I hadn’t thought of doing that, but it really appeals to me!” Also, I hope I don’t need to say this, but let’s be on the safe side and say it anyway: this is not the place to criticize other people’s methods of giving. That is, I don’t want to see a link to that article that tells people to stop donating food to food banks, even though food banks are asking for food donations. I don’t know about you, but that kind of thing makes me want to give up and do nothing.