In this holiday season of getting, maybe it’s time to do some giving instead. There are many charities and non-profits out there doing important work to help others. We offer some of our personal favorites.
During this holiday season, you’ve been bombarded with advertisements about the latest and greatest tech toys, bargain gifts, luxury items, and the like. It’s easy to get caught up in the hoopla of purchasing that perfect something, or scoring a sweet deal on the hottest item on the market. But this is supposed to be a season of giving, not getting. And in these tough economic times, it would do us well to take a minute to think about those who are struggling, who are helping people recover from a natural disaster, or who are simply doing important work for issues they truly believe in.
Here at PCMag and other Ziff Davis online publications, many of the staff support, donate, or volunteer at charities regularly. For some, it’s a very personal connection; for others, it’s a cause close to their hearts. Indeed, a few of our staff are fasting on December19 to raise awareness about world hunger and money for our Concern for Hunger campaign. For everyone, it’s important in their small way to help make the world a better place.
We’ve compiled a list of our favorite charities. They range in causes from big cats to big catastrophes, from buying cows to raising houses. Check them out, and if one of them piques your interest, we urge you to donate. Make this a real season of giving.
Our Favorite Charities:
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross is a top-rated charity (for administrative expenses and efficiency, among other things). Over the past decade, it has offered what amounted to a massive first-line response to an unprecedented number of disasters around the globe. It’s also easy to donate to, with options for texting, online, phone, mail, stock grants, and more; that probably helped it accumulate $3.5 billion in donations in 2010 alone. —Jamie Lendino
The Autism Society is an organization near and dear to my heart, as I have an older brother with autism. Rather than looking for a “cure,” the organization seeks to improve the life of those with the condition. Its work includes educating others about the challenges that people with autism face on a day-to-day basis, advocating for services to help people with autism throughout their lives, and providing information on the latest treatment, education, and research.—L.A.R.
Big Cat Rescue
Big Cat Rescue, which takes in retired circus lions and tigers, also rescues other big cats from people who tried to keep them as pets, and otherwise offers sanctuary to large cats that are not eligible for release into the wild. It’s focused on educating people about the unsuitability of the animals as pets, working toward passing laws against roadside zoos, and shutting down breeding programs like the exotic pet trade. They also take in injured wild cats and rehabilitate them for release. The group has a video cam set up in the sanctuary, and they regularly post videos of the big cats. The cats eat a massive amount every day, naturally, so Big Cat Rescue relies on donations and paid tour groups to support them.—Arielle Rochette
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
What I like about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the organization understands that technology isn’t always the solution for the most severe problems at hand. One of the biggest impacts the foundation has had is providing something that is ridiculously low-tech: mosquito nets. In six years, from 2000 to 2006, instances of malaria decreased 50 percent in several countries in Africa due to combined prevention efforts, which included insecticide-treated bed nets. I applaud Bill Gates, one of the tech giants of my time, for understanding where his influence and money would be most effective in philanthropy, even though it had nothing whatsoever to do with high technology.—Jill Duffy
Founded by the creators of the webcomic Penny Arcade, Child’s Play shows that gamers can do good. Since its founding in 2003, it’s raised nearly ten million dollars in games, toys, and money to benefit children’s hospitals across the world. Through donations they provide children in hospitals toys, book, and (of course) video games. It’s a unique charity that has a “Patch Adams” feel to it, giving sick children relief from their illnesses and reminding them to have fun.—Natalie Shoemaker and Whitney Reynolds
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
It doesn’t seem possible to some that the people who sell, make, and read comic books would ever need legal help, but, like games and cartoons, not all comics are just for kids anymore. In fact, since 1986 the CBLDF has been at the forefront of defending the First Amendment rights of the comic book community. Whether retailers targeted by over-zealous prosecutors, creators accused of creating “obscene” material, or just fans with a collection that someone doesn’t like and sets the dogs after, the CBLDF is there to help those who can’t afford to help themselves against overwhelming odds.—Eric Griffith
We see news stories, but in reality it’s hard to fathom the true struggle of those around the world who don’t have access to food and drinking water. There are those who walk for miles and stand in line for hours every day just to get enough food to feed their families a single meal. Concern Worldwide, an international humanitarian organization, seeks to stem the tide of starvation by providing food and funding to such communities, working primarily in the hardest-hit countries.—L.A.R.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Simply put, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the organization that protects your rights online. They are strong advocates of a free and open Internet and they closely follow all the critical online issues from the DMCA to SOPA to Righthaven. For example, when Carrier IQ sent a cease-and-desist letter to anAndroid security researcher the EFF stepped in and made sure he was able to continue his work. In addition to promoting a fair and open Internet where we enjoy the privacy we’ve come to expect, the EFF is very good at raising awareness about issues that affect people who don’t normally worry about these sorts of things.—Sal Cangeloso
Habitat for Humanity
Shelter is one of the most basic needs for any person. Yet there are too many families in this country and around the world who don’t have a place to call home; either they can’t afford one, or lost their homes through hard times. Habitat for Humanity believes every man, woman, and child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live. With the help of donations and volunteers, the organization builds homes around the world and gives them to deserving families.—L.A.R.
Each year, I make a point of including a charity in my holiday gift-giving plans. This year I return to Heifer International, an organization that helps communities all over the world in order to end poverty and hunger. There are all kinds of ways to donate. My favorite is to “gift” an animal or experience in honor of friends and family. For example, you can gift a dairy goat to a family for $120 (or buy a share for just $10).—Vicki Jacobson
The Humane Society of the United States
Animal rights organizations can get a bad rap with the shock tactics of some of their numbers. But The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) rescues animals of all stripes every day—from Honey the pit bull who was forced into dogfighting to farm animals subjected to inhumane treatment—and advocates on their behalf locally, nationally, and globally. Giving to the HSUS can be a holiday gift, with the recipient getting a personalized greeting card and a subscription toAll Animals magazine.—Chandra Steele
During the holidays, I tend to overindulge in treats at home and around the office. Buying Two Degrees bars helps to diffuse the guilt because for every delicious all-natural bar I buy (available in Apple Pecan, Cherry Almond, and Chocolate Peanut), the company donates a nutrition pack to a hungry child in Africa. I can feel good about buying these snacks for myself, and they make considerate stocking stuffers and adorable present toppers.—Meredith Popolo