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If nothing pulls your heartstrings like a kid in need: Help children affected by cancer and support cutting-edge research by donating to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. It was started in 2000 by a remarkably inspirational 4-year-old who raised $1 million before succumbing to neuroblastoma. A $400 contribution will sponsor one day of lab work, but even a $20 gift goes a long way: It’ll cover families’ hospital parking and other small costs that can quickly add up.
If you just rented Philadelphia...again: An astonishing 33.4 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, including more than 1.1 million in the U.S. But it’s not all doom and gloom. A team of scientists and entrepreneurs is working on the Immunity Project (a nonprofit initiative of Until There’s a Cure) to create a revolutionary (free!) HIV vaccine by 2017. The elite research crew is ready for phase I human trials in the U.S. and South Africa but needs $25 million to get going--meaning now is a very good time to pull out your credit card.
If you know a kid in college: The Jed Foundation--formed in honor of Jed Satow, a college student lost to suicide--works with campuses nationwide to create and maintain mental-health programs. One of their most interesting endeavors is Love Is Louder, an activity club for anyone feeling misunderstood or mistreated. Suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses, and your contribution can very well save a life; $100 provides mental-health screenings for 30 students.
If you want to help the hungry: It costs only $16.80 to feed a child for a year. Seriously. That’s all it takes. Mary’s Meals is a terrific nonprofit that will help you do your part, since they work with schools in 16 third-world countries to make sure kids are properly fed and ready to learn. For every dollar you donate, 93 cents goes toward charitable work.
If you ever listed “zookeeper” as a dream profession: Sure, you wanted a pony as a kid. But isn’t an elephant so much better? For $50 a year, you can become a foster mama to an orphaned elephant or rhino through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. You’ll get monthly updates on your baby’s well-being and know that it’s getting the food and medical care it needs to survive.
If you want to help the sick: For thousands of African men, women and children, routine checkups are an extravagant expense, and complex treatments and surgeries are out of the question. Give the gift of health with a donation to Mercy Ships. Every 10 months, this hospital-on-the-sea relocates to a new port, where a small army of 400 volunteers performs reconstructive surgeries, restores vision and meets the basic medical needs of the locals. Whether you donate a couple of dollars for medical supplies, or a large sum to cover a surgery, rest assured that 82 percent of your gift goes directly to the cause.
Hey, there’s no shame in having a holiday wishlist. But for every bathrobe and SodaStream we’re asking for this Christmas, we’re also vowing to donate some money to those in need. (Remember: Santa rewards altruism.)
“But how to navigate the expansive world of charities?” you ask. Well, if you don’t already have a favorite organization, let us make a few suggestions...
We pored over tax forms and mission statements this year, and selected six stellar nonprofits you can feel great about giving to. All make good on the promise to put your dollars to work, and each applies at least 75 percent of donations directly to the cause. (The rest goes toward administrative and fund-raising costs.)
Check out our six picks here, then give those purse strings a good ol’ loosening.
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