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Great Causes to Adopt Before Year-End

Thanks to U.S. tax law, which allows one to deduct contributions to charity from tax totals, the vast majority of charities receive their largest total donations the last two to three days of the calendar year. Like me, you are probably receiving numerous year-end e-mails from charitable service organizations, asking you for donations. I receive so many of these emails, in fact, that I feel overwhelmed and powerless, because I cannot POSSIBLY donate to all these groups.  However, that feeling is a useless one, so I turn it around by thinking about what I can do, rather than what I can't, and by deciding not to criticize myself for making "small" donations. After all, what would someone rather have...none of $50 or all of $5? 

Many of us can make small donations, and by small, I mean even single-digit small. Take Unicef as an example. It has a matching funds program through December 31. If I donate $8, my $8 becomes $16.  Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "Hey, I can spare $5 for Unicef, and my $5 becomes $10." Between the two of us, then, we've just provided $26. That's enough to provide significant help to a child in need.

So, here are some ideas for thoroughly dependable organizations who need financial donations that we can all send our $5 and $10 to and make a real difference for someone else. You can donate to any of these groups easily online. Just click on the names of the organizations below to go straight to their Web sites.

Unicef   Funds matched through December 31. This charity is near and dear to my heart, one I have contributed to off and on since childhood. Unicef has done great work in helping children in Middle Eastern countries stay in school and have helped keep schooling open for girls in countries where opportunities for girls are nearly non-existent. If you want something in return for your donation, visit the Unicef shop.

IRC. the International Rescue Committee.  This group, as did Unicef, did a great deal of work to help Pakistani flood victims and Haitian earthquake victims this past year. IRC also has a matching funds program through December 31. Pictured at left: a father and son who were separated for nine months after the earthquake, and IRC was able to reunite them. The child's mother perished in the earthquake.


PBS.  Many Public Broadcasting Stations have matching fund programs through year-end. Check with your local television station. Remember that this is truly public broadcasting--that means us. PBS is not a government-funded entity.

Defenders of Wildlife and/or National Resources Defense Council. These two organizations work tirelessly on behalf of our natural world and achieve real, measurable success. Defenders of Wildlife has been in operation since 1947. NRDC tiene un sitio Web en español, La onda verde.  If you can't spare a dime, read  the NRDC's green guides.


We can also use the charity incentive for cleaning out garages and closets to donate useful items to shelters for homeless people and victims of domestic abuse. You can even turn this into a game or a kind of treasure hunt with you children, seeing how many things you can "discover" that would be helpful to give to someone else. To donate to a charity that helps the homeless, check out National Coalition for the Homeless.

So, when you see that next e-mail that you are sure to receive in these next few days, give it some thought. Don't misjudge yourself if all you can give is a very small amount of money. There's this undeniable force in the world called addition. All those small donations add up to a lot of help for others in need.

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