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I’m looking forward to sharing all your art recommendations this Thursday, as I go through your comments on “Who Depicts Women Well?” In the meantime, I thought this would be a good week for charity recommendations, especially if you’re trying to take advantage of some of the matches available tomorrow.
My family approaches donations as I do many things: using a spreadsheet. We keep track throughout the year of where we donate and how much, and then, near the end of December, we take a look at the totals and top up as needed to hit our goal (around 10 percent of income, though I admit to being sloppy about freelance money).
I like this method, since it allows me to be more active and excited about donations throughout the year, rather than adopting a very hands-off approach, where I set up recurring donations once, and then only look back when I file taxes. The year-end review helps us make sure that we don’t neglect any group (or the overall total), in case our enthusiasms didn’t quite spur us on sufficiently.
My other big donation habit is giving freely to the needs of nearby people, but matching them with donations to people I’ll never meet.
I consider myself part of the Effective Altruism movement—which I’d summarize as shaping your donations by where they’ll have the biggest impact, and looking for rigorous research on interventions to quantify that impact. I really admire the work GiveWell does as a charity evaluator.
So, in our house, that means that when we donate to defray a friend’s medical bills, we match what we give with a donation to Against Malaria, or another top GiveWell charity. That way, we respect what Lewis Hyde calls, “the stream where surplus wealth flows toward need,” but we don’t neglect the people whose need is hidden from us. The nearer love is kindling for the love that requires more imagination.
We have a lot of groups (and sometimes individuals) on our spreadsheet, especially this year, when my husband and I have been lucky enough to stay employed. But I wanted to spotlight a few organizations whose work dovetails with the aims of this newsletter. And I’d like to share your recommendations in a round-up post next week.
Two religious orders to recommend here. The Sisters of Life care for mothers and babies in hard circumstances. They offer housing, they help women navigate bureaucracy to receive the assistance they’re entitled to, and they’ve been known to go toe-to-toe with doctors who treat indigent mothers disrespectfully.
The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne serve at the other end of life. The Sisters care for poor people with cancer diagnoses as they approach death. I wrote a little about their ministry here:
When I visited her community, one of the other sisters told me about her experiences with their patients. Frequently, when the family of a patient came to visit, they’d make a point of explaining what the patient had been like before the illness. The sister always listened to their stories, but she found them superfluous to her calling to love. She needed no additional argument or evidence in order to love the people entrusted to her—she was happy to love them exactly as they now were.
nb: the quote above is from a piece about a documentary on Jean Vanier and L’Arche communities. After I wrote this piece, it came to light that Vanier practiced spiritual abuse outside of the communities, but L’Arche is full of people living up to what everyone admired about Vanier.
This isn’t the first time I’ve recommended Hope Story here, and it won’t be the last. Hope Story connects parents who have just received a Down Syndrome diagnosis for their baby with parents who are already raising a child with Down Syndrome. They change a diagnosis from an abstraction to a facet of an individual.
Hope Story also connects Down Syndrome families to doctors, so they can serve as ambassadors to medical professionals who may have repeatedly delivered diagnoses but never met a baby carried to term.
The Minnesota Prison Doula Project helps care for imprisoned pregnant women. In the face of a dehumanizing, abusive system, they respect the intrinsic dignity of mother and child.
A Mother’s Rest offers respite retreats to parents (yes, dads too!) of children with special needs. Caregivers can stay at a B&B with other parents for a long weekend, with optional programming or, if they’d rather, just the chance to sleep and go for walks in a beautiful place.
Please share your own recommendations in the comments below, and I’ll send out highlights next week (and probably expand my own spreadsheet accordingly!).