Discuss: Sweet Charity

Nov 30, 2012

As longtime readers know, I am a firm believer that those who of us fortunate enough to be financially stable should be charitable towards those who struggle.  I make regular donations to several D.C. and Montana charities and fund loans for entrepreneurs abroad through Kiva.org. 

I know that many young professionals, esp. junior Hill Staffers, would like to be able to give or give more but that they may not be in a place where they can give more than a few dollars.  This holiday season, I was thinking that I might try to organize an opportunity for the readers of Capitol Hill Style to make donations to a charity or a couple of charities.  (I was thinking about Feeding America, Mercy Corps and Women for Women Int’l.)

I’ve never tackled a project like this before–organizing a donation opportunity for others–so I wanted to know a) would you be interested in contributing a small amount and b) what do you think the best way to do it would be so that we could ensure accountability and transparency?

If we don’t work out the kinks before Christmas, we could easily postpone until Spring.  But I just thought that if I could harness the power of this community of women (and some men), we might be able to make a significant donation to a worthwhile cause.  After all, five or 10 dollars may not seem like a lot, but if even half of the people who read this blog contributed, it would be a sizable donation.

Leave your thoughts in the comments about whether you would consider contributing a few dollars, what the best way to organize it might be and which charity or charities we might consider.  Since not all of the readers of this site are from D.C., I thought we would be better off choosing a national or international charity than a local one (even though there are some great ones here). 

Have a great Friday, and I look forward to reading your ideas.




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  1. CynthiaW says:

    I'd be in – I'd prefer something that focuses on women and it doesn't really bother me if it's international. In fact, small donations can make a huge impact on women's lives overseas.

    That being said, I'd be in for something in the US or even the DC area, even though I don't live there. I feel like there is a lot of focus on childrens' charities this time of year and I give to several locally, so I really wouldn't be as interested in that or anything with animals, even though I'm an animal lover.

    I think that giving to help women would be more in keeping with the focus of the blog and community.

  2. CAM says:

    I think it's a great idea- I would contribute. I like the idea of Women to Women International (or another women-focused charity) given the focus of your blog.

  3. K says:

    I think it's a great idea & would definitely contribute. I think a woman-focused charity would be best, maybe something like Dress For Success (which has 120 affiliates worldwide) or Women for Women International.

    Using PayPal to collect donations might be the easiest way to do this, but I don't know if it's the most transparent.

  4. Leah S. says:

    Would absolutely contribute.

    It may be beneficial to contact one of the groups you're thinking about to determine how they typically manage group donations. It may be that their group is able to set up a link for you or assist in collections and totals.

  5. Alison says:

    I really agree with K and having Dress for Success as an option, but I think this is a good idea!

  6. LK says:

    Washington Humane Society!! Or something focused on our veterans, like the Wounded Warrior Project

  7. =) says:

    I would contribute!

  8. meg says:

    This month's Real Simple listed a handful of top charities with 'best practices' (article here: https://www.realsimple.com/work-life/money/list-charities-00100000090241/index.html). One that stood out to me was Charity: Water, simply by how much impact small donations have, and because 100% of donations go to clean-water projects (operating costs are funded by separate sources).

    But I also love the idea of a woman-focused charity and I would definitely contribute!

  9. Mo says:

    I really like the idea of doing something like Dress for Success as well. https://www.dressforsuccess.org/

    That gives readers the option to donate money, donate gently used business clothing and/or donate their time to serve as personal shoppers. It presents a wide range of options for readers who may not have a lot of financial resources to give but extra time on their hands to help out (or vice versa).

  10. Chloe says:

    Love the idea of Dress for Success and women-focused charities, and agree – the charity could probably set up an individual link. Would be great to see how much it would wind up raising.

  11. balletgirl1980 says:

    I would deffinitely contribute!

    How about Circle of Sisterhood or Half the Sky Movement? Charities that help women get out of poverty through education in developing nations.

    We could set up a crowdrise or gofundme page with a weblink to be able to donate online. I am pretty sure that through crowdrise you can designate the money to one or more groups and readers could pay through paypal or credit/debit card. I even think some of these sites let people donate $1.

  12. GoGoGo says:

    Great idea!

    Leah S.'s suggestion is a good one. I'd specifically double check before using PayPal as a platform. I heard of a situation in the past where people ran into legal snags with an Etsy/PayPal based charity drive.

  13. MidWestChic says:

    Would absolutely contribute. I would prefer the women-focused charities!

  14. Anon says:

    I would contribute. You might want to find a way to issue tax receipts to those who give, even if they only give a small amount. Perhaps you could arrange it with the charity that people give directly to the charity but use a code like CHS or something to keep track of donations that come from your readership.

  15. Kim says:

    The best way is to talk to the group directly, to avoid fees, so I second Leah's recommendation.

    Everyone should check out Pure Charity. When you shop online at retailers, they donate a portion of your purchase to a charity you select through Pure Charity. Think places like J. Crew (they do 5%!). It doesn't cost you a dime.

  16. Binna says:

    Hi Belle,

    I think this is a great idea. Have you heard of Indiegogo.com? One man started a campaign for the school bus lady who was bullied awhile back and raised a ton of money for her.

    So basically, you can create any kind of campaign completely catered to what you and your followers would like to fundraise for.

    Based on the links I provide below, it says:

    Tell people what you are doing, how they can help and what unique perks they’ll get for becoming contributors. You keep 100% ownership of your campaign and you don’t owe us a cent until you raise money.

    It's free to start up and they charge the lowest fees (I think).

    Here are 2 links for you to read about it:

    Pretty much aligns to what you are looking to do. Good luck and I can't wait to be a part of this if you do it!

  17. MK says:

    I'd definitely donate, if I were comfortable with the charities. I think Dress for Success is a great idea. In terms of vets, The Mission Continues and Team Rubicon are two fairly recent, really impressive vets charities that I am sure could use some help.

  18. Hope says:

    I know you said a national organization, but I have to throw DC Vote into the mix here. This local bipartisan organization works to gain voting representation for DC residents, and really shouldn't the fact that any tax paying American doesn't have a voice in Congress be a national concern? Especially during an election year?

  19. KC says:

    This isn't quite helpful for what you're talking about (which I love! I've always appreciated that you discuss the importance of charitable giving no matter your resources – many young people forget this) but I just wanted to throw this out there:

    A giving option a lot of young people aren't aware of (and shouldn't be) is automatic recurring donations. Most charities offer you the ability to set up a monthly deduction from your credit card or checking account so it's a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. For young people on a budget it's a lot easier to make a $10.00 donation once a month instead of a $120.00 donation once a year – myself included. I give to three charities this way and it allows me to have better control of my finances and a bigger impact than I otherwise would.

    Bonus: it means charities can depend on this income and not spend money/resources soliciting gifts from you.

    Just a suggestion for people who want to be generous but find it hard to make big checks at one point in the year (especially since many people's charitable impulses also come with the expensive holiday season.)

  20. Wendy says:

    Please do something in the United States — I feel like the people they need help in the U.S. get looked over for international aid. ASPCA, Wounded Warriors, maybe something to help victims of domestic violence. If you keep it local I will help

  21. R says:

    I'm definitely willing to contribute.

    I prefer organizations where the of people that reaches the people in need is near 87-90. That is, there should be very little overhead for the organization.

    I'd prefer to help people as opposed to animals. Not that animals are not important, but priority wise for distribution of resources, people come first.

  22. LilaLou says:

    Would love to donate, and would be willing to help coordinate. Great idea.

  23. Ellen says:

    I think this is a great idea. I think that you should pick a charity that means something to you, post why it does, and if readers make the connection then hopefully they donate.

    After you choose the charity, you may want to contact them and they may be able to best direct you on how to give. During this time of year there may be a specific campaign that you could encourage readers to focus on. Also, since you have a ton of loyal followers, the organization may be willing to set up an online giving page for your readers to directly donate to. Just some thoughts from a non profit professional!

  24. W says:

    What about doing something like Coats for Kids or one of those charities that gives suits and training (such as interview coaching, phone call skills, etc) to underprivileged women trying to get good jobs? That would keep with the theme of the blog (and the interest of readers.)

  25. ml says:

    I think this is a great idea. Have you thought about donating to a smaller organization where the donation would have a bigger impact. There are several domestic and int'l operations that do great things that could really benefit from larger donations and tend to have much lower overhead. I'm an int'l development worker who lived in Africa for a year so I have some reputable smaller organization suggestions if you would want to go that route. The one I donate to monthly gives 97% of their donations directly to programs for example.

  26. Andrea says:

    So many worthy charities out there but I believe strongly that we must start by helping the most innocent beings, i.e., children. 'Save the Children' is a wonderful charity that contributes most of their proceeds towards the initiatives they are doing in the US and internationally. If you need an idea of where any charity's funds are spent (and how much they spend on administrative costs), go to CHARITYNAVIGATOR.ORG.

  27. Sharon S. says:

    I would like to echo those who suggested charities based in the US at least, or even better, in our own backyard.

    It might be fun to combine this with some sort of Happy Hour event after. That way we could meet the people who generously contributed.

  28. Mns says:

    I would definitely contribute though I'm not on DC so I would appreciate something that is more national / international. Thanks for offering to organize this!!

  29. Lynn says:

    Depending on the charity of course, I would donate. For something like this, the more D.C.-centric, the better. I already give to CFC, but I have been looking to donate in a more meaningful way locally. A local homeless shelter or veterans charity, perhaps?

  30. Mallory says:

    Crowdrise is an EXCELLENT platform. My fiancé and I are actually using it for our charity registry for our wedding. It links you directly to the organization(s) of your choosing and is completely transparent.

  31. Lexi says:

    This is a wonderful idea!

    I sponsor three children with World Vision, and at the holidays, they bring out their “gift catalog,” where you can purchase certain things, like chickens or goats, and they are given to families in need. They also have specific programs, like education for girls, and sewing classes, things like that.

    I also love the idea of the Washington Humane Society above!

  32. Ginny says:

    Meg — I'm taking Real Simple's list of charities with a grain of salt. While I'm sure most of them are admirable, the fact that they've included the Humane Society of the United States is a joke. They give less than 1/2 of 1% of their donations to pet shelters — if you decide to give money to animal shelters, always give locally so you can actually see where your money goes!

    That being said, I would happily donate to a charity this season, Belle. I don't have a lot of excess income (who does in DC???), but I am blessed compared to so many others.

  33. Christina says:

    I would love to contribute!! Great idea.

  34. Haley says:

    I would definitely contribute in the spirit of Christmas (!) or in the Spring as well since I'm a big believer in small contributions adding up to a lot when we all work together. As a charity recommendation, I volunteer with Many Hopes (www.manyhopes.org) that is working in Coastal Kenya to care for and educate orphan girls so that one day they will be equipped to eliminate the injustices like poverty or trafficking that they suffered.

  35. S says:

    Yes! This would be great. Perhaps we could even rotate charities periodically, or at least add new ones.

  36. KateL says:

    Have you spoken to your NY friends about their use of Go Fund Me for Sandy recovery efforts? I was pleased with ease of use as contributor …

  37. Nicole V. says:

    I would definitely contribute and appreciate your effort to organize something of this scale. While I'm not well versed in these things, PayPal does seem a convenient way to contribute.

  38. ANDIE says:

    I think this is a lovely idea. Most large nonprofits can assist by setting up a landing page on their website with a specific URL that will include your blog's name. This way the page can be customized with a message from you and the nonprofit can easily track and keep you informed of progress.

    I'd like to suggest CARE USA (care.org) as it focuses on empowering women and girls in developing countries to lift themselves out of poverty.

  39. Eden says:

    great idea. I would prefer to contribute to national cause, rather than international

  40. Mary says:

    I would love to participate!

  41. Laura says:

    I would be hesitant about donating to Kiva. If you do a little research, you'll find that donating to Kiva basically means you're making an interest-free loan to a microloan organization that Kiva partners with. All of the profiles you see are of people who have already received loans, typically at an 80% interest rate. Microloan organizations are very questionable at times. There's been a lot of criticism.

  42. Jillian says:

    I would happily contribute, particularly to something women or children based. I love Women to Women International.

    That being said, and I'll likely get some shit for this, I would definitely not contribute if the charity is the Humane Society or another animal-focused charity. Animals are fuzzy and adorable, but they are NOT people. There are so many of our fellow humans starving and living in abject poverty both in the US and abroad. And yet, in this country we spend upwards of $50 billion on pets annually. It's absurd.

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