One of resolutions for the year was to give $100 a month to a different charity each month throughout the year. I’ve been on a pretty good roll so far this year, hitting five charities I’ve felt good about giving to. But there is now a kink in my plan.
I’ve discovered giving money to a charity is like giving crack cocaine to an addict. My snailmail box is literally overflowing with solicitations for additional donations. There is always a new campaign where they need money now. Worse, it is clear some of my charities shared my name with other charities, because I’m now getting bombarded with solicitations from charities I have never heard of.
So my naive approach of picking a differently charity each month is not a sustainable objective if I don’t want to use a handcart when I go to the mailbox. I realize the tight economic times have made a lot of charities have to work harder for their contributions, but I’m honestly shocked and offended by the quantity of garbage in my mail that results from a simple $100 contribution.
So going forward, I’m going to take a simpler, less diverse route. I’ll continue to give $100 a month, but it will only go to a singe charity: Médecins Sans Frontières. They were my first of the year, and are still my favorite. I’ll make an exception for Toys for Tots at Christmas, but otherwise, I’ll be focusing on MSF.
My ongoing saga of charitable giving stays on a humanitarian path for April. Although I strongly considered giving more to two of my favorite previous charities, I decided to try something different. So for April, my $100 goes to Direct Relief International.
DRI provides worldwide humanitarian assistance to people in need, including inside the United States. This keeps a theme going I created with a donation to MSF in January. Based on their rating with Charity Navigator, I’m confident my $100 donation to DRI will be put to good use helping people.
My charity for March is one of my old favorites, the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I usually renew every year with them, and since there weren’t any other charities that really stood out to me, I kept things simple and renewed for this year.
Every geek should be a support of the EFF. They fight the legal battles on the digital frontier that will have a huge impact on American cyber culture down the road. From blogger’s rights, to copyright law, to illegal wiretapping by the NSA, the EFF is there for us. So my hundred dollars for March goes to them, and I even get a cool T-shirt as a bonus 🙂
My charity for February is in recognition of the inauguration of President Barack Obama. I, along with millions of other Americans, watched his speech on television. One of the key chords he struck is that we are a nation of laws. This is in stark contrast to the prior eight years of a president who believes abducting people off the street, flying them to third-world hellholes, having them tortured and holding them without charge for years is somehow an American value.
I spent ten years in the United States Air Force in my younger days. Over five of those years were spent on flight status as a crew member aboard various special aircraft. Due to the nature of our missions, I went through extensive survival training, including some less-than-pleasant courses dealing with detention by a hostile nation.
Anyone who has served as an aircrew member in the military should be able to unblinkingly tell you that waterboarding is torture, pure and simple. I find it sickening that our prior president, and his party, lacked the moral clarity to make the right call on something this obvious.
So to celebrate turning the page on a dark chapter in American history, I’m giving my $100 for February to an organization dedicated to stopping the abuses our own government was willing to perpetrate, Amnesty International.
As I mentioned in my prior post, I’ll be giving $100 a month to a different charity all year long in 2009. My selection for January is actually the easiest.
For the folks that don’t know me, in addition to technology, my other interest is photography. I’ve been taking and playing with pictures since I had my first B&W darkroom at age 13. I do portraits, weddings, travel and artistic glamour. Although there are a many great photographers in the world, I have a very short list of ones who have inspired me.
One of my inspirations is Sebastiao Salgado. I became acquanted with his work in the 90’s when I picked up his book An Uncertain Grace. This is a truly stunning piece of work that forever changed my perspective on the power of photography. I had dreams of emulating him, traveling the world with a Leica M6, taking high-impact B&W images on Tri-X. Reality set in, and I chose a different path, but his work is still some of the most beautiful and haunting art I have ever seen.
Now what does all this have to do with charity? Simple. Many of Sebastiao’s greatest pictures were taken while he was following Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). This humanitarian organization has provided relief in many of the locales depicted in his photos. So in honor of the photographer that inspired me, I gave my $100 for January to the organization that inspired him.