Today’s post is a guest essay from Bonnie T., from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Squirrel Hill. We hope to feature Bonnie’s work once a month or so, going forward.
If you’ve used social media in the last two months or so, you’ve probably encountered at least one video of a friend, stranger, or celebrity getting doused in very cold water. The dousee gives a small amount of money to charity (but would have been expected to give a larger amount had they chosen to stay dry), and challenges other people by name to repeat the experience/payment.
It turns out public libraries are really bad places to dump buckets of ice water over people. We have no towels, the floor gets all slippery, and it’s not great for the books. So when we want to start conversations with people about philanthropy and activism, we have to fall back on words.
A friend of mine just gave $1000 to her local library after I answered a few questions for her. She has a plan to do this each month for a year, talking with a different friend and supporting a different organization each month. She started with the idea that she had some money to spare and wanted it to go to a good cause. This was followed by the observation that she had friends who were already attached to various causes they deemed worthy. She could have deep conversations with friends, learn about projects going on in the world, help support good causes, and—simply by posting brief summaries in her blog—encourage other people to support the same good causes. This is good for her and for her friends (and through the various charities, also for at-risk youth in Seattle, mothers in Haiti, engineering students in Boston, and more), and no one ended up cold and wet.
So how you do you figure out which good causes to give your money to? It can be helpful to start with personal experience or connection. Were you a member of a youth organization? Are you passionate about protecting the environment? Do you get fired up about literacy or animal welfare? Would you rather help fight cancer, Ebola, or hunger? Most of these causes have local as well as national and international groups addressing them.
If you want to give locally, a good place to start looking is The Pittsburgh Foundation’s website. They maintain a large list of local non-profit organizations, and use fund matching events to help promote giving to these groups. The library website also has information about some non-profit organizations, divided up by category and listing local and non-local organizations separately. And, of course, you can also research organizations with the help of staff in our Nonprofit Resource Center.
If you want more advice from our catalog, try How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist, Giving 2.0, or Give $mart. Interested in books on giving that have more of a story? Try Mountains Beyond Mountains, Half the Sky, or Kabul Beauty School.
And if you want to start making a difference even closer to home…I challenge you to go get a DonorPlus library card.