I recently read a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Von Bargen, about how she stays optimistic. One of her points was that she picks her battles. She has three causes that she donates to and vocally supports and, while she doesn’t bury her head in the sand over everything else that happens in the world, she also doesn’t seek to get involved with every single issue.
I found it a useful thought exercise to distill down what I really care about. Andy and I put charitable giving in our budget each month, a set amount for each of us to do with as we please. Most months it’s really gratifying to sit down with my computer and send money out into the world to do good on my behalf. But other months I feel uninspired. It feels like a chore I’m doing because we just need to spend the money in that budget line item.
So Sarah inspired me to think about what I’m giving to, and I’ve condensed my list down to the following issues:
literacy: I love to read, and I will always support an effort to get more people access to books. This takes the form of the library foundation in whatever city I live in and organizations like [First Book](http://www.firstbook.org/).
education: specifically, in the forms of [my high school](http://themsms.org/) and [college](http://unpunctuatedlife.com/proudly-stands-our-alma-mater/), but also in the form of organizations that help kids in underprivileged areas and the arts (hey, I'm using broad strokes here!)
swimming: I guess this relates to education in that it was something foundational for me as a kid, and I recently decided to start supporting the [USA Swimming Foundation](http://www.usaswimming.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabId=2079&Alias=Rainbow&Lang=en) in hopes of introducing other kids to swimming as an outlet.
the organization where I work: It's a measure of legitimacy in the non-profit world when staff support their own organization, so even though it sounds counter-intuitive I make donations there. Obviously if I feel strongly enough about a cause to work for an organization carrying it out, I should feel strongly enough to contribute to it!
anything a friend of mine feels strongly about: If you post on Facebook that you're running a race and raising money for a cause, I will most likely click to donate. If I know someone whose mom suffers from a relatively obscure disease and she's asked that people make donations to an organization raising awareness about it, you can bet I will give. If you're my friend and you work for a mission organization, I'll probably try to support you. It makes me feel good to support my friends!
Occasionally I give to causes that fall outside of this list (I like to sponsor animals through [Heifer International](http://www.heifer.org/) sometimes, and I've branched out a bit to support the [EFF](https://www.eff.org/) and [Trees Atlanta](http://treesatlanta.org/)), but for the most part this list is where I try to focus my goodwill dollars.
Working at a nonprofit makes me cynical sometimes, and I am probably overly harsh on organizations' websites and fundraising materials. I have to remind myself that whatever it looks like doesn't necessarily belie the good work they're doing!
I also sometimes feel despair that surely my paltry $25 can't really make that much of a difference. But you know what? If everyone who gives $25 decided that their gift wouldn't make a difference and stopped giving it, the impact would certainly be felt.
**Do you contribute to charity? What causes make you tick?**