1. Act Locally with JustGive.org
National organizations have better fundraising campaigns, but you can make a huge difference locally if you’re willing to seek it out. JustGive makes it easy to find the gems in your community (and easy for small organizations to accept donations). They’re integrated with the database of GuideStar, a portal for transparency in nonprofits, so you can access information about an organization’s funding and success before choosing to donate (remember: outcomes are more important than “overhead”).
2. Fiscal Sponsor Directory
To make your donation tax deductible, charities have to earn official 501(c)3 status from the IRS, which can take months – making fundraising hard in the crucial early phase. Fiscal sponsor organizations bridge the gap by “sharing” their 501(c)3 status, accepting donations on behalf of mission-aligned startups (they often provide accounting and other support, too; here in Brooklyn, Fractured Atlas is a standard bearer of the model). If you’re not driven by a particular cause, finding a local fiscal sponsor can be a great way to help the next generation of non-profits.
If you care about local schools, DonorsChoose.org is a direct way to help them. The idea is simple: Budget-strapped public school teachers post classroom needs, from books to microscopes, and then small-dollar donors (like you) chip in to get those needs to kids. Now 13 years old, the organization’s history is compelling on its own, and the individual projects seal the deal. A self-sustaining organization, it’s funded entirely by small-dollar donors who choose to add a 15% donation to DonorsChoose.org when funding a teacher’s project.
4. Amazon Smile
A bunch of big corporations donate a portion of sales to charity, which is both good for charities and annoyingly good for the corporation’s reputation. Amazon launched its own CSR initiative this fall with Amazon Smile, which has the unique and awesome feature of letting you choose an organization to receive 0.5 percent of every purchase you make. The only catch: Instead of Amazon.com, you have to visit smile.amazon.com to make the donation. Bookmark it.
5. The Awesome Foundation
This won’t be tax-deductible, but it may be your best chance to be a Philanthropist with a capital P. The Awesome Foundation is a network of local chapters that each give away $1,000 every month to a different project, no strings attached. The only criterion is that proposed projects be awesome. If you manage to join a local chapter (slots are tight) or start your own, you’ll commit to giving $100 a month.