If you’re looking for some impact organizations to contribute to at year-end, look no further than this list.
Giving Tuesday—the mid-mark of a year-end fundraising marathon for development professionals across the US—is tomorrow. (Yay!) Many nonprofits rely on year-end giving and Giving Tuesday to secure significant portions of their budgets for the coming year. However, for donors, this time of year can feel absolutely overwhelming.
With so many amazing nonprofits, how do you choose which to support? This year, I’ve had the privilege of working with many impactful nonprofits, so I decided to put together a giving guide featuring some of the organizations I’ve gotten to know in 2021. (I won’t get into how much I agonized over deciding which organizations to put on the list.) If you’re looking for some impact organizations to contribute to at year-end, look no further than this list.
Some things to consider when choosing who to support:
The nonprofit's focus area. Give to organizations that focus on things you are passionate about. Giving can be a great way to stay connected to issues you care about. For me, that's racial justice, mental health, climate change, and the list goes on...
The nonprofit's geographic reach. Bigger isn't always better. Generally, I look for nonprofits that have deep roots in the communities they serve. There are some nonprofits doing hyper-local work with the potential to make deep change in a single community. And, there are some nonprofits that have scaled up their work in interesting ways. This list has a mix with the majority based in Colorado, where Catharsis is based.
The nonprofit's values. How nonprofits do their work is as important to me as what they are working on. Many nonprofits publish the values behind their work on their website, and I find they are a great way to get to know the organizational culture.
The nonprofit's commitment to racial justice. For many organizations, this is an ongoing process of learning, unlearning, baby steps, and setbacks. I like to have a conversation about racial justice before I donate to (or work with!) a nonprofit.
Here are the organizations that I’m contributing to this year—and why.
1. Access Gallery
Focus Area: Economic Opportunity, Disability, The Arts
Location: Denver, CO
About: Access Gallery is an inclusive nonprofit organization that engages the community by opening doors to creative, educational and economic opportunities for people with disabilities to access, experience and benefit from the arts.
Why I love Access Gallery: Access Gallery is dismantling stigmas. When you think of fine art, you usually don’t think of an artist with a disability. Access Gallery is working to change that with its unique mission and model. Access Gallery connects artists with disabilities to commission work in competitive markets. They do graphic design for pizza chains and corporate artwork for companies with hundreds of employees. They also have a beautiful gallery space where they regularly show the work of artists with disabilities. They are lovingly showing the world the value of artwork by artists with disabilities and at the same time they stay rooted in their guiding principle, accessibility for all. Donate here.
2. Dream Builders 4 Equity
Focus Area: Racial Equity, Housing Justice, Economic Opportunity, Youth
Location: St. Louis, MO
About: Dream Builders 4 Equity (DB4E) is working to develop economically sustainable and socially engaged communities by growing equity for youth, businesses, residents, and real estate.
Why I love DB4E: DB4E is making systems change. They advance racial justice by zooming out and creating change in the entire system, addressing inequities in opportunities for youth, housing, small business, and communities. This looks like buying vacant properties in low-income neighborhoods, employing youth and contractors of color to renovate the spaces, and selling the properties to first-time home buyers of color. They are also rooted in community voice and design their initiatives based on what the community asks of them as an organization. Donate here.
3. WorkLife Partnership
Focus Area: Economic Opportunity
Location: Denver, CO (national reach)
About: WorkLife Partnership is dedicated to economic equity and thriving workplaces across the country. WorkLife deploys its Resource Navigator benefit inside of businesses to provide personalized, immediate, one-on-one assistance when workers need it most. This minimizes work disruptions, decreases absenteeism, improves workers’ financial stability, and ultimately increases employee retention and engagement.
Why I love WorkLife: WorkLife changes the game for low-wage workers. WorkLife is a social enterprise that fills an obvious gap in worker benefits packages. They partner with companies who employ low-wage workers, help them understand their workers’ life circumstances, and offer up an actionable solution to support workers through hardships. Their Resource Navigators and Health Benefits Navigators have helped workers keep their jobs and make steps toward long-term economic stability. Donate here.
4. Boulder Watershed Collective
Focus Area: Conservation, Climate Change
Location: Boulder, CO
About: The Boulder Watershed Collective (BWC) is a stakeholder-driven organization established to address forested watershed health, resiliency, and stewardship. Their mission is to cultivate partnerships that promote community stewardship and restoration to ensure the vitality of social and ecological systems within the Boulder Creek Watershed and beyond.
Why I love BWC: BWC’s work breaks down silos. Watershed health is essential for healthy communities and a healthy planet. Instead of just focusing on rivers, or just focusing on trees, BWC sees the watershed area as an integrated ecosystem and tackles projects that promote its overall health. This means fire mitigation in one of the most at-risk areas in Colorado and stewarding the health of the water that communities in Boulder County consume. BWC is a convener that brings unlikely groups including landowners, local government, and environmentalists together around watershed health. Donate here.
5. The Reciprocity Collective
Focus Area: Homelessness
Location: Denver, CO
About: Practicing the belief that vital connections build vibrant communities, The Reciprocity Collective (TRC) seeks and fosters partnerships between the business and nonprofit communities, building strong and supportive networks to respectfully and effectively guide individuals from communities of poverty and homelessness to stability and success. Based on the belief that every human has value and deserves respect, they lift voices in the community from marginalized populations, driving cultural change through support, empowerment and employment.
Why I love TRC: TRC fosters connections to end homelessness. They take an asset-based aproach to ending homelessness by linking existing resources to unhoused communities. Because of their commitment to listening to and understanding communities they work with, they take thoughtful initiative on creative solutions that make a difference. For example, they distribute cell phones so unhoused folks can access information about where to get a job, find housing, etc. They also are keeping their work flexible to respond to the needs of the community by refusing to take government grant money. Donate here.
Focus Area: Health, Education
Location: Denver, CO (national reach)
About: CPEP is dedicated to advancing the healthcare professions by closing gaps in the performance of clinicians. Deficits in clinical performance have far-reaching impacts including on the healthcare professional’s career and reputation, patient satisfaction, healthcare employee morale, and the hospital’s reputation. CPEP partners with healthcare professionals and hospital systems to promote positive professional development, helping elevate the healthcare professions and ensure patient safety and quality care.
Why I love CPEP: CPEP keeps patients safe. Before meeting CPEP, I never considered the impact of incompetent doctors on patients and whole healthcare systems. CPEP’s approach to helping doctors return to their professions after mistakes is both pragmatic and compassionate. They are the only nonprofit that does continuing and remedial education for medical professionals, making healthcare safer and more effective in the process. Donate here.
7. GoPhilanthropic Foundation
Focus Area: Nonprofit-Building, Health, Education, Global Human Rights
About: GoPhilanthropic Foundation collaborates to expand the power and potential that resides at the grassroots, where under-resourced communities are working to gain equal access to education, health, human rights, and opportunities that we are all entitled to. The positive shifts that are required to solve our greatest global imbalances will require us to listen more carefully, trust more deeply, and commit more fully to becoming a better humanity—together.
Why I love GoPhil: GoPhil is changing philanthropy. GoPhil’s thoughtful approach to grant making is a model that all foundations can learn from. They get to know their partners on a personal level, have a simple grant process, offer capacity building, and leverage resources to help their grantees access more funding. They partner with grassroots organizations around the world that are working at root causes of education inequality, health disparities, and human rights violations. Donate here.
8. New Mexico Wildlife Center
Focus Area: Conservation, Education
Location: Espanola, NM
About: New Mexico Wildlife Center's (NMWC) mission is to connect people and wildlife for an abundant tomorrow. It means that they care for wildlife and work to help people understand how we can create a better future for all species, including humans. They have a veterinary clinic and rehabilitation center for injured wildlife, house animals that cannot be safely reintroduced into the wild, and run educational programming.
Why I love NMWC: NMWC is a lifeline for wildlife. The organization holds incredible insight and expertise in wildlife conservation and rehabilitation and is well positioned to share this knowledge with the world in the coming years. There are 116 threatened or endangered species in New Mexico, and NMWC is leading the way to restoring wellbeing for wildlife in the state. Donate here.
9. Postpartum Support International, Colorado Chapter
Focus Area: Mental Health
Location: Denver, CO (statewide reach)
About: CO-PSI is the Colorado state chapter of Postpartum Support International (PSI), the world’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to helping those suffering from perinatal mood disorders, the most common complication of childbirth. CO-PSI offers communities of support and other resources to parents struggling with mental illness related to childbirth.
Why I love CO-PSI: CO-PSI has huge potential for impact. Parental mental health is related to racial justice, health inequities, and stigma. I recently learned that the leading cause of maternal death in Colorado is suicide, and this disproportionately affects Black mothers and children. CO-PSI is working to address parental mental health across the state in a moment where mental health is taking center stage in our national psyche. Donate here.
Focus Area: Education
Location: USA (national reach)
About: 100Kin10 unites the nation’s top academic institutions, nonprofits, foundations, companies, and government agencies to address the nation’s STEM teacher shortage. Together, we are tackling systemic challenges and getting 100,000 excellent STEM teachers into classrooms nationwide. By giving STEM teachers the support they need, we are helping to educate the next generation of innovators and problem solvers.
Why I love 100Kin10: 100Kin10 is unrelenting. They set the goal to put 100,000 high quality STEM teachers in US schools in 10 years. And they achieved it. In fall 2021, they created one of the coolest participatory data collection processes I’ve ever seen to set their next moonshot goal. And I know they’ll reach it.
Last, there are a few things donors tend to get fixated on, especially at year-end time. If any of these are you, try broadening your perspective and looking at giving from a new angle.
The percent of your donation that goes to programming vs. overhead. Some donors like to check how much of a dollar goes to a nonprofit's programs versus to things like electricity bills, staff salaries, and rent. The truth is, every nonprofit measures this differently, every type of nonprofit has different kinds of overhead expenses, and oftentimes, investment in overhead means a stronger nonprofit. My advice: don't get hung up on this number and instead support organizations whose work you believe in.
Is it better to donate to a specific program? Some nonprofits give you the option to choose where your donation goes. My advice: bypass these options and let the nonprofit decide how to spend your donation. If you trust the organization enough to give, trust it to do its work.
This nonprofit is sending me mailings, which is a waste of money. They should spend money on their programs instead of mailings. If a nonprofit is marketing to you (via direct mail, email, social media, etc.) that means it is making a thoughtful investment in fundraising that will help it sustain its work in the long run. Yes, the slew of fundraising asks at the end of the year can be overwhelming, but as a donor, don't let the volume of communications a nonprofit sends turn you off to its important work.