Thanksgiving...Black Friday...Small Business Saturday...Cyber Monday...and now Giving Tuesday! Some of these names and days may be cringe-worthy (I'm looking at you, Black Friday), but #GivingTuesday is something I can get behind. Now in its fifth year #GivingTuesday is the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and is a movement to connect communities and promote charitable giving.

As part of #GivingTuesday I'm really excited to participate in a book drive and fundraiser for First Pages, but there are plenty of great organizations to donate to if you've got some change leftover after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Let me know if you want to get together to donate books or money to First Pages, or check out some of these great organizations:

1) First Pages

Focused on early literacy for kids age 0 to 5 in Durham, NC First Pages provides book bundles to families at easily accessible locations. Read more on First Pages on my post here and on the First Pages website https://first-pages.org/.

2) Habitat for Humanity

I volunteered at a build site and raised money for Habitat for Humanity of Durham for my 5 miler race at Bull City Race Fest in 2015 and I did a build day with Habitat for Humanity of Orange County with coworkers and friends earlier this year. Both of these Habitat for Humanity chapters are very active in building and restoring homes in the area for qualified individuals and families. You can volunteer and donate to Habitat for Humanity Durham here (http://www.durhamhabitat.org/) and for Habitat for Humanity of Orange County here (http://www.orangehabitat.org/).

3) NC Children's Hospital

The North Carolina Children's Hospital based out of UNC Chapel Hill is a top-notch institution that serves families regardless of their ability to pay and consistently makes the U.S. News & World Report "America's Best Children's Hospitals" list. I remember fundraising the hospital and supporting other volunteers with Dance Marathon in UNC as an undergrad and early this year I raised funds for the hospital as part of racing in the Krispy Kreme Challenge. Find out more and support the hospital here (http://www.uncchildrens.org/uncmc/unc-childrens/support/).

4) The Displaced Period Project

It's not something we often think about, but hygienic materials like pads and reusable sanitary items are often at the top of the wish list for homeless shelters and crisis response shelters. Sanitary items are considered "luxury" items for some incredible reason, but imagine having to choose between buying food and buying tampons when you've hit rock bottom and you're trying to pull your life together. Yeah, it's not a pretty thing to imagine, so The Displaced Period Project is working to raise money to purchase supplies to donate to local shelters and crisis response centers. You can donate to their cause on their GoFundMe page (https://www.gofundme.com/displaced-periods) and learn more about the organization on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/thedisplacedperiodproject/)

5) Girls on the Run

Girls on the Run has an active chapter in the Triangle and coaches girls to be happy, healthy and confident through running. Programs culminate in a 5K race, including a spring race of over 1,000 participants. You can donate directly to the local chapter here: http://www.gotrtriangle.org/get-involved/donate

6) Appalachian Trail Conservancy

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy works to maintain and promote the Appalachian Trail. They manage the trail through cooperation with local chapters and promote inclusivity and ethical use of wilderness areas and the trail. You can donate to the ATC here: https://donate.appalachiantrail.org/default.aspx?tsid=7801

7) SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals

The SECU Family House is a place where UNC hospital patients and their families who have traveled great distances for medical treatment can stay and receive supportive care such as meals, supportive programs, and transportation. SECU Family House at UNC has supported over 18,000 families since 2008 and the low cost for housing and amenities saves families on average $645 per week (source). When it comes to life-threatening illnesses that require extensive care having an affordable place you can call home that comes with supportive care can make a huge difference. You can donate to the SECU Family House here: http://www.secufamilyhouse.org/donate-now

How to donate effectively

There are plenty of other ways to get involved and donate. If you want to learn more about #GivingTuesday check out the website https://www.givingtuesday.org/. Forbes has some good advice for how to give effectively: http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2016/11/28/giving-tuesday-advice-to-donate-to-charity-effectively/ as does USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2016/11/27/give-giving-tuesday-charity-thanksgiving/94089970/ Listen to the experts, and here are a few of my tips on how to decide how to donate:

1) Find an organization that speaks to you

I frequently choose to support organizations that have a big impact in my immediate community, whether it's housing or social justice or literacy or health care or athletics or conservation. Figure out what syncs up with your values and support those organizations.

(If you need some ideas on some progressive social justice organizations here's a good list to browse: http://jezebel.com/a-list-of-pro-women-pro-immigrant-pro-earth-anti-big-1788752078)

2) Keep it Local

I prefer to focus on local chapters or standalone organizations that listen to the community needs and fill gaps in the local area. Big national charities may run the risk of being lobbyists more than do-gooders or may have more of their money go to "overhead" costs (re: executive salaries) or marketing than to making a real difference. (Of course some overhead cost is totally reasonable; it may not be exciting to pay the electric bill or buy new printer ink but these are important to keep the organization running.) Carefully vet any organization to make sure you understand how the money is used, who the money is going to, and that there is good transparency and accountability in the organization. 

3) Find an organization you can be engaged with

I try to focus on organizations that I can partner with as a volunteer or where I can see the direct fruits of my volunteer hours or money. When I can raise money for Habitat for Humanity through a race and help build a house and meet its future owner it means so much more to me to be involved with that organization. The same goes for organizations like First Pages where I can help them tangibly and hear exactly how they're making a difference in kids' lives in the area, or the NC Children's Hospital where you can visit the hospital and see how donations make a difference in individual lives. Take that extra time to donate or volunteer regularly so that #GivingTuesday becomes a lifestyle and not an annual cliche.

What are some organizations you regularly support? Let me know in the comments! As always, thanks for considering how your time and energy can make a difference in the world, and I'll see you out there.

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