Around the holidays, if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking about gratitude, which means you may be feeling more generous than usual about now. And, you might be thinking about some ways to log some year-end charitable donations before the clock strikes 12 on December 31.
So I looked around to find some ways to cap off 2016 on a positive note, with donations that can make a real difference to lots of people in need.
Of course, there are the big charitable organizations, which we still know and love, and continue to support all year long. But here, I’m sharing 6 of my favorite smaller charities — some that you may not have heard of, others you may not have thought of — that support children and education, since that is a cause that is so near and dear to my heart.
Some donations may be tax-deductible, but every contribution — whether it’s a charitable donation, or another way to support these very important causes — is always welcome and will do a lot of good.
To Help Kids Get a Great Foundation:
For the past 51 years, the Head Start program has been working to combat poverty in America by providing for preschool-age children in low-income families to give them a “head start” on life with education, social services, and so much more that kids from higher income families often take for granted.
Research shows that children who attend good, quality preschool programs get a significant boost for success, and yet the families supported by Head Start can’t afford private preschool education, or don’t live in communities with publicly funded pre-K, making this such an essential service for these kids.
Besides educational opportunities, Head Start offers health services like immunizations, and they work to get parents involved in the program, to ensure they have an active voice on behalf of their own children’s needs.
Despite receiving federal funding, Head Start can currently assist only half of the eligible young children with what they receive. So private donations are essential to the program. Your year-end charitable donation to Head Start will help support high-quality early education for all children, which truly benefits us as a society as a whole.
To Keep Music Education in Schools:
Little Kids Rock
Little Kids Rock is an awesome organization that makes my heart sing! It supports music education in public schools — a program often decimated by budget cuts and funds redirected in some cities and states to for-profit schools — by putting new instruments into kids’ hands and teaching them to make music.
Since 2002, Little Kids Rock has given more than 500,000 kids across the U.S. access to music classes and brand new instruments at no cost to the students, teachers, or school districts. Wow.
A $50 donation can give 10 kids a set of drumsticks; $25 can sponsor weekly music lessons for one student. But every single dollar will support arts education and its value will be immeasurable. And, right now, until the end of the year, any donation to Little Kids Rock is doubled.
To Support STEAM Education:
The artist will.i.am, of Black Eyes Peas fame, is not only is an award-winning record producer (and really cool guy), but he’s becoming a major philanthropic force, supporting the transformation of young lives through his i.am.angel Foundation, which offers education and opportunity of all kinds.
I love the i.am.STEAM program, which focuses on bringing science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics education and opportunities to underserved communities, so that kids from all backgrounds, no matter where they live, have a chance to compete for the abundance of technology and science jobs in their futures.
Your year-end charitable donation to the i.am.angel Foundation will support diverse programs that teach kids about coding, 3D printing, space exploration, robotics, and so much more, giving some amazing kids the building blocks that spark interest, passions, and hopefully, successful and creative careers.
To Support Your Own Community:
Your Local Library
While surely you know about your own local library, it may not be the first organization you think to support when you’re sending out charitable donations in December.
For me, the library is one of the most essential institutions of any community. In fact, you might be amazed at the services most local libraries provide to their communities, beyond book lending, and all for free!
My own branch offers free use of technology, hosts tons of fun and educational programs, offers free museum passes, ebooks, and free digital magazine subscriptions, to name a few. Government funding pays only a portion of a library’s operating expenses — and lots of local libraries are forced to close each year due to lack of resources — so consider making a year-end charitable donation that goes right to the heart of your community.
To Support Your Child’s School:
Your Local Public Schools
Photo: © Georgette Gilmore for Cool Mom Picks
You may already donate tissues, hand sanitizer, crayons, and other classroom supplies yearly to your child’s public school and classroom. You may even donate your time to Parent Association-led fundraisers. Those efforts help so much, but you can also provide invaluable support to your local public school with an end of the year donation. Even if you don’t have kids in the local public schools at all, because this is another donation that lifts up the whole community.
Your donation may help fund essential repairs or infrastructure; enrichment programs like swimming, chess, and dance that are often funded solely by the school’s Parent Association; after-school programs; or scholarships so that children without the means can also participate in field trips and educational opportunities that cost a little extra.
If your district has an independent non-profit educational fund that supports the schools like mine in Montclair, NJ, or The Fund for Public Schools in NYC, you can make a monetary donation that way too.
If your own public school is well-funded and in great shape (in which case, awesome!) consider one of our favorite charitable organizations, Donors Choose, which allows you to make a donation to any public school anywhere in the U.S. You can select projects you most relate to, or sort by age, geographic area, amount needed, or schools with the highest poverty level. From there, you can check out the requests in detail and see what speaks to you most.
It also happens to make a fantastic last-minute holiday gift for a friend or family member; you can either donate to a select project in that person’s name, or send them a Donors Choose gift card so they can pick out something themselves. That’s something lots of our own staff’s kids love doing each year, and it’s a joy for them to get follow-up thank you notes from the teacher and students they’ve helped, if only anonymously.
To Raise Up the Next Generation of Women:
She’s The First
We shared how much we love this great org last summer and I think it deserves another shout-out in this list of educational charities and non-profits worth supporting. Co-founded by two young women, She’s The First grants scholarships to girls in low-income countries around the world to help them become first-generation graduates, which leads to a host of other benefits for the girls and their communities.
As a first generation graduate myself, as well as a former teacher, I know first-hand that education can open doors for girls in ways they never could have imagined. Especially in communities where a female graduate in the family is not something that’s expected or even common.
You can make a one time year-end charitable donation to She’s The First or go one step further by helping fund a scholarship for a young girl. Either way, your donation will be worth more than you can imagine.