13 Organizations To Ask Your Loved Ones To Donate To Rather Than Buying You A Gift This Year

EDGEWOOD, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 16: Michael Phelps hands out gift bags to children as he visits the Boys & Girls Club of Harford County to present a check for $20,000 from the Michael Phelps Foundation and KRAVE Jerky at the Boys & Girls Club of Harford County on December 16, 2016 in Edgewood, MD. (Kris Connor/Getty Images for KRAVE Jerky)
Source: Kris Connor/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The holiday season is upon us, and that means people in countries all around the world are feeling that giving spirit in their hearts. Often, this results in oodles of gifts to friends, family, and loved ones. But this time around, after a year marked by so much tension, strife, and uncertainty, both in American politics and with huge humanitarian crises abroad, this might be a good year to consider a more charitable route instead. In that spirit, there are many organizations to ask your loved ones to donate to, rather than buying you a gift this year.

There's no shortage of jokes going around about what a rough year 2016 was. But it's not really a joke ― there are a lot of people suffering out there, and there's never a bad time to put some good will and caring to use to help improve people's lives. Simply put, it was a daunting year for so many: women, black and Latino Americans, Muslims both inside and outside of the United States, sexual assault survivors, and, of course, the victims of ongoing atrocities in Syria. In so many ways, it makes all the sense in the world that you might be looking for some causes that could benefit from a monetary donation.

It's an understandable desire, a selfless urge to help make the world a better place ― and aren't selflessness and care exactly what the holidays ought to be all about? Here are 13 organizations you can ask anyone close to you to donate some money to instead than buying you something that you might not really need:

1. The American Civil Liberties Union

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The folks over at the ACLU could definitely be in for a long four to eight years with the incoming Trump administration on the horizon. Given the president-elect's somewhat authoritarian impulses ― like jailing flag-burners ― and his apparent disdain for acceptable norms and the role of the free press, you could do a lot worse than having somebody donate some money to help protect your civil liberties. A donation to the ACLU, as its website states, will help an organization that's "been at the center of nearly every major civil liberties battle in the U.S. for almost 100 years."

2. Planned Parenthood

If there's anything the Republican Party has proven itself committed to over the last several years, it's restricting women's abortion rights. And there's no reason to think this is going to get any better under a Trump administration, with the president-elect once suggesting that women should be punished for terminating their pregnancies (although he quickly backtracked). 

Whether or not you believe Trump's claims to be opposed to reproductive rights ― he's been all over the map on this ― there's no doubt that the war on such rights will continue at both the state and federal levels. And if that bothers or worries you, ask a loved one to donate to Planned Parenthood for you. A donation to Planned Parenthood, according to its website, "will be shared equally between your local Planned Parenthood affiliate and Planned Parenthood Federation of America," used to provide essential health care services to women who need them.

3. Black Lives Matter

Perhaps the foremost civil rights movement in the United States today, dating back to the tumult and strife in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, Black Lives Matter stands for a pretty simple principle: black lives matter, a statement that needs to keep being asserted and fought for over and over again until society recognizes this. If racial justice is on your mind right now, consider asking your friends or family to supporting the movement this holiday season.

4. Democracy Now

If you're looking to support independent progressive media, you should definitely be following Democracy Now. Hosted by investigative reporter Amy Goodman, who launched the independent news program in 1996, it's one of the most robust and successful left-wing media outlets that operates without corporate ownership or advertising dollars; instead, it relies on donations from the people who rely on their reporting to stay informed about the world.

So, if you want to support independent media this year, here's a great suggestion to give the people close to you. After all, running a non-corporate media organization takes money, so if you're a fan of Democracy Now's reporting, you can help ensure its ongoing quality by chipping in.

5. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)

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The largest support network for survivors of rape and sexual assault in the United States, RAINN is a good choice for anyone looking to help support such survivors, and take a tangible stand against abusers. If somebody in your life feels the same way, then let them know you'd prefer they skip your gift this time around and donate to RAINN instead. As RAINN explains on its website, your donation will help enable "558 survivors to receive help through RAINN’s hotlines each day," as well as educating more than 100 million people a year about sexual violence prevention and recovery, and helping to clear the staggering nationwide rape kit backlog by funding DNA tests.

6. Voto Latino

Are you particularly motivated about helping Latino-Americans get registered to vote, thus empowering them both individually and as a political coalition, and helping fund resources to coordinate political activism that's relevant within their communities? If so, Voto Latino is definitely an organization you should consider having someone donate some money to.

7. The United Nations' Children's Fund (UNICEF) For Syrian Children

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Thanks to five years of brutal civil war, the people of Syria have been in some of the most dire situations imaginable. If you'd like to support the children of Syria specifically, those most vulnerable and least able to help themselves, consider donating to UNICEF's relief efforts, or convincing the people close to you to do so in lieu of gifting you anything.

8. The Committee To Protect Journalists

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There are more journalists in prison right now ― 259 in all worldwide ― than at any other time in the modern era, with the nation of Turkey ranking as the worst offender, where at least 81 journalists have been jailed.

Without a free press, the flow of factual, essential information about the world around us starts to narrow. In simple terms, it's dangerous. So let the people close to you know that this year, you want them to send some money to the CPJ.

9. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)

One of the world's most venerable and tireless medical care providers, MSF operates specifically in impoverished and war-torn conflict regions, where adequate health care is sparse and the risks of providing it keeps many other organizations away.

The dangers it takes on in service of this mission are considerable. Back in October of last year, an MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, was attacked by a U.S. airstrike, leaving at least 42 people dead, including 24 patients, 14 members of the medical staff, and four relatives of patients. Simply put, you will not find many organizations more deserving of a donation than MSF, which according to its website will use the funds to "respond quickly to medical humanitarian emergencies" where the needs are greatest.

10. NARAL Pro-Choice America

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If you're an ardent supporter of reproductive rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America is a potent advocacy group that centers protection abortions rights as its primary mission. Needless to say if you've been following the news lately, this is shaping up to be a very perilous stretch for the protection of those rights, as the Republican Party controls all three branches of government, and seems all too eager to continue pushing restrictive legislation at both the state and federal level. So if someone asks you where to donate to this holiday season, send some funding NARAL's way ― as its website states, NARAL is primarily focused on combating anti-choice legislation at the federal and state levels, so if the political fight over reproductive rights is what you're most concerned about, this is a great option.

11. Natural Resources Defense Council

Of all the issues that look pretty dire in the coming age of Trump, climate change is close to the top of the list, considering that it affects everyone, the proposed cabinet is chock-full of outright deniers, and the president-elect himself has previously claimed it's all just a hoax created by the Chinese government.

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It's one of those existential, all-encompassing issues, and organizations dedicated to fighting this fight badly need your support over the next four to eight or however many years. So consider asking your loved ones to make a donation to the Natural Resources Defense Council this year, and maybe skip that new jacket for the time being. According to the NRDC's website, "Your donation will help us save wildlife and wild places by sponsoring some of the hardest hitting cases and campaigns in defense of nature."

12. The Los Angeles LGBT Center

Among the myriad tensions and dismays of 2016, it was a particularly rough year for many LGBT communities, most prominently thanks to the rise and empowerment of some seriously anti-gay politicos, acts of violent hatred like the horrifying Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, and the political persecution of transgender North Carolinians.

If you'd like to donate some money to try to help make a difference, the Los Angeles LGBT Center is said to be the world's foremost provider of services to LGBT people across the spectra of age, race, and gender; they boast a sterling charity rating, and they're a fantastic option if you want to support LGBT rights this year. As the Los Angeles LGBT Center details on its website, its mission encompasses several different facets, meaning your donation will help on a number of fronts ― "offering programs, services, and global advocacy that span four broad categories: Health, Social Services and Housing, Culture and Education, Leadership and Advocacy."

13. The National Lawyer's Guild

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The National Lawyer's Guild is a progressive-minded legal organization that unites, as their mission statement declares, "lawyers, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers to function as an effective force in the service of the people by valuing human rights over property interests." It particularly emphasizes: "support in labor struggles, international rights monitoring, mass defense of political speech, rebuffing attacks on immigrants, women, people of color, LGBTQ persons, prisoners, and others facing government and institutional oppression."

The NLG is sometimes a visible presence at mass protests like those that took place in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, and the anti-DAPL protests this year, with NLG legal observers on the ground to bear witness against any civil rights violations. If you want to donate to the NLG, or ask somebody to do so in your name this holiday season, you can do so here ― or, if you want to specifically donate to support their work in service of mass protest movements like Black Lives Matter, anti-DAPL, or (previously) Occupy Wall Street, they also have a unique donations page to direct your money to that end.

Simply put, if you're looking to make a positive impact on the world by swapping some of your holiday gift haul for some charitable giving, not only is it a fantastic time to do so, there are any number of options on the table. These are just 13 examples of organizations you could ask your loved ones to donate to instead of getting a gift for you this holiday season. With the new year nearly upon us, it's a great time to help make the world a slightly better place.

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