Year-end Giving for Animal Lovers

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‘Tis the season of a lot of things — family, stress, too much food, too little time…and giving.

This final week of the year is a big one for nonprofits. A lot of people are in the spirit of giving, and in the spirit of getting in their last few tax deductions before January. Many nonprofits count on this last burst of donations to help balance their books and budget for the coming year. So if you haven’t yet, and you’re able to do so, spread some cheer to your favorite causes over the next few days. (If you’re reading this after the holidays, you can still get in on the action. There’s no bad time to donate.)

Cash (or check or credit card) donations are critically important for animal-saving organizations. Animal shelters have a clear need for food, blankets, and toys — and some animal lovers prefer to give these types donations, feeling like they’re supporting the direct care of the animals. But electricity and running water and staff paid fair wages to make sure all the animals are kept warm, clean, fed and comfortable until they find their forever homes are also needed to care for the animals. Those expenses may not feel as tangible or cuddly, but they’re necessary.

Trust your favorite animal charities to spend donations where the money is needed most.

And when you donate, tell people about it. You don’t have to share your bank account information, but let others know which organizations you care about. Word-of-mouth is a powerful way to build support for organizations doing good, essential work to make the world a better place.

Here’s the list of organizations I donated to this holiday season:

Center for Biological Diversity — Yes, this is where I work. But I also donate because I believe in this incredible, creative group of animal lovers dedicated to saving species. And that’s all wild animals, great and small. Sure, we fight for polar bears and elephants, but our staff is also full of people who deeply love bees and mussels and salamanders.

Mercy for Animals — There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes suffering in our food system, and Mercy for Animals fights to protect farmed animals through a combination of undercover investigations, legal action, corporate outreach for more animal-friendly policies, and excellent resources for anyone wanting to eat more compassionately.

Best Friends Animal Society — Best Friends runs its own animal sanctuary (which is on my bucket list to visit someday), but they also work nationwide to save companion animals through adoption and spay/neuter programs, as well as helping out with disaster relief and advocating for animal-friendly laws like ending breed discrimination and stopping puppy mills.

Humane Society of Southwest Washington — This is my local animal shelter and where my two cats, Edgar and Roland, came from. While national organizations play an important role, especially when it comes to advocating for laws that affect all animals, I also believe in contributing locally to care for the animals (and people) in my community.

Friends of the Columbia Gorge — This organization works to preserve the scenic Columbia River Gorge, including maintaining trails to help people get out and enjoy nature and wildlife. The Gorge was hit hard by a wildfire this year, and it definitely needs some Friends to make sure it’s given a chance to recover and be restored instead of exploited.

Signal Fire — This Portland-based organization works to connect artists and writers to wild places. Not only does this marry two huge parts of my life, but artists and writers have always been important voices for nature because they’re able to help others understand and love places (and the animals that live there) in powerful ways that can help save our remaining wild spaces. — If we’ve learned anything from 2017, it’s the importance of elections and the impact they can have on people, animals, and the planet. works to strengthen our democracy and increase voter turnout.

Planned Parenthood — Access to reproductive healthcare, contraception, and our ability to continue living in a world that wasn’t foretold in The Handmaid’s Tale have always faced challenges, but recently the attacks on these basic rights have been relentless. Planned Parenthood’s continued existence is critical for women and families, as well as for wildlife.

Southern Poverty Law Center — There’s way too much hate in the world, and unfortunately, the worst haters are feeling empowered these days. SPLC fights against racial and social injustice through programs that monitor and expose hate groups, teach tolerance, and use the law to stand up for victims of discrimination. (While this one doesn’t have a direct link to non-human animals, all creatures benefit when there’s more tolerance and justice in the world.)

Pink Lemonade Project — My mom is a breast cancer survivor, so for her and all the other women and families affected by breast cancer, I donate each year to groups that are working toward a cure, to improve preventative care and education, or to support patients. There are a lot of groups out there with varying missions and varying impact. Pink Lemonade Project is a local group that provides the often-neglected emotional and psychological support that patients and survivors need.

It’s not easy to choose between all the organizations and causes out there, and this isn’t a comprehensive list of the things I care about or the organizations doing good work. Your list may have one organization or twenty — the amount of causes doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter whether you’re able to give a few dollars or a few thousand. What matters is that you’re doing what you can to support the causes that are important to you and to keep the lights on at those organizations so they can keep doing good in the world.

Not sure how your money will be used? Look up organizations on Guidestar or Charity Navigator. Check out their websites and annual reports. Give them a call and ask. Talk to your friends about which organizations they love and trust. Then donate generously.

Spoiler alert: Donating to animal charities is one way animal lovers can help change the world. Find out more in The Animal Lover’s Guide to Changing the World (coming June 5, 2018).