I sent this email out to several family members tonight and I thought I’d share it here. It’s most topical for those currently in the northern hemisphere, particularly in the US, but it’s a good reminder in general about charitable donations.
Hi beloved family!
I hope you’re having a good winter! Especially as the weather gets colder, I think all our thoughts turns towards those who don’t have food or shelter. The Salvation Army is very good at using that awareness to raise money, but before you give it to them, please pause to consider what they’re doing with your donations.
The Salvation Army is an evangelical Christian church that sets up shop in poor neighborhoods (there is actually an Ejercito de Salvacion Church just down the street from where I live) and gives support to the poor and hungry as long as they are willing to listen to a sermon. They do not help lesbian, gay or bisexual people unless they repent and give up homosexuality, and their behavior towards transgender people is even worse. More than that, they pay for lobbyists to push for anti-gay legislation all around the world–that’s at least part of what you’re paying for when you give money to the Salvation Army.
I just read a really good article that lays out the specifics of a lot of the anti-gay work they do: Why you shouldn’t donate to the Salvation Army
That article lays out a lot of really good national and international alternatives to donating to the Salvation Army — the Red Cross, Goodwill, etc. All of those groups do important work and use donations well. But I often find myself thinking a bit more local and specific around this time of year, so I prefer to donate to smaller local charities: the San Francisco Foodbank, Second Harvest Foodbank, which serves San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, and Larkin Street Youth Services, which provides food, housing, and support to runaways and homeless youth in San Francisco.
If you’re not in the Bay Area and you’re looking for a cause that’s more local to you, Feeding America has a nationwide directory of foodbanks.