Originally published in the March 20 edition of The Mast.
In life we often hold ourselves to one standard while our wallets hold us to another. I personally struggle between the decision to get more bang for my limited buck at WalMart, or to spend my money—invest—in a company that ethically spends my dollar. The harsh reality is that too often in the battle between my money and my values, money wins.
Even during the best of times, giving to causes that matter to me (World Vision, presidential candidates and Meals on Wheels for example) is difficult. And too often during times of economic strain charitable institutions take the hardest hit. However an answer has risen out of the ashes of our economy: ways you can spend money you already intended on spending, or no money at all, that will benefit your causes of choice.
The instructions couldn’t be clearer: “Click to give FREE mammograms!” You click and the add revenue generated by the site is given so that one woman gets a free mammogram. Along the top of the page are tabs marked “Hunger,” “Child Health,” “Literacy,” “Rainforest” and “Animal Rescue.” Some give tangible objects. For example the hunger site gives cups of food and the literacy site gives books. Others donate money through their sponsors for habitat protection and healthcare.
The sites are easily navigable, and the clicks generate tangible results. In February of this year, for example, the Hunger site generated 4,186,410 clicks, which translated to 4,730,643 cups of food at 263.3 metric tons. Along with the option of simply clicking, the ads along the pages tend to feature free trade handicrafts that either go directly toward the artisans that made them or toward books, healthcare, food, etc. The occasional petition is also sometimes featured at the bottom of the page.
For every pair of shoes bought at this site, another pair is given to a child in a low-income area. The shoes start at around $44 and go up. The shoes are largely canvas with leather insoles, though vegan options are also offered. The store occasionally partners with other companies that offer the same deal. Right now it’s Element Skateboards, which offer kids free skateboards to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. The site offers other wares such as hats and T-shirts, the proceeds of which also go toward a pair of shoes for a child.
Ten Thousand Villages is an online market for fair trade handicrafts from all over the world. An excellent source for gifts such as jewelry and home décor, Ten Thousand Villages works with artisans who might otherwise be unemployed or unable to support their families. Their vision is that “one day all artisans in the developing countries will earn a fair wage, be treated with dignity and respect and be able to live a life of quality.”
Nine companies – American Express, Apple, Converse, Dell, Emporio Armani, Gap, Hallmark, Starbucks and Windows – have partnered with Red in donating up to 50% of the profits from certain, specific items to the global fund to fight AIDS. One Dell (RED) laptop plus Windows Vista, for example, pays for six months of antiretroviral treatments for one person. That’s one mom able to stay alive for her kids, one father able to continue providing for his family. Starbucks and American express offer RED cards that donate a specific dollar amount ($.50) or a percentage of the purchase (1%) respectively to the global fund. The fund largely goes toward treatments, but also funds HIV/AIDS education and other preventative measures.
These are just a few of the options online right now that enable charity in a time when so few of us are able to give. Next time you buy a pair of shoes, make sure someone else gets some. Next time you buy a gift, make sure the craftsperson gets his/her due. So many of us get online every day. Why not bookmark the Breast Cancer Site and add a few extra clicks?
If anyone has any other sites similar to the ones above, feel free to comment with a link.