Afternoon Inquisition

Afternoon Inquisition, 5.8

I’m posting this ahead of time because when you actually read this, I will be participating in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.  A group of my friends get together every year and sell gumbo at the walk to raise funds and my husband and I will be joining them this year.

I participate in a couple of different fundraisers every year, personally and with my company. I enjoy organizing and working with good causes and it’s always a lot of fun. We throw charity poker games, do team walks for March of Dimes and Light the Night and other events. Stay tuned for another American Cancer Society fundraiser that the Atlanta Skeptics are planning for later in the year, by the way!  But this has been a difficult year for most non-profits and in the events we’ve had so far, I’ve definitely noticed that people are more cautious in their contributions.

What is/are your pet charities? What do you look for when selecting a charity to donate to? Do you have any cool ideas or fundraising tactics or events to share?


Maria D'Souza grew up in different countries around the world, including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Kenya and it shows. She currently lives in the Bay Area and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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  1. Planned Parenthood – cuz’ if they do their job right, it prevents the load on so many other charities.

  2. San Diego Blood Bank (as long as I remember to wait a year after getting more ink to give blood)
    FOCAS (Friends of the County Animal Shelter)
    Michigan Tech Alumni Fund(s)

    Are these charities? Probably not…
    Skeptic Society
    Atlas Society
    Reason Foundation
    Institute for Justice

  3. I am far too broke to give anyone any money. :( I am the Volunteer Coordinator for Equality Arizona, a volunteer volunteer coordinator, even!

  4. I donate blood just about as often as I can. They are now giving out more swag (since the rules now prohibit gay men from donating).

    I figure that wearing the t-shirts they give out advertises that I am not gay, and that I am free of just about every STD that can be tested for.

  5. I’m on the board and help organize two fund raisers a year for a community youth symphony my kids are involved in. I try to give money and time to local agencies that have a direct impact on families and at risk children.

    @Elexina: I’d always had problems with how much money the American Cancer society spent on fund raising but wow!; after checking out the Charity Navigator web site I’m less than impressed with the ACS.

  6. I volunteer for Basic Animal Rescue Training (BART).
    We teach firefighters, cops, paramedics, and other first responders how to capture, handle, restrain, assess, and provide basic first aid to animals they encounter in their normal duties. We also provide them with the equipment they need to do these jobs (leashes, muzzles, harnesses, etc.)

    We started out with firefighters that wanted to help animals during fires. Then paramedics came on board, since they sometimes go into a house and the patient they are trying to help is being “protected” by their pet dog. Before BART, they had to call and wait for animal control; not ideal in a life-or-death situation. We’ve also had some police officers that wanted to be able to provide first aid to their K9 partners.

  7. I give to NPR because I like the most of the radio shows and I give to St. Judes Children’s Hospital because they treat children with terrible diseases free of charge and without regards to religion or lack of.

  8. <3 Relay For Life. I was a huge part of the planning board for the University of Georgia’s Relay event in college (which at the time was one of the biggest college Relays in the country). It’s been said that i didn’t actually major in Physics in college, i majored in Relay For Life… it’s kinda true, if id spent as much time on physics as i did on Relay i probably would have graduated summa cum laude.
    Generally now i’m support the american cancer society still, as well as the local cat rescue group, KEXP public radio station, and a local art museum. We are currently trying to decide on a GLBT rights advocacy group to support too, because we want to give a sizeable donation as part of our wedding budget; it’s not fair that we can get married and a lot of people can’t so we think the best we can do is at least try to help support them. If anyone has any personal suggestions on that front, let me know!

  9. @ James Fox
    ACS funds a LOT of research. They have funded 42 Nobel Prize winners. In a time when grants are getting harder and harder to come by, they still prioritize fundings promising young researchers. You’re welcome disagree with how they use their money, but i feel that unfortunately with the way society is today, putting out a bit of money for fundraising gives giant returns.

  10. Yeah, upon thinking about it, I’d probalby give to NPR and/or PBS if I were to give anyone money, and I may try to do that this year at least once. I love NPR and PBS oh so much.

  11. @intimeoflilacs: I’m not saying their distribution of funds has not made a difference (and wouldn’t it be nice you got a cure for one cancer for every ten Nobel prizes). But $287,440,000.00 spent on administration and fundraising seems beyond excessive.

  12. My charity of choice is Womankind Worldwide, which is based in the UK. They work to give women access to counselors, and provide basic educational services such as literacy programs. Through their partners they provide support centers that educate women about their legal rights, and also provide assistance to women with legal matters – such as seeking protection orders from abusive partners and so on. WW’s partners work in countries where the rights of women are particularly threatened: places like Afghanistan, South Africa, and Somalia.

  13. My favourite is MSF, “Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent humanitarian medical aid organisation. We are committed to providing medical aid where it is most needed, regardless of race, religion, politics or gender and also to raising awareness of the plight of the people we help. “

  14. While I also donate to NPR and give blood regularly (a true gift of charity because I absolutely HATE the experience), Mrs. SkepLit and I support the Detroit Opera Theater, Detroit Institute of Arts, the Smithsonian Institution. Mostly, though, we contribute to global warming.

  15. @ SkepticalSally: I agree, MSF is awesome. My wife is a medic and at work they have a Christmas costume party to raise funds for MSF. I had some African refugee trainees at work, lab technicians, who were very familiar with the work they do and spoke highly of MSF. One of my colleagues worked for MSF in Africa for a year – the wonderful Olivia, who actually went and did something great, while most of us just talked about it.

    Once upon a time, I also supported Greenpeace.

  16. I don’t purchase carbon offsets, but I started a company that by recycling flyash (with my invention) has reduced the production of cement by over 5 million tons (each ton of cement produced releases a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere).

  17. Local and national Shetland Sheepdog Rescue
    The ASPCA
    Briggs Animal Shelter ( and other local shelters.

    GlowOrb: I love that you’re volunteering for BART! Is there a website that I can get more information about getting our area emergency responders involved?

  18. @QuestionAuthority:

    BART is only in Minnesota right now. It was started around 2004 by a veterinarian whose husband is a firefighter that was frustrated by a call where they couldn’t help a dog. (The whole story is on the website).
    During Hurricane Katrina, many people wouldn’t evacuate or went back for their pets. It caused a lot of problems and added costs for rescuers. In response, the federal government enacted the PETS act, requiring state and local governments to make provisions for animals in their emergency plans. BART really took off after that.
    They have received funding to start expanding on a national basis. I’ve been with them since 2005, so it’s been exciting to see it evolve and grow!

  19. Glow-Orb–that is so fantastic! Thanks for the info.

    I try to support a lot of things, since I’m at a time in my life when I can (out of grad school, gainfully employed). I volunteer with a local trap-neuter-return feral cat group (eats up a lot of my time since I’m on the board as well) and a local domestic violence/rape crisis group. For that I teach knitting in the shelter and do hospital advocacy (going to hospital ERs in cases of sexual assault/domestic violence).

    Monetarily, I’m kind of all over the map. A little here, a little there–probably not enough to make a huge difference in any one place.

    I support a lot of animal causes, like Treehouse Humane Society in Chicago: (
    I got to tour their main branch last year and it was fantastic! I also love Best Friends Animal Sanctuary:

    This being Mother’s Day my partner and I did our usual thing for my mom: make a donation to Half the Sky( ) to sponsor a nanny for a month in a Chinese orphanage.

    I also donate knitted goods to a couple groups, one called afghans for Afghans and the other the Dulaan Project. Last week I sent a box o’ hand knitted wool socks that’ll end up in Afghanistan, and hopefully this week I’ll get a similar box of stuff bound for Mongolia. This is ideal for me because once I clear out some of my yarn stash I can go buy more. Philanthropy? Ha!–I just want more yarn. :) She who has the most yarn…has no place to store other stuff.

    When I was a student I couldn’t make much of a donation to NPR/public radio, so I instead answered phones at the pledge drives. Now my partner and I have a family membership–yay!

    I also occasionally donate to Planned Parenthood (locally/nationally/internationally)–jrpowell’s right on that preventing so many future problems! And Doctors without Borders.

    I’m on so many sucker mailing lists–I get pleas for donations from all kinds of organizations these days. *sigh* I try to be picky about where I put my dollars, and sometimes it’s easy to figure out where not to put money, like when any org adds religion to the mix.

    And, I’ve just gotta say, looking over all these postings shows that this is one cool group of people.

  20. AmVets, well cause I am a vet. No yard sales, just call them and they take and make use of for other vets.
    And, I once raffled off the opportunity to shave my head in public (work summer party), and gave the proceeds and 13″ of pony tail to Locks for Love.

  21. @CatFurniture:

    I am a mad knitter, too. I know what you mean about yarn taking over your house!

    Best Friends is great! I’ve volunteered there a couple of times. You spend the day playing (I mean, providing behavioral enrichment) with animals, then you go back to the hotel and sit in the whilrpool tub. Best vacation ever.

    Most of my volunteering / donating is for animal charities because that’s where my skills get the best use. (I’m the other kind of vet, dmikeyj.)

  22. My pet causes:

    Domestic Violence Prevention
    Rape Victims
    Gay Rights
    Women’s Health

    I participate in fundraisers, charity events, I donate to causes for these things, I serve on community boards, I rant loudly.

    And I donate my blood as often as possible.

  23. @Glow-Orb: I almost was hired at Best Friends back in 2003 as Communications Director. Sad to say, they decided to go with another candidate. :-( I proceeded to stay in the airlines for a few more years instead.

    I still think the world of them, and I have entered the National Geographic Dogtown Sweepstakes! I’d like to spend a vacation there, but I don’t get enough vacation time to do even 1/4 of what I’d like to do. I can’t even keep up with family-related duties.

  24. Planned Parenthood
    The Seattle Literacy Council
    Breast Cancer Research
    Various animal rescue organizations NEVER PETA.

    Planned Parenthood and the Literacy Council are pretty self explanatory. Breast Cancer research is less altruistic, as breast cancer struck my grandmother and all of her sisters.

    And having BEEN an unofficial animal rescue organization for years, I like to give what I can to people who can maybe take some of the load off me.

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