A note from your nonprofit friends

This post, co-authored with my dear friend Lauren Horn, originally appeared on Medium.

In the wake of what has been, from both sides, the most divisive election our young millennial eyes have witnessed, we’re here with a few words of hope.

Our government has a well-earned reputation for being ineffective. Many of the biggest social issues — global health access, the resegregation of public schools, private prison reform, the list goes on — have yet to be significantly tackled by the government (thanks, Obama) (just kidding Obama, we love you, please stay). And the issues that have been addressed — securing rights for the LGBTQ+ community and undocumented youth, and protecting women serving in the armed forces, to name a few — didn’t solely make it to Congress on Presidential order. Organizers, activists, and nonprofiteers have worked hard to advance these issues regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.

So this week, we’ve been comforted to see so many of our peers turning to nonprofit organizations to channel their support and energy. And great news: you don’t need to start from scratch to work on an issue you care about!

Here are a few ways to increase your impact by working alongside established nonprofits, ensuring the issues you care about get addressed in the most thoughtful and impactful way.

  • Donate! And better yet, set your donation up on a recurring basis. Your $100 today is super helpful, but breaking this up into an automatic $10 monthly donation allows organizations to make more concrete financial plans for the future.
  • If you’re making a donation, don’t be afraid to invest in operations, it’s usually where you get the most impact. Educate yourself on the overhead myth, and use GuideStar, Charity Navigator or BBB Wise Giving Alliance to find great organizations solving issues and community challenges you most care about.
  • Support organizations that work locally and are led by members of the communities they serve. That means going the extra mile to find groups that are led by people of color, women, or members of the LGBTQ+ community (who may not have as big of a reach as larger organizations), and trusting them to make decisions that will benefit their communities. (For more on this, check out Vu Le’s blog, Nonprofit With Balls.)
  • Vocalize your support beyond Facebook. We fully believe in the power of social media, but be prepared to take your advocacy offline too — whether that’s through participating in a peaceful protest, attending a community meeting, or disagreeing with a relative over Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Volunteer wisely. Nonprofits, like any other business, are run by professionals who know the most efficient way to allocate their limited resources. Not sure how to help an organization you care about? Ask if they have volunteer roles available that fit your skill set and availability. If they don’t, don’t push it. Instead, support them in ways they’ve already identified (donations, social campaigns, etc.).
  • If you have the time, mentor the next generation of smart, engaged, civic-minded leaders. You don’t need to be an expert to be an invaluable advisor, and there are numerous nonprofits catering to a variety of age groups, educational goals, and volunteer availability. As a mentor, you can work on college prep, career readiness, emotional support, and more. (See Mentoring.org and Lauren’s recommendations below to start.)
  • Most importantly, keep doing this in 2017. And 2018. Make it part of your regular routine. Caring about the future of your country and people in marginalized communities should not be an election year issue. Progress is slow, and it takes hard work. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, and keep them dirty, even when others moved on to talking about something else.

Now that we’ve said all of this, here are some of our favorite organizations to recommend, but they’re far from the only ones that are doing phenomenal work.

Katie recommends:

  • ERA Coalition, a bipartisan organization that is working to pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights to women under the law
  • Define American, a media and culture organization that uses the power of story to transcend politics and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship
  • Safe Horizon, which provides services and resources to victims of abuse, domestic violence, and human trafficking
  • International Refugee Assistance Project, an organization that provides legal assistance and aid to refugees and displaced individuals
  • Women’s Prison Association, a service and advocacy organization aiding women with criminal justice histories and lobbying for criminal justice reform (because yikes)

Lauren recommends:

  • iMentor, a multi-city nonprofit pairing mentors in long-term matches with high school students in urban school

  • New Alternatives, a nonprofit providing services to homeless LGBT youth in NY

  • Children of Promise, an organization building brighter futures for children of incarcerated parents in NY

  • StreetWise Partners, an organization matching mentors to job seekers for support and coaching

  • Planned Parenthood, by now you know that they’re about way more than abortion

We leave you with this:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Now get to work!