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Who 2 Give 2

Vegetarian Times's Annual Charity Guide

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Spread a wealth of holiday cheer this season by giving to a charity working to make the world a more humane, hospitable place. Now more than ever, with the numbers in need surging even as cash flows are slowing, it’s wise to donate to nonprofits that are proven financial stewards. Each of the following five organizations dedicates nearly 80 percent of its budget to program expenses, so that any money it receives will fight for the cause, not feed the organization. Can’t spare the cash? Volunteer your time and talent or tweet about a cherished charity. Just stay involved.

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (

What: Provides a place for old, sick, or needy elephants removed from circuses or zoos; educates the public about the crises facing elephants in captivity and in the wild.

How many: 24 elephants rescued since 1995.

What your gift will buy:

$30 feeds an elephant for a day.

$55 supports the upkeep of 1,440 square feet of sanctuary land.

Pitch in without paying out: Sign up to participate in a volunteer day at the sanctuary.

Why now: Every day an elephant remains in the confines of a zoo or circus compromises the animal’s health and causes suffering and premature death.

The Hunger Project (

What: Seeks to end hunger and poverty by mobilizing villages at the grassroots level to build self-reliance, empowering women as key agents of change, and forging effective partnerships with local governments.

How many: 35 million people in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.

What your gift will buy:

$25 supplies a nursery school in Africa with workbooks and chalk.

$50 buys antimalarial bed nets for five families.

$200 trains a woman in Mexico to launch an income-generating project.

Pitch in without paying out: Host a bake sale to benefit the organization; attach a label to each item with a fact about world hunger or poverty.

Why now: The global economic crisis is hitting poorest people the hardest. “This is indeed a time to invest in long-term solutions to end hunger and poverty,” says Hunger Project President and CEO Jill Lester.

The Surfrider Foundation (

What: Protects the world’s oceans, waves, and beaches through conservation, activism, research, and education.

How many: 70 chapters in the United States; about 5,500 miles of shoreline along the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf, Puerto Rican, and Hawaiian coasts.

What your gift will buy:

$60 funds 10 water contamination tests.

$100 teaches 300 kids about environmental threats to coastal life.

Pitch in without paying out: Volunteer at an event sponsored by the chapter nearest you.

Why now: Coastal areas face grave threats due to pollution. In 2008, raw sewage and other contaminants caused more than 20,000 ocean, bay, and Great Lakes beaches to close or issue health advisories.

Solar Electric Light Fund (

What: Combats climate change and global poverty by bringing solar power and Internet access to the world’s poorest people living in remote rural areas.

How many: Hundreds of thousands of people in 19 countries, including Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Rwanda, and Haiti.

What your gift will buy:

$25 purchases 125 feet of drip-irrigation hose.

$100 supplies a 1,000-member village with a month of drinking water.

$150 irrigates crops for five weeks.

Pitch in without paying out: Sign up for the organization’s newsletter and pass it around to friends. “The biggest nonmonetary thing people can do is spread the word,” says communications director Lauren Taylor.

Why now: Some 100,000 people in Benin are counting on a solar-powered drip-irrigation system that will allow them to grow food during the African nation’s dry season.

The Pachamama Alliance (

What: Preserves natural rain forests by empowering indigenous people in South America to strengthen their culture and stand for their own interests; through the Awakening the Dreamer (ATD) initiative, mobilizes people worldwide to adopt an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just way of life.

How many: 2 million acres of rain forest; 7 billion people.

What your gift will buy:

$10 purchases schoolbooks to teach indigenous children to speak English.

$150 trains an individual to conduct an ATD symposium.

$2,000 brings ATD to one of the 140 countries The Pachamama Alliance has yet to reach.

Pitch in without paying out: Host an Awakening the Dreamer, Change the Dream symposium in your community.

Why now: “The work we are doing goes to the root cause of every dysfunction we have on the planet,” says ATD outreach director Jon Symes.

Before You Donate

Log on to watchdog websites, including Charity Navigator ( and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (, for details such as how much an organization pays its chief executive and what percentage of donations goes to administrative costs.

You can also visit to order a copy of the American Institute of Philanthropy’s Charity Rating Guide, which gives letter grades to 500 major American charities.