We usually think of charity as something akin to eating your vegetables: good for you (and for the world), but not all that fun. But in this viral-seeking, social-media-obsessed age, savvy people looking to do good have realized that just appealing to better angels might not be enough to catch the interest of the average person. So many successful charities have found more unusual, out-of-the-box approaches to getting others to behave altruistically. Here are 17 quirky charities that do immeasurable good—while also doing their own thing.
Shirts for a Cure
For more information: sfac.merchnow.com
This charity rocks—literally. They sell t-shirts exclusively designed by dozens of different rock bands (Bad Religion, Blink 182, The Used and many more), with proceeds going to help women fight breast cancer. Launched by punk-rock scene photographer Mark Beemer, whose wife, Syrentha J. Savio, died of breast cancer, the organization sells the shirts at a reasonable $15 each. To learn more about breast cancer and how you can help, check out These Women Reveal What It’s Like to Have Breast Cancer.
Clean Cooking Alliance
For more information: cleancookstoves.org
We often hear about impoverished people needing food—but what about people with food who don’t have sanitary or safe ways to prepare the food they have? That’s the mission of this organization, which notes that three billion people depend on polluting open fires and inefficient (and dangerous) stoves to cook their food. This charity provides modern, safe-cook stoves to underserved communities throughout the world, from Chinese farmers to Mayan villagers.
Give Back Yoga Foundation
For more information: givebackyoga.org
Why should yoga be a thing only green-juice-drinking, urbane hipsters do? This organization seeks to provide yoga programs to underserved or marginalized communities, using the healthy benefits of the practice to enhance the lives of a wide range of people, with programs like Prison Yoga Project, Yoga of 12-Step Recovery, yoga4cancer, and more. The charity’s Eat Breathe Thrive program aims to help those with eating disorders gain a healthier body image, while their Mindful Yoga Therapy is offered to veterans coping with PTSD.
For more information: monkeyhelpers.org
In this era when people are trying to bring “service squirrels” onto planes, “service monkeys” doesn’t sound as it may have just a couple years ago. But would you believe there is a charity dedicated to providing these animals to those in need. Adults with spinal cord injuries and mobility impairments can reaching to Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers, which trains the nimble primates to aid those with needs in a number of ways.
For more information: childsplaycharity.org
Being in the hospital is a downer, of course, for many reasons, but one that’s often overlooked is how mind-numbingly boring things can get—especially if you’re a kid in dire need of some entertainment. That’s where this organization comes in, which works with 140 hospitals to provide video games (and other toys) to children who can use some entertainment. The organization both takes financial donations, with which it buys new video game consoles and toys, or provides wish lists from the kids at specific hospitals, to whom donors can send specific toys directly.
For more information: patriotpaws.org
Based in Rockwall, Texas, this organization trains puppies, which it then provides as service dogs to veterans with disabilities or post-traumatic stress disorder at no cost. Founded by professional dog trainer Lori Stevens more than a dozen years ago, it also offers a Prison Program in which its dogs stay in special dorms at prisons within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice where they are trained and overseen by select inmates 24 hours a day.
The Critter Connection
For more information: ctguineapigrescue.org
This nonprofit focuses on smaller creatures in need, rescuing and rehabilitating abandoned and neglected guinea pigs. Based in Durham, Connecticut, the organization has rescued more than 1,800 of the squeaky creatures, whether abandoned by owners or left undernourished. This organization rehabilitates them and matches them with adopters through Petfinder.
For more information: buildanest.org
Not to be confused with the smart-home system, this nonprofit aims to aid “handworkers”—artisans trying to build a business or make a living with their crafts—throughout the world. It offers professional fellowships to provide mentorship and training, a sourcing network that provides materials without the price-gouging middlemen and networking services and events to help its members communicate with and learn from one another.
Longhopes Donkey Shelter
For more information: longhopes.org
The website for this organization lays out its mission clearly: “Unable to keep your donkey? Want to be sure your donkey is safe with people who know and love donkeys? Longhopes accepts donkeys from owners who can no longer care for their donkey.” This organization, based in Colorado, rescues donkeys from slaughter or neglect, trains them, and offers them for adoption—to loving, caring homes only.
For more information: heifer.org
Instead of just giving recipients food, this organization helps combat worldwide hunger by providing them with donations that keep on giving: livestock (including sheep, cows, chickens, and honeybees) that the families raise, producing milk, eggs, honey, and other products that can be sold, traded, or consumed. It doesn’t stop there: the families who are provided livestock pass on their animals’ first female offspring to another family in need and help train others in their community, creating a virtuous cycle of sustenance.
Afghans for Afghans
For more information: afghansforafghans.org
Not just a clever play on words, this organization gets knitters and crocheters throughout the United States to create blankets known as afghans—as well as sweaters, vests, hats, mittens and socks—and sends them to people in Afghanistan who need them.
Cary Creative Center
For more information: carycreativecenter.org
Serving the region around Cary, North Carolina, this nonprofit turns one man’s trash into another man’s treasure. It accepts donations of discarded materials local households and businesses relegate to the “junk” pile and “upcycles” it into art by offering workshops, sewing classes, and other programs for children and adults to express their creative spirit without having to pay for all the materials.
For more information: projectlinus.org
Named after the Peanuts character who went nowhere without his blue blanket, this organization provides “love, a sense of security, warmth, and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer ‘blanketeers.’” For 20 years, this organization has been donating about 350 blankets a month to children throughout the country, in all 50 states.
For more information: modestneeds.org
As its name implies, this charity is aimed not at the severe cases of poverty but for those who just need a bit of help to get back on their feet. It provides short-term grants to those who are in a temporary crisis but whose needs are not so severe that they would otherwise qualify for conventional welfare assistance. These grants are not paid directly to the recipient, but to the vendors to whom they owe money—ensuring the money is used for the right reasons.
Four Pound Burger Challenge
For more information: edp24.co.uk
You’ve heard of competitive eating challenges, but how about competitive eating challenges for a good cause? That’s the concept behind this annual event, devised by butcher Ali Dent, of Norfolk, Virginia, in which contestants enter by raising money for mental health charity MENCAP and attempt to eat a four-pound hamburger. In the first competition, in 2012, 109 people competed and only one person completed the challenge (rugby player Paul Bridges, who took a little under an hour to eat the whole thing).
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes
For more information: walkamileinhershoes.org
To help men better appreciate the challenges and dangers facing women, while raising awareness about sexual assault and gender violence, this annual event gets men to walk in women’s high-heeled shoes, getting friends and family to sponsor them and raise money for the cause.
Great Gorilla Run
For more information: greatgorillarun.org
Another gathering aimed at raising awareness about an important cause, but getting participants to get a little silly. The Great Gorilla Run, held in London, asks that each participant raise £200 to help protect endangered species.
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