Photo: Loren Baxter, San Francisco
I was discussing charitable giving habits with a friend of mine and she said “giving locally just seems selfish and ineffective when you consider our relative wealth and well-being compared with developing nations”. On many levels, I agree with her. Your dollar will likely go ‘further’ in resourcing the world’s poor if you give to, say, Red Cross International, as compared to the American Red Cross. However, I think a global reference point must include some important caveats.
Giving locally is critical for resourcing the often forgotten communities at our society’s margins, which are greatly in need but unknown to the mainstream. Empathy is built through contact, which helps us identify with universal struggles and spurns a desire for an inclusive and just society for all. It is easy to overlook the rampant dehumanization and poverty in our own backyard.
Choosing to direct personal resources towards close-to-home realities can be uncomfortable because it reveals just how far our city or country is from being a place of “liberty and justice for all”. Yet, investing in changing these inequities is also deeply healing as it builds bridges across the economic and social siloes that created those disparities in the first place.
I learned this lesson accidentally over the last few years. I wanted to give to organizations that were advancing climate justice and fighting gentrification. Two of the nonprofits doing powerful work on these fronts were Movement Generation and Causa Justa Just Cause (CJJC). Both of these organizations are local to my home — the Bay Area.
I learned that when you give to an organization, a