By Gracie Weiderhaft
Millennials throw their money at stupid shit. Seriously. Thanks to the magic of the internet, young people with disposable income can be connected to people with dumb ideas faster than ever before.
You’ve probably seen something about Zack “Danger” Brown, the man who raised over $50,000 in an absurdly successful Kickstarter campaign. He started the campaign so that he could get $10 to make a potato salad.
It’s a funny joke, thousands of people throwing in a little cash to create an absurd situation. But if you really think about it, this kind of random giving exposes our skewed perspectives as a society. We’re reluctant to give a dollar to a homeless person, but jump at the chance to give it to a stranger on the internet who clearly doesn’t need it at all.
That $50,000 could have made a real difference for people who need it. Instead, it was wasted on some bro’s potato salad — and we’re okay with that. We applaud it and then continue to throw our money at more useless shit.
Sure, the internet has rallied behind “causes” before, but this typically results in little more than symbolic acts— things like buying waaaaay too many pizzas for a girl with cancer in the hospital. Yeah, it’s heartwarming, but what if everyone who bought a pizza put that same money into cancer research? Don’t you think the little girl would appreciate that more?
This is why I’ve come up with this list. Next time you consider giving money to a funny internet joke or faux cause, take that same amount of money, and give it to one of these things instead:
Why it’s worthwhile: Microlending takes a “teach a person to fish” approach to charity. A lot of organizations tend to slap a band-aid on the problem of poverty rather than trying to solve it. Giving shoes to poor people is a nice gesture and all, but giving people the resources they need to start making a steady income and then buy their own shoes is sooooooo much better. Microloans are given to impoverished people who lack the collateral to get a typical loan. Recipients (most of whom are women) use the money for entrepreneurial endeavors, typically something along the lines of producing a good to be sold at a market. They are typically required to attend meetings about managing their finances as they work to pay back the loan. Once the debt is paid, that money can be used to to fund new loans.
An organization that could use your dough: Just Hope, www.justhope.org
2. Public Schools
Why it’s worthwhile: It’s no secret that public schools are strapped for cash. Everywhere in the nation, programs that could improve a child’s education fall by the wayside for lack of funding. A lot of the time, school clubs and organizations have to raise their own money to be able to fund travel to competitions or purchase equipment. If you’ve just got a few dollars to blow, give it to some public school kids who are fundraising (and they’re always fundraising). If you’ve got a bunch of disposable income, you could always make donations to a school in the form of books, computers, or art supplies. Bonus points if you give to the poorest schools/districts.
An organization that could use your dough: Every public school ever.
3. Medical Research
Why it’s worthwhile: This one is kind of a give-in. There are a butt-ton of diseases out there that we don’t know how to cure. Developing new treatments can save lives. Totally worth your money. Done.
An organization that could use your dough: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, www.stjude.org
Why it’s worthwhile: I know, I know, we don’t like to think about death, but it’s something we all have to deal with at some point. Hospices make people comfortable and try to allow them to die with dignity. It’s a service everyone deserves, but hospices need funding to provide their service without financially burdening the family.
An organization that could use your dough: Circle of Life, www.nwacircleoflife.com
5. Affordable Health Services
Why it’s worthwhile: While we’re at it, how about keeping people healthy while they are alive. I know health care is a hot-button issue, but regardless of how it’s paid for, I think we agree that human beings deserve medical care. Give your money to organizations that work to make care accessible and affordable for everyone.
An organization that could use your dough: Planned Parenthood, www.plannedparenthood.org
If you don’t like any of the things on my list, you could give to any number of other worthy causes: local community centers, adult education programs, the arts, or even a Kickstarter campaign that actually accomplishes something.
The point is that we throw away absurd amounts of money each year on jokes and faux causes. If we focused those same resources on endeavors that make a positive impact in our communities, imagine what we could accomplish.
Gracie Weiderhaft is a Rogers, Ark. native, currently residing in Tulsa, Okla. She is a graduate student in Educational Studies at the University of Tulsa (TU), the President of the Society for Gender Equality at TU and an avid blogger. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. Gracie can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.