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Why donate to local charities?

Words by Tess Becker

Most people have heard of international charities such as the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders that receive massive donations from around the world. In comparison, local charities are often underfunded and under-supported, although their per-dollar impact is often larger. This is because smaller charities often know their community's needs better. But does that mean you should only donate to charities local to you?

One of the most difficult parts of donating is deciding which charity to support. Few of us have limitless disposable income so we need to be selective about which charities we support. So it's good to choose a charity that is tackling an issue that's particularly important to you. 

“Probably the most important thing for donors is aligning the causes they give to with their own values, passions and interests,” says Una Osili, professor of economics and philanthropic studies at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “That’s what leads to sustained engagement with a cause.”

By all means, if a large international organization is supporting the cause most important to you then donate to them. But local charities, such as food banks and homeless support organizations, need all the help they can get. 

Charity Navigator, an organization that helps people select charities that align with their values, highlights how powerful local charities can be. “Small charities are often created and operated in communities to address the problems that the people who live there experience,” they write. “The lived experience of the leadership and staff members of small charities helps shape their work.”

In the US, it’s important that organizations are able to understand their community. The US is incredibly large and diverse, which means people's needs vary by region. The Northeast is radically different from the Midwest, which in turn contrasts to the South. 

“Equipped with relevant local knowledge, small charities are taking action to great effect,” Charity Navigator writes. “And yet, donors are not stepping up to fund this work. Small charities usually don’t have money to spend on extensive fundraising campaigns. Small organizations may struggle to keep staff on the payroll and provide their services consistently as funding comes and goes.”

Charity check-in

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

The Women Invested to Save Earth Fund. This organization helps support underrepresented and underfunded Black, indigenous, and women of color-led organizations across the world. Find out more and support them here

The Life You Can Save. An organization that helps mobilize aid to regions affected by malaria. Find out more

Giraffe Conservation Foundation. They help nonprofits protect and conserve giraffes. Check them out here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partners of the Goals.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs