“Giving is not just about making a donation, it’s about making a difference.” – Kathy Calvin

Posted by Julia Nachman on

Even in a “normal” year, there are multiple worthy causes that need financial support; however, 2020 was anything but normal. In addition to the causes that we consistently support, this year it seemed like every time you turned around, help was needed. Between fundraisers for people who were in danger of losing their businesses, to the extreme damage caused by wildfires, to relief for healthcare workers and their families, to the damage done by hurricanes, to social justice organizations, to the most expensive elections in history, a lot of us a stretched pretty thin, while simultaneously feel very helpless.

When we launched Sustainimals, in addition to creating a product that is eco-friendly, sustainable, and safe, we wanted proceeds from our stuffed animals to help real animals, especially those that are at risk due to climate change. So, how do we make sure that when we are making donations, we are making our maximum intended impact?  That was something we thought long and hard about when selecting which organization Sustainimals would support. Fortunately, there are organizations whose full-time mission is to research and evaluate charities on their effectiveness. The one on which we relied most heavily was Charity Navigator, but we want to also give a shout out to Givewell.

Charity Navigator evaluates a broad range of charities, and offers a “Hot Topics” section on its website, which addresses a diverse array of issues including breast cancer, human trafficking, suicide prevention and awareness, Black-founded non-profits, environmental advocacy, and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, to name just a few. Charity Navigator assesses each charity’s financial health and accountability and transparency, and then assigns it a score and star rating. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the organization that Sustainimals supports via donations from each sale, has a 4-star rating with a score of 93.34. However, the metric that really led Sustainimals to support the NRDC over other well-regarded, 4-star rated charities, was the Program Expense ratio, which reflects the percent of the charity’s total expenses that are spent on the programs and services it delivers. The NRDC’s Program Expense is 82.6%, which was among the highest in the environmental advocacy category.

Givewell is narrower in its focus; rather than evaluating a diverse range of charities, and publishing ratings for all of them, Givewell only evaluates charities that explicitly focus on its priority programs, including distribution of malaria nets, treating children for parasites, or direct cash transfers. As a result, Givewell tends to evaluate charities that are focused on international global health. In addition, Givewell assesses the capacity each charity has for more funds. For example, if a charity is sitting on a pile of cash because it is not able to distribute it via its programs rapidly enough, Givewell will not recommend the charity for additional funding.

A lot of us are trying to reduce our consumerism while letting our loved ones know how we feel. If you are feeling stumped this holiday season about what to get for someone on your list who may not need any more “stuff” but is worried about the world we live in, consult one of these resources and make a donation in their name… or you can buy them a Sustainimal, knowing that the charity it is supporting was vetted by Charity Navigator!


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