"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> urbanMamas

On charitable giving (and receiving)

Charity is very much top-of-mind this week. My husband is in the Army Reserves, and either we are the only large-ish family in his unit and thus deemed needful of charity based solely on the number of mouths to feed, or perhaps he has slightly exaggerated our financial plight (I'm freelancing as our main source of income right now, and while the work is plentiful, my time is not so much). Either way we have received two gift baskets in the past week, both stocked with hams, a pound of margarine, and various canned goods and other nonperishables. I am grateful. And yet, given my now year-long commitment to feed my family organic, fairly traded, as-local-as-possible food, it's been a challenge deciding how to face a six-year-old who I found hoarding two boxes of cake mix and a package of Sara Lee dinner rolls in his bedroom. Among other things. One day I'll let the boys gorge themselves on Trix, Campbell's chicken noodle soup, and chocolate icing straight out of the carton, the next day I hide it all and force-feed them sourdough whole wheat baked goods and raw milk. As a culture, we believe that one should not look a gift horse in the mouth and that those receiving charitable assistance should be pleased to eat whatever GMO-ridden, conventional, processed, sugar-packed, wrapped-up-in-excess-packaging goods the givers choose.

I am torn. I wish to be grateful and am thrilled that such largess exists. I know that those who assembled the gift packages did so out of a genuine and generous wish to make our lives better. (And the PGE gift card that was included in one of them will, indeed!, make our lives better. If anyone should be struggling over what to get for a needy family -- go with the PGE gift card!) And at the same time I wish I could somehow send a message to all those who shop for holiday gift baskets and ask if they might consider getting big bags of Bob's Red Mill organic whole wheat flour, and a dozen eggs from Kookoolan Farms, and perhaps a nice local ham from Sweet Briar Farms or the Pacific Village cooperative.

I have three sisters who are more deserving of charity than me (one's a missionary in Panama and lives on a few hundred dollars a month, at the extreme end of needfulness), and even though they haven't yet subscribed to my whole-foods, sugar-free lifestyle, I feel terrible offering them the big bag of white sugar I was given. They'll use it, but I'd rather give them a quart of raw honey, and it feels wrong to give someone else products on my personal list of banned foodstuffs.

And the other thing is this: poverty is in the eye of the beholder. Despite my current juggle of utility bills and mortgage, I feel rich. In my budget, nourishing food comes first, and I have a pantry stocked with all sorts of amazing preserves, I have chickens that lay me nutrient-rich eggs, I get four gallons of rich creamy raw milk every week, I have surely earned platinum frequent-shopper status at the farmer's market, I have vowed to myself that, no matter what, I will never run out of local honey or organic flour. I do not consider my family in need of food aid. Though I might qualify for food stamps on my current income (hopefully temporarily depressed), I feel wrong applying for them, as I do not ever go hungry, and what I do eat seems thrilled with wealth. Besides: I have made choices about how much I am earning, and it does not feel right to have society be burdened with them (though I'd be singing a different tune if this post were to discuss health care. It's not).

I'd be interested to see how you all feel about these subjects. Have you given or received food baskets for the holidays, and have you thought at all about how we express our culture through them? Is there a way to challenge prevailing assumptions about what it is needy families need, without being ungrateful or dispiriting? Do you feel rich on an income others might deem impoverished? Or do you think you are poor despite your upper-middle-class income (I've felt that way at times)? Maybe I'm just spending too much time worrying about this when I should be writing something to pay for my health insurance premiums? What's your take?

(And one final word about charity: you have a few more days to contribute to the Willamette Week Give! Guide: your gifts can help your favorite non profit earn bonuses and such, and you can express yourself through cash. The Portland Fruit Tree Project, Growing Gardens, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, the Community Cycling Center and Free Geek are some of my favorites due to their commitment to, variously, local food, organic agriculture, reducing waste and fuel reliance, and using the abundance we might take for granted.)


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I have so many thoughts on this, but need time to collect them. I find myself currently in the position of applying for OHP because my children will likely qualify for coverage and we have none due to a lay-off. I am struggling with the ethics of doing this when I could probably work insurance payments into the budget, but at what cost? If I pay my taxes when I work, shouldn't I be allowed to benefit when we are not working, even though someone may need it more than me? I understand your struggle.

One thing that jumps out at me though, is your mention of your personal list of banned foodstuffs. If you received food you won't use, I think it's very much okay to give it to someone who will. Not everyone will share your food preferences and it is a shame to let food go unused when there are people who need and want it.

"Freelancing"...LOL. you need more help than some ham. Get a job and help your husband out.

I have a lot of thoughts on this as well. This year I bought groceries for a family in need. I went off their wish list, and I had a horrible time shopping because like you, I tend to buy organic, local fresh from the farm items as often as possible. We also have special diets to deal with, so some of our food is quite expensive. I budget accordingly, and simply didn't have the budget to buy for another family what I would for my own. It seemed like a double standard, but then I was thinking, well, I could spend $50 and come away with one bag of groceries for this family, or spend the same and come away with three bags of groceries. Wrong or right, I assumed that an "in need" family would rather have more food options to fill their pantry than certain brands.

I still feel a bit funny about it all though.

As for your banned list - I really think that is one case where you have to realize that what's right for your family may not be the best choice for others. If there are foods on your banned list, I think it's better to pass them on to others in need than to have the food go to waste. I liken it to the fact that I am vegetarian, but if someone gave us a turkey, or whatever, I wouldn't just throw it away - I would give it to someone who could use it.

I completely understand your qualms about the food. We received a gift certificate for a turkey or ham, our choice, from Safeway, neither of which I would eat or feed my family. Rather than let the value go to waste we did pick up a turkey (decided it could become more things than the ham) and give it to a family at church who needed it. On the flip side, if I am buying for a food bank I will pick up a box of the Earthbound Farms organic jarred baby food at Costco. We eat the way we eat because, like you, we believe it is better for us and world - I wouldn't feel right giving something to someone in need that I wouldn't give my own family. Kind of the same thing when someone on Freecycle was asking for baby bottles, the only ones I have have BPA in them (obviously wouldn't have bought them if I had been aware at the time and I just haven't gotten around to digging them out to toss) and while she may go out and buy the same bad kind there is no way I will pass them on. Thanks for letting us know that PGE does gift cards, what a great idea.

I work with a lot of families who have very low incomes. Many of them are on food stamps or receive food boxes. And the great majority of them think that what I bring to work for my lunch - whole grains, roasted veggies, tempeh & tofu, et cetera - is yucky just because it's unfamiliar. I've had obviously hungry clients turn down my 'gross' food, and it's not because of pride. They just want to eat what they know and like, just like we all do. When I shop for the food bank, I choose the healthiest mainstream brand-name food I can find.

If I were a truly needy family (and lately, we are edging closer to that end of the spectrum), I would appreciate food -- especially fresh vegetables, fruit, and staples like flour and butter -- organic or not.

Allison is right on - as a giver, I'd say choose the healthiest option that your recipient will eat.

We've been underemployed since September when my husband, then our family's sole breadwinner, lost his job. I've since launched a new business, teaching people how to cook real food, and while I'll never come close to replacing my husband's lost income, between what I'm earning, what he's getting from Unemployment, and the bit of help we received from my folks, we're making do (except for the health insurance thing, of course).

We have cut out all sorts of non-essentials, but I'm still feeding my family mostly local, mostly organic produce (I do buy some local, conventional produce, but only from the Environmental Working Group's "cleanest 12" list), cheese and yogurt made with raw milk, bread made with organic flours. I am SO glad that we have a freezer full of local grassfed beef, pastured pork and chickens, lamb from a homesteading friend, and my husband's first-ever Oregon deer. We basically spent our tax rebate check on meat and pantry items last summer. Every time I go down to my pantry or open the deep freeze, I feel rich rich rich--we have enough good food to last us months. In fact, we're feeling so blessed that we're hosting an open house New Years Day, as our way of saying thank you to our neighbors, friends and the Universe. It's funny how a little economic depression can help you sort things out.

As far as our gift-giving, all of our food gifts this year were made with organic ingredients, though I didn't make a point of mentioning that to the recipients, most of whom were just delighted to receive something home made. The items we gave at various food drives were organic--I buy beans by the case from Azure to donate.

I think one of the problems is the anonymity that goes along with many charitable gifts--you don't always know who's going to receive that bag of organic whole wheat flour and if she would know what to do with it. There's a huge problem with people simply not knowing how to prepare food from scratch and really, it's one of the causes of malnutrition and hunger in the US. You can eat so much better for so much less, whether organic or not, just by preparing food at home. Few of us were taught to cook, though, and the trial-and-error involved in learning on your own can get expensive and frustrating.

So, rather than give someone a bag of flour, how about giving her a baking lesson?

I mean no disrespect at all here, but am I the only person that thinks this thread is a little white middle class self absorbed? Organic/local vs. non seems like something that truly hungry people are not too worried about. I think that this thread is a valid point for the middle class "poor" but not for the real working class poor.

Honestly, I mean no disrepect here. Just looking for some discussion on this point as I'm wondering if I just don't get it. Or maybe I've just known people that are truly hungry, who have no choice but to work full time at low paying jobs and are worried about clothing and feeding their kids anyway they can.


Last Christmas, a group of friends and myself adopted a family for Christmas. The items on the list were very basic clothing items for the kids like shoes, jeans, socks, gloves, hats and coats. The mom's list said that she just wanted to make sure that her kids were clothed, but we found out that she could use some very basic kitchen utensils. We made sure that the mom received a gift as well. Granted these are not grocery items, but when shopping, we made sure to get the best value for our money (shopping at outlets, with coupons or sales, or at major discounters) to maximize the number of things that we could get rather than getting only a few more high end items. Perhaps this was the thought behind your food baskets, since buying "conventional" foodstuffs is typically less expensive than buying organic.

I would definitely pass on the items that are unacceptable to you to the food bank or another family if they are going to go unused.

I think that everyone I know and come into contact would benefit from taking a workshop by Donna Beegle, PhD. She explains generational poverty vs. transitional poverty.

I feel not okay with people who can exist without government assistance, requesting it because the resources are so limited. I have friends who are from solidly middle to upper class families who applied for and received food stamps, OHP, etc while in college even though they had financial support from their families. I just have a real issue with folks being supported through and taking gov't assitance and being presented to a gift of a down payment for a house upon completion of college/grad school. These resources IMHO, are for folks who do NOT have family to fall back on.

Then again, I live in Portland and I have many friends who do what the old folks call "poor mouthing". A friend and I used to wonder obviously middle class plus folks see such cachet in calling themselves poor when we first moved here. If you are someone's landlord I really don't see how you call yourself poor, but I know folks that do.

To me, I think I can decide what I do with my money more or less, but not with other folks'. I don't know that many people who would receive a lecture on how to donate all that well.

To me, poor is a lack of resources and no fall back. No savings, no retirement account to cash in (even with penalty), no Bank of Mom and Dad, nada. My single parent headed household has no fall back, but I make the mortgage every month and keep the lights on so we're good. We both have health insurance which is awesome even if is costs nearly 2/3 as much as the mortgage.

Many of things that get kvetched about around these parts are pretty far beyond my scope, in terms of my daily worries as we seem to live on the margin, but as the saying goes, your blues ain't like mine. or hers. or his.

I guess I'm wondering why if you didn't want it you kept it...is there someone who was hungry and who regardless of the type of food it was, would have really needed it? I don't mean to be prissy, but it seems as though I see people everyday who really don't care whether it's organic or not...they're just hungry....

What's most interesting to me is that you let your kids gorge themselves on junk food and the next day, it's all organic whatever. I mean, if your kid is hording food in his room, maybe you need to re-evaluate your food priorities. Just a thought, but maybe occasional sweets once in awhile, instead of the feast or famine deal you seem to have going. (Seriously, you gave away a bag of sugar cause you don't like the stuff, but you let your kids eat Trix--what's the difference?)

I am poor. My family is poor. My husband has had 2 days off since Halloween (you guessed it, Thanksgiving and Christmas). We are so qualified for food stamps, the DHS people are practically calling us to give us benefits. I am committed to buying fresh, local, organic groceries whenever I can, but not always.

The difference between us, I think, is that when I went to bed the other night, I was trying to figure out how I was going to split approximately 6 oz. of milk and 8 oz. of OJ between 2 boys and myself, and make it last for two days.

Thank goodness for rice and beans, and pancakes (made from scratch with water instead of milk and extra oil instead of the egg).

So yeah, I totally would have LOVED an organic gift basket. Honestly, it would probably seem more "gifty" (ie. things I wouldn't buy for myself) than a more mainstream grocery basket. But when it comes down to it, if you're really poor any food basket is yummy.

I agree with Melanie, Kristin and several others--and am a bit surprised about the original post. If as you say: "I do not consider my family in need of food aid."-then, definitely, share what you have been given to others who need it, there are MANY hungry people/families who would be very grateful, appreciative, and will take what they can to get back on their feet.

We are a "everything in moderation" kind of family, and that goes for food too. In general, I buy organic and when I can find local that is comprable in price and quality I go that route too. We do not keep candy, soda or overly processed foods at our house, but occasionally it slips in and by no means is any of it banned. We are trying to teach our boys about the importance of making healthy choices and about the fun of the occasional treat. We hope that over the course of their lives they have a healthy, balanced lifestyle rather than a binge and purge pattern. I too would be much more concerned if I found my child hoarding a box of cake mix than fretting over the decision of what to do with the bag of white sugar given to me. I believe these items were chosen and given out of the goodness of someone's heart and whether or not you personally consume them is your choice. If it's not something you feel comfortable feeding your family, then yes, find someone to quietly pass it along to.

I neglected to mention explicitly in the post that I *am* giving the food I don't want to others (mostly my sisters; as I mentioned, they're all living on very restricted incomes). I struggle with it, because the way I see it, the food I don't want isn't nourishing and I worry that it's destructive to the health of the recipients. if they're going to (for instance) buy a bag of sugar anyway, it's sort of a wash and I've saved them grocery money. on the other hand, the pesticides on conventional produce, the boxes of cake mix and cartons of frosting (trans-fatty acids, corn sweeteners, artificial ingredients galore) fill me with the thought that I'm giving them carcinogens and slowly destroying their heart health along with my charity. I *know* that, for many people, organics aren't a choice, but that seems like the sort of thing we should be FIXING with charity, not furthering.

as for the Trix, they came in the food basket and the kids had already ripped the bag open by the time I turned around from thanking the man who brought them, so I threw up my hands and let them eat the box -- they haven't had breakfast cereal in months so it seemed a rather minor cave-in. re: hoarding: yes, my son has many issues that go beyond a box of cake mix, and I *do* let him have occasional sugar and plenty of sweet treats (maple syrup on his pancakes and oatmeal, for instance) so that isn't the cause. his developmental pediatrician calls it anxiety.

I knew the "middle class problem" question would come up and I tried to qualify this post, but evidently I didn't do a good job. I wish that I could find a way to word the internal struggle I'm having so that I could get across the idea that I truly understand the hardscrabble existence of those who can't afford to feed their family *anything* and are too hungry to ask whether or not the ingredients in their food are nourishing their body, or not. I lived like that for many years as a child; there was never a time in my youth that my family didn't qualify for food stamps and free lunch, and we accepted so much food charity that my pride is never injured by the offer (should that be a question). but after all the research I've done in the past few years on food, I have come to the conclusion that eating a diet of conventional produce, processed foods, and meat and dairy products from animals raised on feedlots, is destructive for our emotional and physical health, as well as the environment. in my opinion, organic food is not just a nice-to-have, but the only option that can give us a healthy future (individually and generally). I know we don't all agree as a society. I just wish somehow we could begin a discourse in which the people in need of charitable aid could be considered the priority for organic, natural foods, rather than the last place to "waste" them, as I fear many well-meaning individuals subconsciously believe.

very nicely worded sarah. this last post made me feel better about where the question was coming from.

I would like to encourage those who would like to give to give to organizations directly as opposed to through the Willamette Week. The paper makes nonprofits pay to be a part of the campaign and their distribution of perks makes the gift itself not entirely tax deductable as the donor receives a benefit.

There are so many wonderful people in Portland and some very worthy agencies helping them. Please, give directly!

I completely hear and understand Sarah's point. Organic food is better for your health and for the planet and when I buy food for food banks, families in need etc I still buy organic...everyone deserves healthy food. In fact poor people maybe more so...Im sure most dont have health insurance and staying healthy should be a priority. In the long run if everyone made feeding families in need nourishing food, it might save money in the long term.

To put it another way:

If all you have available to teach your kid to read is the National Enquirer, I would still say it is worth doing. If the only iron and nutrients they can get are from a less than perfect source, it is still better than letting them fall into malnutrition. If it gives them a chance to move forward into a better situation, do it.

I was raised on less than perfect produce and meat, but I am better for the nutrients that allowed me to grow a fine brain. I would rather perish from pesticides at sixty than of starvation at six.

That being said, I understand the dilemma, but it is not one that most of the world could imagine having the privilege to contemplate.

I am definitely interested in this topic.
You state:
"but after all the research I've done in the past few years on food, I have come to the conclusion that eating a diet of conventional produce, processed foods, and meat and dairy products from animals raised on feedlots, is destructive for our emotional and physical health, as well as the environment."

Could you provide a few good,SPECIFIC resources that helped you with your research? I am all ears and hoping to further my understanding of this in a solid way so that I may share this information with my extended family and not just say, "I have heard..."

Lauralye, your post is brilliantly worded.

I am definitely interested in this topic.
You state:
"but after all the research I've done in the past few years on food, I have come to the conclusion that eating a diet of conventional produce, processed foods, and meat and dairy products from animals raised on feedlots, is destructive for our emotional and physical health, as well as the environment."

Could you provide a few good, SPECIFIC resources that helped you with your research? I am all ears and hoping to further my understanding of this in a solid way so that I may share this information with my extended family and not just say, "I have heard..." Thank you!

Lauralye, your post is brilliantly worded.

Ugh. Thank you Lauralye.

The subject of this topic makes me feel complicit. Almost as if reading it makes me a snob...

I sympathize with the original poster of this topic as I had a situation recently where I had to entertain a very similar issue. Although I perhaps lean in a different direction on this question than the OP, I think the topic is worthy of discussion. My recent situation: My father's birthday is in December. He always wants a 'donation to charity' instead of a gift. So I was carrying this assignment in my head. One day I was shopping at a co-op and near the door as I was exiting was a food bank bin into which you could put donations. I read the flyer on the bin which said "Donations of non-Coop items also appreciated". It would have saved me time to turn around, shop with my $50 there at the co-op, and deposited items into the bin and been done. Instead, I actually went to Safeway, bought $50 worth of items there, returned to the co-op and placed them in the bin. Why? Because of some of the thoughts expressed in this thread. I tried to buy somewhat healthy food, but thought my $50 would go farther at Safeway. I opted to donate a greater amount of so-so quality food to feed more people, rather than a smaller amount of excellent food for fewer people.

I tend to read the post and comments and agree with those going with moderation... find some balance between reasonably healthy, not-too-scary-granola-healthy food that is affordable so the quantity is helpful. If I donate to a food bank or drive I, though vegan, don't donate blocks of tofu or anything too "weird". I will buy organic beans (on sale of course, so I can get more!) to donate, along with organic pasta or other good quality non-perishable items.

As for the family diet getting in the way of the gift packages... I tend to moderation on that as well. I am vegan, my family is not. I never considered extending my "extreme" diet to them. We teach our kids to eat healthy foods, let them choose some of our meals, choose snacks and treats (often things I wouldn't dream of eating, but they enjoy) in moderation, and occaisionally feel the ickiness that comes when you eat way too much sugar. ugh. We choose organic and local foods when reasonable and possible and try to keep our standards high on a sort of a moving average. :)

As someone who bakes a scratch cake with homemade frosting for every bday that comes along, I think the best thing you could do is make that boxed cake mix with the commercial frosting and let your family eat it. It is OK if they enjoy it. Really, it is. They might also appreciate the next cake you make from scratch.

There's nothing wrong with a little moderation. It helps us keep track of where we are.

Amen, Lauralye.

I think everyone deserves healthy and safe organic food, especially low income folks. I've also tried to donate those kinds of items to food banks if possible, but honestly, if what I have or can afford to give doesn't live up to what I call "precious PDX" standards, I give it anyway without a shred of angst. Not because I think struggling people should just take whatever I give and be grateful, but because I know they will.

Who knows? That cake mix you disdain might be the lovingly-baked centerpiece for a needy child's birthday.

I have a friend whos kids think its christmas when she goes food shopping.I have been there when she brings home the food from winco,proccessed,sugary, pesticides galore,the kids cheer and start to do little happy dances.I can give you her address if you like.

For "interestedinthis" who wants some specific resources about the problems with conventional food and in particular the problems with our agricultural system, read Omnivore's Dilemma and/or In Defense of Food, both by Michael Pollan. For more specific information about food and human health, read Real Food by Nina Planck. I know a lot of people have found Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon helpful, but I found her self-righteously polemical and her recipes disappointing, to say the least. Nina Planck, who covers much of the same nutrition information as Fallon, comes across as a real human being with an interesting story.

For yet another book about why we should ALL care about eating better, for the sake of our planet and our future, not just our own health, is Sharon Astyk's Depletion and Abundance. The way Americans and the rest of the first world have been eating for the last 50-100 years is destructive not only to human health, but our planet's well-being as well. Sharon offers a vision for a sustainable future that doesn't rely on whiz-bang high-tech solutions, but our own human power and ingenuity.

Eating predominantly organic, whole food doesn't have to be expensive. It does take some skills, that many of us never learned. It does take some time, but it also can save time (think buying & storing whole foods in bulk to store, rather than grocery shopping multiple times a week). My family eats meat from local, pastured animals, organic baked goods & dairy, mostly organic and local produce, and fair trade foods from afar, and spent an average of $530/month on food in 2008, which is less than the maximum monthly food stamp allotment of $588 for a family of four and is considered "thrifty" according to the USDA Food Plans.

It is so unfortunate that people don't know how to take care of themselves in this most basic way and have bought the line that eating food that's good for them, good for the people who grow it, and good for our planet is "too expensive." It doesn't have to be. I teach cooking and pantry-keeping classes from my home that focus on developing skills that help us save time and money while feeding our families healthy, delicious food.

Are you willing to buy people land on which to garden when the community gardens are full? Will you donate canning supplies? Will you come over and help the single mom on double-shifts knead her bread at 3am?

Yes, it is possible and I think many families do many of the things you suggest. In fact, my mother and grandmother did all of them, but there was one person in the household and maintaining the houeshold: It is a full time job.

And yes, you can feed four people on the amount you suggest. I do it, but then my teenager is at college. With the amount of organic milk he consumed, I would venture to say that alone added about $60. a month to our grocery bill over a conventional dairy product.

When I was a single mom, there was no way I could have afforded the difference. I would have had to cut necessary food out of his diet so that he could have organic dairy.

I still feel guilty for not being able to always buy organic for him, but all in all I did the best I could, and it is not because I did not learn the skills. It was just that I could not fit them in while going to grad school and working.

We all make our choices, and they are very often difficult ones.

Thanks for the resources, and I concur that especially in the Northwest, organic eating can be achieved for less than many people believe.

Chris, that grocery budget is impressive!

I think we do need to remember, too, that food choices and habits are multifaceted, not merely a function of ignorance or lack of skill or available budget. For many of us on low(er) incomes who are apartment dwellers with limited storage, bulk buying may not be realistic; ditto on purchases that require a significant upfront cost (a side of beef may be a great price per pound, but if you haven't got hundreds of dollars for the initial purchase, doesn't help ya much). Reaching out to others and advocating for change is always an admirable goal, but I think the trick is how to advocate in a way thait takes into account the realities of struggling people's lives. (I love to cook, for instance, but I can absolutely understand why someone who's worked on their feet all day and spent hours on a bus commuting would have zero inclination.)

I was raised poor and vegan (back when nobody knew what that word meant!).
And we got charity baskets at the holidays. Even though I'm sure we qualified for food stamps, my mom would pick through, take out what she thought was acceptable, and return the rest to charity.

I laughed out loud when I read about the hidden cake boxes....Cause I did the same thing. We had a gift basket on our doorstep one year and I snatched out pop tarts and caramel wraps for apples before my mom got up the steps... And I stashed them in the back of my closet... And I'd sneak one into my lunch box every day.
I was the kid who always had the lunch that made my classmates say, "Eww, what IS that?" ..And I really just wanted to be a part of that whole - " I'll trade you my Doritos for your Twinkie" - thing that happened at lunch time!
And I definitely remember having Trix and Cocoa Puffs envy!

Mamaofone: Thanks for pointing out some of the issues with the Willamette Week's Give!Guide. Also, people should know the proces to which they choose the nonprofits to profile is HIGHLY competitive considering the number of effective and important nonprofits in the Portland-metro area. Their "process" for choosing the organizations is also not very transparent. (Disclaimer: I work for a nonprofit who has applied twice to be selected and rejected both times, with no reason or criteria given even though we met their listed requirements).

Frankly, IMO, they tend to focus on what seems trendy to younger audiences and looks good in pictures and they also highlight many of the same organizations every year. I honestly believe that it's solely a "who you know" type method that allows certain nonprofits to get selected. Not to mention the cost of being highlighted. Yes...please give directly to nonprofits themselves, and remember that there are TONS of organizations without big advertising budgets and without personal connections to the media who need your help!

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