Affiliation and the Good Cause

August 8, 2011 | 16 comments
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LDS-Charities-logoEarlier this year I decided I wanted to put together a list of charities and other “good causes” that were either founded or run by Mormons. Of course, it shouldn’t matter at all the religious background of a charity’s founder or management. If they are doing good work, then they deserve support regardless. But in reality affiliation matters to many people.

And I believe that many Mormons care about affiliation of those they support. Probably the most successful and most widely supported charities among LDS Church members are those that are run by the Church. If you doubt this, read the paid obituaries in Utah newspapers, where Church-owned charities like the missionary fund and the perpetual education fund appear to be the most frequent suggested donations in lieu of flowers.

Regardless of what they think logically, most people do care about some kind of affiliation, usually without any logical basis. The Olympics, popular sports teams, even patriotism are all about affiliation on some basis rather than any clear logical decision.

So, I am publishing here the list of charities and “good causes” that I’ve found. I am NOT trying to get anyone to donate to these organizations by doing this—I haven’t done enough research into these organizations to know. I believe they are likely OK, but I don’t know for sure; not enough to give my personal seal of approval (as if that is worth anything).

Instead, my interest is simply in the charitable impulses of Mormons and how they have chosen to institutionalize those impulses. I’m pleased to see that at least these few Mormons have taken steps to help others, and I hope that there are many others that I’ve missed.

I should add a couple of things:

  • I’m sure I’ve missed many organizations. Please let me know about any I’ve missed in the comments.
  • I believe all of these organizations are focused on providing actual assistance to individuals. I have excluded some organizations that advocate political positions instead of assisting individuals.
  • Just because these organizations were founded or are run by Mormons does not mean that they have any official connection to the Church, or should be considered a “Mormon organization” or under “Mormon control” whatever that might mean. Like any charity, what is important is the work that they do, NOT the affiliation. The affiliation is, at least to me, merely interesting. Non-Mormons should not see this as a “list to avoid” any more than Mormons should see this as a “list of charities that are better than others.”
  • I am NOT endorsing any of these charities, although if I bothered to do the research, I could very well end up endorsing some or all of them. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH BEFORE YOU DONATE!

With the above disclaimers given, here is the list:

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16 Responses to Affiliation and the Good Cause

  1. Megan G on August 8, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    International Children’s Legal Aid, http://www.internationalchildrenslegalaid.org/

  2. Kent Larsen on August 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks, Megan.

  3. Jax on August 8, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    You left off “Jax’s fund to send his children to college” :)

  4. Brandon on August 8, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Thanks for the list. Here is one to add:

    http://barrelsofhope.org/

    The founders and board members are not LDS, but I am, and I serve as a technical consultant for barrels of hope.

    Cool idea to make a list, yet weird that affiliation matters.

  5. queuno on August 8, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    It’s a nice list. My father’s funeral is Friday and while he didn’t have a charity to donate to, he donated his time to the Boy Scouts of America and picked as a charity for people who might otherwise send flowers.

  6. Cameron N. on August 9, 2011 at 1:27 am

    I think that one reason affiliation matters when giving is that it is easier to give to an organization you already trust, rather than having to do the research (which you mentioned you haven’t done much of). So in one sense, I disagree with the idea that such affiliations are illogical. On the contrary, they are based on simple economic principles like time scarcity (laziness might be a possible synonym).

  7. Kent Larsen on August 9, 2011 at 1:36 am

    Cameron N. (6), you are right — I neglected to discuss that.

    But in other areas, esp. in sports, affiliation is quite arbitrary. For example, how many of the players on the Utah Jazz have any connection to Utah?

  8. sylvia on August 9, 2011 at 5:55 am

    Here’s a general list from Warner Woodworth:
    http://warnerwoodworth.com/third-world/other-humanitarian-ngos/

    Guide to giving:
    http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/humanitarian_assistance/disaster_assistance/help/index.html

    Benson Agriculture and Food Institute
    http://www.bensoninstitute.org/

    Unitus
    http://unitus.com/

    Paltech (private sector)
    http://www.pal-tech.com/company/?subsec=23

    Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance
    http://selfreliance.byu.edu/

    Lots of BYU alums at the Millenium Challenge Corporation. Not so many at USAID (where I work).

    I gave a presentation on Mormons and humanitarian work at Exponent last year and most of the discussion centered on the Church’s lack of transparency in using tithing funds.

  9. Naismith on August 9, 2011 at 7:28 am

    You need to add the Jaredita Foundation

    http://jaredita.org/

    which helps LDS families send their kids to elementary school. Since this is a Muslim country and most of the recipients are girls, we are strong supporters.

    “If they are doing good work, then they deserve support regardless. But in reality affiliation matters to many people.”

    Yeah, and I personally think that we should be more involved in work with non-LDS. It is a great form of missionary work, not by actively proselytizing, but setting a good example and having them get to know us.

    I went from being involved with stake public affairs to working in communication for our local League of Women Voters. My white-shirt husband is very supportive of this; as long as I don’t miss the sacrament per se, he has encouraged me to cut out of church for Sunday league meetings, which happened a lot with the previous president, who was Jewish. A few weeks ago, I was at her house on a Sunday, mentioned I had to leave that meeting early to attend church, and somehow it came up which church I attended.

    “But that is the most wonderful congregation!” she said. “I go to [the synagogue across the street] and we always park there for high holy days. The rabbi always thanks you guys, but a few years back, he said that you had rescheduled a scouting activity so that we could have the parking lot? What good neighbors!”

    So this kinda seems like a two-fer, good for the community and good for missionary work, too.

  10. H.Bob on August 9, 2011 at 10:59 am

    I was recently made aware of Tippingbucket.org.
    Also, Deseret Book has Chapters of Hope (http://deseretbook.com/chaptersofhope), which gets books in the hands of third-world children.

  11. Researcher on August 9, 2011 at 11:38 am

    You’ll want to add a well-known charity, the Children’s Miracle Network. It’s based in Salt Lake City and was founded by members of the Osmond family and others.

    Also, you may want to add a note about how to check the status of charities: one of the most useful sites is http://www.charitynavigator.org. It provides everything from ratings based on a four-star system to IRS Form 990 information.

  12. Barb on August 9, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    That is a great list! I see the person above mentioning Children’s Miracle Network. My company is constantly having fund raisers for them. As our General Manager has said, they can always use more money.

  13. Ken on August 9, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    queuno: “It’s a nice list. My father’s funeral is Friday and while he didn’t have a charity to donate to, he donated his time to the Boy Scouts of America and picked as a charity for people who might otherwise send flowers.”

    Condolences on your loss.

  14. ThomG on August 10, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Elevita — http://www.elevita.com/ — was founded by Kirsten and Keyne Monson who were in our ward several years ago. See also http://daretodream.typepad.com/weblog/2010/11/kirsten-monson-elevita-or-lifting-lives.html

  15. Jennie on August 12, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    Family to Family Humanitarian Expeditions
    http://www.ffhe.org/home
    lets people develop personal connections with families in Mexico. And helps them improve their homes with concrete floors, etc.

  16. Kent Larsen on August 13, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Thanks to all who have added organizations to the list. I still hope to learn about others, and I encourage readers to investigate the above (and, really, any solid charity) to the end of helping to meet the charge of being our brother’s keeper.