Arizona is home to some great nonprofits that make a world of difference, from helping the poor to healing the environment. Volunteering your time and giving money are the two most popular ways to support a cause you love. But how do you know which nonprofits are most deserving?
While journalism is my primary skill set, I also have expertise in nonprofit leadership. I’ve served on a number of nonprofit boards and also as an executive director of a direct-service nonprofit supporting the homebound elderly and those who wish to age in place. Because of this training and experience, I’m occasionally asked which nonprofits I think are well-managed and deserving of donors’ time and money, and how my family goes about charitable giving.
Giving time and money to worthy causes is a part of our family culture, but it’s a culture that any family can easily adopt. Every holiday season, the adults in our family give money to our favorite causes rather than buying more stuff we really don’t need. My husband and I also began the tradition of giving our two teenage children $100 each to give to the charity of their choice. We talk about what causes are important to them and go online to research the options together, and then make a donation we can all feel good about. The past two years, my kids have chosen the same charities; my son, who is a die-hard scuba diver and ocean lover, gives to Mission Blue, which supports a handful of marine protected areas. He saw the Netflix documentary, Mission Blue, and it really spoke to him so he feels very good about giving to them. My daughter, who is also passionate about the environment, gives her donation to the Tucson branch of The Center for Biological Diversity. Both of our kids have also volunteered from the time they were old enough to do so, following the example of their grandparents, parents and other close relatives. Some of the charities our family volunteers with include National Charity League and all of the charities they support, Felicia’s Farm and Ben’s Bells in Tucson, Tempe Leadership, Sunshine Acres in Mesa, the Arizona Humane Society and Habitat for Humanity.
I’ve come up with my top five list of Arizona charities whose missions I admire, believe to be well-managed and truly make a difference. Like my kids, these charities reflect my personal values and priorities.
#1 – Chapen Haven West
This wonderful charity is a residential program for young adults with autism spectrum disorders. They are located in Tucson and are a branch campus of the original Chapel Haven facility, which is located in Connecticut. The young adults who attend this program live in an apartment complex together and receive 7-days-a-week programming to help them learn to live independently and eventually move out into the community with minimal support. They truly change people’s lives at the most fundamental level. What’s really cool about Chapel Haven West is their unique partnership with the University of Arizona. More information click here.
#2 – Tempe Community Action Agency
Most major cities have community action programs, and this particular CAP serves Tempe, my hometown. They offer everything from emergency food boxes and utility assistance to home-delivered meals for seniors. When people ask me if I give handouts to panhandlers, I tell them I prefer to refer them to TCAA, where they can get all of the services they need to turn their life around and get off the streets. More information click here.
#3 – Tempe Community Council
This organization serves as the nonprofit arm of the City of Tempe. When you donate to TCC, the funds are pooled and divided among the city’s charities according to the priorities identified annually by the citizens. Citizen volunteers then vet each charity applying for funds and make a final recommendation to the city council for approval. It’s a very fair and democratic process that reflects the community’s priorities. The six broad categories funded by TCC: homelessness, domestic violence, programs for the working poor, programs for the disabled, youth and prevention programs, and senior programs. More information click here.
#4 – Tempe Leadership
I have benefited tremendously from my participation with Tempe Leadership, which is a program of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce Foundation. I graduated from Class 27 and continue to serve on the Board of Directors. Each year, a cohort of adults who live and/or work in Tempe are selected to participate in this 9-month program and learn everything about the city of Tempe and develop their leadership knowledge and potential. Also a fantastic program is Tempe Youth Leadership, which mirrors the adult program, and is designed for teens in their sophomore or junior year of high school; my daughter is a graduate of Class 17. More information click here.
#5 – The Centers for Habilitation
Although their main campus is in Tempe, they serve people with disabilities all over the state of Arizona, providing everything from day programs and group housing to supported employment. These folks help the most desperate and profoundly disabled; without TCH, many of them would have no place to live or any meaningful source of life enrichment. Much of TCH’s funding comes from state contracts, but what the state provides is never enough, so donations often help bridge the gap. More information click here.
What’s your favorite Arizona charity? Let us know in the comments so we can all support the great nonprofits in our communities.