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Holiday Gifts For White Plains With An Environmental Twist

Chipping Sparrow on a Christmas tree.
Chipping Sparrow on a Christmas tree. Photo Credit: Distant Hill Gardens

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Are you racking your brain for that perfect holiday gift? Dreading the thought of wading into the masses of last minute shoppers?  Want to make your gift recipient feel virtuous?  How about making a gift to a worthy environmental organization?

There are countless environmental non-profits that deserve your generosity.  Many of these groups would not exist without private donations.  But, before your click on the “donation” button on a non-profit’s website, do a little due diligence so your hard-earned money goes where you want it to.

Two useful online sources you can use to check out non-profits include Guidestar and Charity Navigator.

Wondering what to look for?  Here are some of the most important things to check out:

  • Is the non-profit appropriately registered with the IRS?  This will typically be a 501(c)(3) registration.
  • What is the organization’s mission? Is that what you or your giftee want to support?
  • Does the non-profit have a good rating and/or good reviews?
  • Do they spend most of their money on programs, not on administrative costs and salaries?

Guidestar is used by many institutional supporters.  They have a paid premium subscription but you can get a great deal of information for free, including whether the group is registered with the IRS as a non-profit, their mission statement, financial reports, and donor reviews.

You can search Guidestar for categories, including “Environment and Animals.”  This search results in seven sub-categories including: “Beautification and Horticulture,”  “Conservation and Environmental Education,” etc.  Guidestar covers non-profits of many different sizes.  Click here for an example of their entry for the Xerces Society.

Charity Navigator is more geared to individual donors. They cover mostly larger non-profits and do not have as many small charities as Guidestar does. You can search based on categories including “Environment.”  The results for “Environment” include: 270 “Environmental Protection and Conservation” and 109 “Botanical Gardens, Parks and Nature Centers.”

Charity Navigator provides rating scores on a scale up to 100 – an easy way to evaluate important information like financial accountability.  Some of the features on their website require that you sign up, but it’s free.  Click here for an example of their entry for the Pollinator Partnership.

There are many large, national non-profits but don’t forget to include local and regional organizations on your list.

Need some suggestions of environmental non-profits to donate to?  Some of the national groups I give to include: the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the Xerces Society, Pollinator Partnership, Beyond Pesticides and the Audubon Society.

For even more ideas, here are some lists of environmental non-profits:

A Guide to Environmental Non-Profits from Mother Jones.

25 Environmental Agencies and Organizations from Web Ecoist.

Links to Environmental Groups from National Resource Defense Council.

And, while you are making donations as gifts for others, why not make a few year-end donations for yourself?

Happy holidays from Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!

Kim Eierman, a resident of Bronxville, is an environmental horticulturist and Founder of EcoBeneficial . When she is not speaking, writing, or consulting about ecological landscapes, she teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, The Native Plant Center and Rutgers Home Gardeners School.

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