Somewhere between the spirit of giving inspired by the holiday season and this being the last chance to do any tax write-offs sits a perfect storm for the flurry of donations that go toward charitable organizations at the end of each year.
This year, with uncertainty over how social service organizations will fare in a new presidential administration and a disconcerting rise in anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic rhetoric around the country, there’s an even more urgent push toward making sure groups that provide support and advocacy for the most marginalized among us have the funding they need.
Choosing where to give is going to vary with each person depending on what they’re really passionate about, but here’s a list of organizations doing work to ensure we don’t leave anybody behind.
Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA) isn’t just any youth arts program. The North Minneapolis institution empowers young people through training and opportunities in the arts, investing in the community in meaningful and often innovative ways.
The heart of their mission is nurturing of the creative genius of youth. They do that through classes that teach the basics of art, both in practice and in theory, and also through their programming for high school students designed to give them a firm grounding in artistic careers.
Led by DeAnna and Roger Cummings, JXTA provides apprenticeship programs for young artists to train in areas such as design, contemporary fine art, public art and more. In these labs, the youth get not just arts training but also a chance to earn wages while learning skills that will help them build a future career in the arts.
JXTA demonstrates its commitment to North Minneapolis by collaborating with local businesses and organizations, beautifying spaces and growing the wealth of knowledge and skills needed to improve the neighborhood through the young people that live there.
A lack of affordable housing is a huge factor contributing to Minnesota’s homelessness problem. According to Wilder Research, 41 percent of homeless adults are on a waitlist for subsidized housing, and another 14 percent can’t get on a waitlist because it’s closed.
That’s why resources such as Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative are so important.
Once known as Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation, Beacon is now made up of 87 different congregations, all committed to ending homelessness through its housing program, the Families Moving Forward shelter program and public advocacy.
Since their first housing development opened in 2003, Beacon has housed nearly 800 men, women, children and youth, and they’ve built or preserved 473 homes, more than half of which have supportive services that help people get out of homelessness. They currently serve 75 families each year and have a goal of creating 1,000 affordable homes by 2020.
Uniquely, Beacon has initiated housing developments targeted at teenagers and young adults, many who have been through the foster care system.
The first, Nicollet Square, opened in 2010, and it has 42 studio apartments. Prior Crossing, with 44 studios for formerly homeless youth, opened this fall, and Beacon has a third building in the works in Edina.
In addition, Beacon’s housing developments reach a variety of populations, including families with young children, single adults, elders, refugees, students and others.
Fartun Weli has a bit of a knack for sussing out need within the Somali community.
In 2010, after experiencing infertility, Weli founded Isuroon, a non- profit that was aimed at addressing the needs of Somali women who struggled with reproductive issues.
Since then, the nonprofit has expanded to provide a wide array of culturally competent support around women’s health.
Last summer, Weli went after another need for Somali women and families and opened a Halal food shelf. Weli found the Somali community was underserved in this area and went about making it happen.
There were many hoops to jump through, such as getting a city ordinance changed to allow food shelves in commercial areas, but that wasn’t the worst. After Isuroon opened the new food shelf last summer, it was targeted by fake news sites that posted false information about the nonprofit. It was subjected to death threats, as well.
Despite this negative reaction by some, Isuroon continues to do the good work of keeping Somali families healthy and nurtured.
The PFund Foundation was founded in mid-1980s in the midst of the AIDS crisis affecting primarily gay men.
A lot has changed since then, both for the organization and for the LGBTQ population as a whole, but what remains the same is PFund’s commitment to making sure that people in the community not only live free from discrimination but also thrive.
The foundation invests in leaders from LGBTQ and allied communities in a variety of fields — including the arts, education, the nonprofit sector and more — who do outstanding work in eradicating homophobia and transphobia and in improving lives.
They currently pay particular attention to LGBTQ populations that experience acute marginalization, including people of color, Indigenous populations, first-generation immigrants and trans communities. The foundation also works with LGBTQ people in North and South Dakota, where there are less robust legal protections against discrimination.
Using an intentionally transparent decision-making process involving a committee of volunteers, PFund awards grants as well as scholarships that can go toward academic programs or leadership development opportunities, giving new tools to people doing good work.
They also take care to act as a bridge between their grantees, donors and funders, facilitating partnership opportunities and projects that utilize collaboration within the greater LGBTQ sphere.
With anti-Muslim rhetoric at a fever pitch these days, consider a donation to the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American- Islamic Relations.
They take protecting civil rights seriously, with emphasis on ensuring that American Muslims are able to live free from profiling, discrimination and hate crimes.
Part of a national group that has 35 offices nationwide and in Canada, CAIR-MN provides legal services for Muslims and others who have experienced religious discrimination, defamation or hate crimes.
They lobby on behalf of Islamic interests at the state capitol, work with local media to make sure the Muslim community is portrayed accurately and without stereotypes and promote a grassroots response to critical issues.
In addition, CAIR-MN conducts research relevant to the American Muslim community, especially related to civil rights, and has put out publications such as “The North American Muslim Resource Guide: Muslim Community Life in the United States and Canada.”
CAIR-MN has won numerous awards for their advocacy, research and education work from organizations such as the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, the St. Paul Foundation and the St. Cloud Times, among others, and continues its work making sure that Muslims living in Minnesota get the same rights as everyone else.
Community development is a cornerstone of healthy communities, and Twin Cities LISC has been doing the work for over 25 years.
Initially focused on creating affordable housing, Twin Cities LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) has since expanded into a multi-pronged approach, partnering with nonprofits, government entities and businesses to create opportunities in education, healthcare and childcare.
The organization develops affordable, mixed-use and supportive housing, supports commercial development, initiates projects that create healthy amenities in neighborhoods and promotes engagement with neighbors.
Focusing on high poverty neighborhoods in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, as well as one neighborhood in Hopkins, Twin Cities LISC does everything from reviving vacant storefronts to providing job training for people with low incomes.
Other initiatives include creating green spaces and community gardens, providing financial coaching to build assets within struggling communities and much more.
Twin Cities LISC has also embraced creative placemaking as a key tool in reviving neighborhoods, bringing businesses and neighbors together with a goal of making their communities more vibrant.
When she’s not battling it out in the Minnesota Legislature or teaching in St. Catherine University’s Master of Arts in Holistic Health Studies program, Karen Clark heads the Women’s Environmental Institute on a volunteer basis, along with her partner, Jacquelyn Zita, also a prominent women’s studies scholar.
Their background in women’s studies drives the mission of the organization, which seeks to spread knowledge about environmental issues and policies that are relevant to women, children and communities particularly affected by environmental injustice.
The institute hosts workshops, retreats and trainings on sustainable agriculture for emerging farmers and developers, runs a CSA (community supported agriculture) program and advocates around environmental justice policy.
Affiliated with the highly acclaimed Growing Power organization based in Milwaukee, Women’s Environmental Institute also nurtures and supports partner organizations, particularly within the native community.
The institute promotes education about healthy food and gardens and helps to facilitate local community gardens, including one in the Little Earth urban housing complex in South Minneapolis and Mashkiikii Gitigan (Ojibwe for “medicine garden”), built in 2013 on a formerly contaminated vacant lot in the Phillips neighborhood.
Wonderful schools, beautiful lakes and bike paths to put other states to shame are just some of the reasons Minnesota tends to top lists every year of great places to live. That is, if you happen to be white.
The unpleasant truth of our state, and of the Twin Cities in particular, is that we have some of the worst racial disparities in the country.
Voices for Racial Justice takes the problem head-on, focusing their mission on tackling the gaps between white people and people of color in our community.
Among their notable initiatives include a yearly Racial Equity Agenda document outlining priorities that will benefit communities of color and native communities at the policy level.
They also put out a legislative report card so that voters can keep track of lawmakers who make decisions in line with equitable progress.
Taking on issues such as education, economic opportunity, health, criminal justice and public transportation, the organization does the important work of figuring out the nooks and crannies where, as a community, we can be making substantive changes to create a more equitable place to live.
No child should be deprived of the gift of reading, and that’s why nonprofits like the Minnesota Reading Corps work tirelessly to make sure young people don’t slip through the cracks.
An initiative of ServeMinnesota, Minnesota Reading Corps tasks participants of the AmeriCorps program with reaching out to children between age three and grade three to ensure they become proficient readers.
Their approach is rooted in evidence-based best practices, meaning the organization monitors the effectiveness of their work through research and assessments.
The well-trained AmeriCorps volunteers give young people one-on-one attention, an approach that allows the volunteers to meet the individual needs of the students they are working with.
The results are hard to argue with.
Independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago found students who were tutored by Minnesota Reading Corps achieved higher literacy levels than those without tutors, and the impact was even greater among high-risk students.
Annually, the organization reaches about 30,000 students at 900 preschool and elementary school sites around the state.
Right now, the world is facing the worst humanitarian crisis in a generation. With millions of Syrian refugees displaced from their homes, the time is now for the international community to step up and take action.
For Minnesotans, it’s painful to see the horrendous images in the news of children dying and families being torn apart. At the same time, it’s not always easy to know where to send money to help those in need.
The American Refugee Committee (ARC) has gotten very high ratings from independent sources that track the accountability and transparency of charitable organizations.
The American Institute of Philanthropy gave ARC an A+ rating for their work, while Charity Navigator gave them a score of 95 out of 100. From Uganda to Somalia and from Rwanda to Thailand, ARC has years of experience helping people survive conflict and crisis and to rebuild their lives.
ARC has the experience and knowledge to take on the current emergency the world faces. Contributing to ARC is a part of standing together as a global community to help those in some of the most dire situations.
Think of Planned Parenthood as the bastion of defense for women’s health care.
For women without insurance, it’s the place they can go to receive everything from life-saving cancer screenings to routine physical checkups.
For over 100 years, the national organization of Planned Parenthood has been educating women on their reproductive options to keep them healthy, safe and able to make the best decisions about their bodies and their families.
Planned Parenthood has been controversial because they provide abortions, but their work has actually helped to keep abortions to a minimum by making sure every woman — no matter her financial situation — is able to access safe and effective contraception.
The organization has also done important work staving off sexually transmitted diseases, which have shown to skyrocket in areas like southeastern Indiana when clinics were shuttered a few years ago.
It turns out giving women the tools to plan their families and make safe and healthy choices is the best option in the long run for everyone.
Your donation will get divided equally to support the regional Planned Parenthood and the national organization, which helps to put pressure nationwide on lawmakers to protect this important institution.
Protecting the rights of individuals is paramount to any working democracy, and luckily our forefathers didn’t forget to add a Bill of Rights to our Constitution.
Today, there’s no greater champion of free speech and other personal rights than the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Minnesota chapter has been around since 1952, engaging in litigation and public education and lobbying on behalf of Minnesotans for over four decades.
It’s a non-partisan organization, meaning they’ll valiantly defend anyone’s civil liberties, even if that person has objectionable views. That’s part of the reason the organization is so essential.
Besides freedom of speech, the ACLU currently outlines a number of key areas of focus, including voting rights, racial justice, fairness in the criminal justice system, immigrants, youth, LGBT rights, privacy rights and more.
Some of their recent work includes a mobile app that can be used to upload videos of police misconduct, litigation against law enforcement agencies involved in the death of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile and a successful lawsuit against the ban on transgender surgeries for medical assistance recipients.