It's the most wonderful, bizarre time of the year. The holidays, like nearly everything else, look different this year amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with far fewer gay happy meetings and friends coming to call — but there are still ways to make it the hap-happiest season of all.
Hopefully you've already shopped small (okay, we'll stop with the rhyming now) — which means your gift may be delayed, due to an overwhelmed, understaffed USPS. If you're looking for something to lift a loved one's spirits last minute, donating on their behalf is a thoughtful way to pay it forward and help support a cause near and dear to one's heart. Below, we've rounded up a non-comprehensive list of suggestions to help get you started.
For the Person Who Misses Live Shows
If you normally would have bought tickets to a Broadway show for a friend, this year consider a donation instead, to make sure the show will go on once it’s safe to do so. Founded in 1882, the Actors Fund works to provide for those in the entertainment world. Offering services such as emergency financial assistance, affordable housing, health care and insurance counseling, it is a crucial resource for those in the arts community who have been deeply impacted by the production pauses brought on by the pandemic.
For the Friend with a List of “Must Try” Restaurants
With so many charities and individual funds set up to support restaurants and the service industry, it’s impossible to pick just one. Whether you choose to donate directly to your local haunt’s staff fund or to one of these larger organizations, you’re helping to secure a future where you and your friend can enthusiastically agree to split the two entrées you each have your eye on — a particular delight of dining out in good company.
World Central Kitchen/WCK.org
José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen has been feeding communities in the wake of natural disasters for years — and in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the foundation created #ChefsForAmerica to help keep restaurants afloat by commissioning them to cook for communities in need.
The James Beard Foundation has launched a number of campaigns and funds to support the service industry. The Open for Good campaign is focused on reopening and rebuilding the restaurant industry after the devastation the pandemic has wrought, while the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans strives to provide financial resources for Black or Indigenous-owned restaurants and bars.
For the Frequent Flyer
While international travel is still largely on hold due to the ongoing pandemic, there is one heartwarming way to use up any soon-to-expire frequent flyer miles on your account: donate them! United Airlines has partnered with Miles4Migrants.org, which works with nonprofits to identify refugees or asylum-seekers who have received legal travel approval but don’t have the means to purchase a flight. Don't have United miles? You can still help — the organization also accepts miles or credit vouchers from most major airlines. Any world traveler knows how life-changing a flight can be — so the opportunity to gift the flight of a lifetime is one that shouldn’t be passed up.
For the Dive Bar Regular
We all miss going out, bending too close together to shout into a friend or date's ear over the music, tasting their drink to see if that's the one you want, too. Pick the pal who’s most reliably down to grab a happy hour cocktail and donate to the USBG National Charity Foundation’s Bartender Emergency Assistance Program (BEAP) in their honor, helping to support bartenders across the country.
For the Dumpling Hoarder
We all have one friend with a freezer full of dumplings, bought en masse from their favorite local Chinatown spot. In addition to adding to that stockpile, a donation to Send Chinatown Love would make a wonderful gift. Send Chinatown Love was launched early on in the pandemic in order to aid small, Asian-owned businesses that were being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and racist sentiments. The initiative focuses on cash-only businesses — primarily in New York City’s Chinatown — that don’t have an online presence and aren’t able to use most app delivery services, and are therefore at a particular disadvantage. To date, they’ve raised nearly $125,000, distributed among 22 merchants, many of whom are then paying it forward by donating meals to those in need.
For the Activist
It’s been a particularly turbulent year — to say the least — between the pandemic, the presidential election and the social justice movement sparked by George Floyd’s death at the hands of police. There are a wide range of nonprofits that you can support, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which was founded in 1920 and works in courts and communities to defend the rights of every citizen.
For the Teacher-Turned-Zoom-Pro
While what most teachers really need is a year-long vacation at this point, the gesture of supporting an organization like Donors Choose will go a long way with anyone who’s been tasked with instructing via Zoom or socially distanced classes this year. The website allows you to browse through public school projects and donate to help fund one of your choice. Donors get a heartwarming thank-you note from the teacher, along with photos of the project in process and a rundown of what supplies the money provided.