On this page, I have collected resources related to social responsibility, including information on socially-responsible investing, charitable organizations, and volunteering. I hope you find them useful! Contents:
- Socially responsible mutual funds
- Socially responsible clothing
- Worthwhile organizations including how to reduce junk mail, phone calls, and email
- Charitable organization ratings
- Teaching English as a Second Language
Socially Responsible Mutual Funds
Here are some sites for learning about funds and socially responsible investing:
- Green America (formerly Co-Op America), whose site includes information about socially-responsible investing
- Natural Investments, which includes the NI Social Rating ("Heart Rating") for funds
If you are interested in environmentally-responsible investing, you might also want to read The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, by Michael Brower and Warren Leon, which carefully examines (in great depth) the environmental impact of nearly everything we do as a society, and suggests ways to reduce that impact.
Socially Responsible Clothing
Most of the clothing available in regular retail stores in the developed world is made by people who do not have basic worker rights or who are not earning a living wage. Here are some resources for finding alternatives:
- Green America's Responsible Shopper web site, where you can look up specific brands and see how they rate
- CorpWatch, with information about corporate social responsibility
- Specific retailers that look interesting to me:
These are non-profit groups that I am a member of, or donate time or money to, because I think they are doing worthwhile things. Check them out!
- Literacy Source - offers ESL classes and individual literacy tutoring in Seattle (I used to volunteer with them when I lived in Seattle)
- American Red Cross - I also used to volunteer with the Seattle chapter's "Language Bank" service, which offers free or low cost volunteer interpreters and translators for individuals and community organizations in over 70 languages
- Human Rights Watch - monitors the world-wide human rights situation and advocates for making it better
- Real Change - publishes a weekly newspaper sold by Seattle's poor and homeless
- The Nature Conservancy - preserves natural spaces, habitat, and ecosystems
- Washington Trails Association - organizes volunteer trail maintenance on Washington State trails and maintains trail descriptions and trail reports on its web site
- Adventure Cycling Association - promotes and facilitates bicycling in the US
- Bike Works - provides bicycling-related youth programs in Seattle and recycles bicycles
- Seattle Chamber Music Society - puts on a chamber music festival every summer and mini-festival every winter
Charitable Organization Ratings
The following web sites rate charitable organizations -- also check your local public library for handbooks, and you might want to search the web for news stories about an organization before deciding to donate.
- Charity Watch publishes a (print) rating guide to charities. Their web site lists top-rated groups for various categories of charitable organizations, top salaries, and other information. Their ratings are based on the percentage of money that goes to programs, their cost of raising funds, and their "neediness", or number of years their assets could sustain their programs. You can also order a sample of their rating guide on their web site.
- BBB Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau offers reports on national charities on their web site. Their reports include information on the cost of raising funds, where money is going, and compensation of the chief executive of the charity.
- GuideStar offers a searchable on-line database of information about non-profits, and suggestions on how to find an appropriate organization to donate to. The free information available is fairly limited.
- Charity Navigator offers ratings based on expenditures, revenues, and financial history of organizations, and compares organizations' financial picture to their peers.
If you are interested in volunteering in Latin America, or anywhere else overseas, I strongly recommend you start by reading How to Live your Dream of Volunteering Overseas, by Joseph Collins, Stefano DeZerega, and Zahara Hecksher (Penguin Books). It has general information about what you might experience, as well as information on many groups that you might want to contact. Here are a few links to organizations and web sites:
- Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (CIS). I spent a couple of months volunteering with them in Jan-Mar 2000, and would highly recommend it. They also offer Spanish classes with a socio-cultural understanding focus.
- Transitions Abroad, a magazine, lists a bunch of opportunities in various parts of the world
- WorldTeach, has opportunities to teach English as a second language around the world, including an ecotourism training program where you could teach ESL in Yucatan and Honduras
- NicaNet, with info on volunteering in Nicaragua
- Global Service Corps
- Idealist.org, which lists volunteer and non-profit employment opportunities all over the world
- If you can translate written materials from one language to another, you might consider volunteering with Translations for Progress or Kiva. Kiva also offers opportunities to travel as an overseas "Kiva Fellow" volunteer.
- Help Exchange (HelpX) - a site for finding short-term volunteer work in exchange for food and lodging
- Workaway - another site for finding temporary work in exchange for lodging
- WWOOF - a site for finding temporary work on organic farms in exchange for lodging
- Volunteer Match
- Teach for America, which places college graduates in distressed schools to teach. I know several people who have had great experiences teaching with them.