Throughout the year, I tend to donate to causes that my good friends are spearheading. If they’re going to take the time to spearhead a cause, the least I can do is show my support by throwing a few bucks here and there.
However at the end of each year, around November and December, I think about what I truly value and I find an organization or two that fit a good number of things that I care about. This year, I have two organizations that I am donating to. I’m writing this short post in case any of y’all out there are thinking about places to make end-of-year donations to, and these organizations speak to you in some way.
(1) BEAM: Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics.
This is an organization that I started volunteering for last year. It was created by a friend of mine. The idea is that there are a lot of underserved kids in New York City who like and can do mathematical thinking, but aren’t getting what they need to excel. BEAM is a summer mathcamp for underserved middle school kids. The organization goes out and finds these kids, and then creates a summer program that’s free for them.
The reason the organization focuses on middle school kids is that’s where the most good can happen from an intervention. And these kids who go through the program get support for many years afterwards. It isn’t a “one and done” experience. Often times, kid return to the camp a second year. But more importantly, the organization helps kids navigate the high school admissions process (which is super complicated in NYC), helps them succeed with open office hours where kids can drop by to ask for help with any subject (this is how I help out… I staff the office hours!), and helps to with the college application and financial aid process. It’s a long-term program that has a huge impact on kids. (If you want to learn more about it, this New York Times profile is amazing.)
So yeah. A thoughtful, wonderful, amazing program. I’ve worked with these kids and they rock. Right now donating $1 will bring in $3.14 dollars through a matching campaign. If this organization sounds like it fits your values, and you have some bucks to spare at the end of the year, consider donating!
(2) Twitter Math Camp (TMC/TMathC)
This organization hits close to home for me. This is a math conference that started up in 2012. It was literally the most grassroots thing ever. A bunch of us math teachers who had been communicating online decided we wanted to all meet and do math together… and that morphed into an embryonic conference. A school donated space, people offered to present on things they were doing in their classrooms, and a small conference was born. It has been running every year since, and has been entirely run through volunteer efforts. Schools or colleges donate space. We have people volunteer to present. Organizers (disclosure: I’m an organizer) work out the logistics, while they’re also working/teaching/coaching/etc-ing full time. It’s pretty awesome. And because of the goodwill of all these people, synergy happens. It is an incredible space for math teachers to grow their own practice and forge life-long relationships with other math teachers.
So as an organization, financially, it’s pretty efficient. We only charge a $20 registration fee because we want to keep costs low. But there are costs associated with the conference (e.g. buses from the hotel to the school/university where the conference is held, custodial charges from the school/university, renting a conference room in the hotel for registration and game night, providing supplies for speakers, etc.). Amazingly, with the few thousand we get from the registration fee, we’ve been able to pay for everything.
But for the first time ever, TMC is hosting its first fundraiser (read more about it here) and is asking for donations. And like with BEAM, TMC has a matching donors program, so every $1 donated will actually be worth $2! Now here’s the thing. When deciding to donate my own money to TMC, I had to take a beat. I thought: “Wait, I’m giving my money to a conference. Which I go to and pay hotel fees and transportation fees for. And I’m asking my friends to give money to a conference. A conference they likely are not even going attend. Does this make sense?”
But here’s what I realized… The conference encapsulates things I value. It gives classroom teachers a voice. It creates a space for teachers to share their thoughts, and maybe realize for the first time that their thoughts are useful to others. By having a powerful conference experience (which often lasts far beyond the conference itself through the relationships forged and communication that happens on social media), TMC is having a positive impact on math education for so many students. My donation is going to go to help increase access to educators of colors and seed a scholarship fund to help provide access to the conference for teachers whose schools might not be able to afford it.
I want to help the conference become financially stable and not have to rely on only the the small $20 registration fees it collects. I want to help increase access to the conference for teachers of color and teachers who can’t pay out of pocket and whose schools won’t help them out financially. It isn’t about me and the conference. I’m giving because I want to make sure that this conference can exist for others, and provide for them the same sort of experiences that helped shaped me as a teacher. 
So there you go. I wanted to share these in case you were wanting to donate to some causes, but hadn’t quite hit on the ones that made your heart pitter-patter yet. (Both are non-profits so donations are tax-deductable.) These are the ones that do it for me. And I’d encourage you to give a few bucks if you happen to have them at the end of the year. (You’re probably a teacher if you’re reading this, so you probably don’t have a few bucks to spare, so in that case forget everything you just read!) And if you have any organizations you think I’d be interested in, please throw them in the comments!
 That’s precisely why I give to the mathcamp I attended when I was in high school, and which made such a large impact on me. Or occasionally why I’ll give to my college (even though I don’t usually give a lot because they are pretty darn flush and already have a lot of wealthy donors… I like to give to smaller organizations where I know a small amount of money will help a lot.).
Any good organizations that you know of in Illinois? I’m a future teacher of the state, and I’m looking to volunteer for a couple of organizations once I become fully licensed!
Hmmm. I wish I did, but I don’t. I would ask around some more to local teachers or math organizations — they might have a sense of what’s out there!!!