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Last-minute gift ideas: Holiday donations

Last-minute gift ideas: Holiday donations

Give early, often and wisely
What do you get for the gay who has everything?

Christmas shopping can be stressful, particularly when you realize you can't remember if those are the same socks you bought your uncle last year or if your aunt already has a pepper grinder shaped like a snowman. Fortunately, there is
one gift that doesn't involve facing down the holiday shopping crowds: a charitable donation made in the recipient's name.

Toronto is home to an array of queer-focused charities. There are arts and cultural organizations like Inside Out and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and charities that provide support to needy queer people like the Lesbian Gay Bi and Trans Youth Line.

"As a charitable organization, it's a tough time. The economy has had a significant impact and we see an increasing need within our community and neighbourhoods," says Maura Lawless, executive director of the 519.

In addition to providing space for more than 160 groups to hold meetings, the 519 runs several programs, including a weekly drop-in and meal service on Sundays for the area's homeless and a support group for queer immigrants and refugees.

Although the 519 receives funding from the City of Toronto and the United Way, Lawless says at least a quarter of its operating budget comes from individual and corporate donors.

The same goes for other queer charities. The Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line — a peer support service for Ontario youth — receives some funding from the Ministry of Health, but fundraising coordinator Lindsay Sweeney says individual donors provide most of the revenue.

Inside Out is well known for its annual film festival, but that's not all it does.

"We do an annual youth project where we mentor youth under 25 through four months of workshops to teach film production," says Inside Out executive director Scott Ferguson. Inside Out also runs a scholarship program for young gay film students.

These organizations are only a few of the many queer-oriented charities and charitable initiatives that deserve your support. Perhaps the best option is to donate to the Community One Foundation, which divides the donations it raises among deserving community-based programs.

"Fundamentally what we do is raise money from communities and individuals to grant out to various [queer] projects," explains Philip Wong, Community One Foundation executive director.

"We fund projects that are started by individuals and small groups of volunteers; we also support mainstream charities that want to do [queer] programming."

Community One's main initiative is the Rainbow Grants Program, which this year helped fund almost 40 projects, including the Hysteria Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Durham Pride Prom and the Pap Test Awareness Project for queer women.

"Jokingly, some people refer to us as the United Gay," says Wong. "But it's that idea of doing the work for people. Sometimes people don't have time to research, and they trust us to grant out their donations to various projects. We all have a lot of stuff, so sometimes helping out a charity is a very meaningful way to enter into the holiday spirit."

All of these charities accept donations over the phone or the web. You can also donate via online giving service CanadaHelps.org.

These options are very safe bets for gay and lesbian people who want to ensure their donations go to help other gay and lesbian people. But if you choose another charity, be sure to do your homework.

Check out the What do you get for the gay who has everything?

Christmas shopping can be stressful, particularly when you realize you can't remember if those are the same socks you bought your uncle last year or if your aunt already has a pepper grinder shaped like a snowman. Fortunately, there is
one gift that doesn't involve facing down the holiday shopping crowds: a charitable donation made in the recipient's name.

Toronto is home to an array of queer-focused charities. There are arts and cultural organizations like Inside Out and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and charities that provide support to needy queer people like the Lesbian Gay Bi and Trans Youth Line.

"As a charitable organization, it's a tough time. The economy has had a significant impact and we see an increasing need within our community and neighbourhoods," says Maura Lawless, executive director of the 519.

In addition to providing space for more than 160 groups to hold meetings, the 519 runs several programs, including a weekly drop-in and meal service on Sundays for the area's homeless and a support group for queer immigrants and refugees.

Although the 519 receives funding from the City of Toronto and the United Way, Lawless says at least a quarter of its operating budget comes from individual and corporate donors.

The same goes for other queer charities. The Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line — a peer support service for Ontario youth — receives some funding from the Ministry of Health, but fundraising coordinator Lindsay Sweeney says individual donors provide most of the revenue.

Inside Out is well known for its annual film festival, but that's not all it does.

"We do an annual youth project where we mentor youth under 25 through four months of workshops to teach film production," says Inside Out executive director Scott Ferguson. Inside Out also runs a scholarship program for young gay film students.

These organizations are only a few of the many queer-oriented charities and charitable initiatives that deserve your support. Perhaps the best option is to donate to the Community One Foundation, which divides the donations it raises among deserving community-based programs.

"Fundamentally what we do is raise money from communities and individuals to grant out to various [queer] projects," explains Philip Wong, Community One Foundation executive director.

"We fund projects that are started by individuals and small groups of volunteers; we also support mainstream charities that want to do [queer] programming."

Community One's main initiative is the Rainbow Grants Program, which this year helped fund almost 40 projects, including the Hysteria Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Durham Pride Prom and the Pap Test Awareness Project for queer women.

"Jokingly, some people refer to us as the United Gay," says Wong. "But it's that idea of doing the work for people. Sometimes people don't have time to research, and they trust us to grant out their donations to various projects. We all have a lot of stuff, so sometimes helping out a charity is a very meaningful way to enter into the holiday spirit."

All of these charities accept donations over the phone or the web. You can also donate via online giving service CanadaHelps.org.

These options are very safe bets for gay and lesbian people who want to ensure their donations go to help other gay and lesbian people. But if you choose another charity, be sure to do your homework.

Check out the Canada Revenue Agency website to see if the charity you're considering is actually registered and in good standing.

And Google a bit to ensure your dollars aren't squandered, or worse, go to an organization with a poor record with gay people.

The Salvation Army, for example, has a long history of homophobia and religious browbeating. Whatever you do, keep your cash out of those kettles. You'd be better off flushing it down the toilet.

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