I gave $5 to the Wikimedia Foundation a few days ago. It’s silly, to be honest. I mean, what difference does $5 make? What can the fifth largest website in the world do with $5? Practically nothing.
Except, if you believe them, they can do so much with my $5, because I’m not the only one giving $5. That’s as much as an American spends on a coffee and tip at their local coffee shop. It’s as much as we spend on an e-book — even The Outcast Earl will cost you more when it’s released next week. I know very well that $5 can feed a child a day in my daughter’s elementary school — $5 will buy both a hot breakfast and a hot lunch.
Still, Wikipedia is an important project by people and for people. Maybe it isn’t saving the world from AIDS or funding water wells in Africa, but it facilitates access to information and it represents a living, developing history of humanity. It is a place where humankind deposits its knowledge and has free reign to retrieve it if we are so inclined. It expresses both our understanding of science, and our tendency to err in favor of positions, politics, and persons for whom we collectively care. It’s a virtual repository of the human mind, and a fascinating one that is available to anyone who can access the Internet.
So here’s the deal. The Outcast Earl will be released for general sales in SEVEN DAYS. That’s right – one week from today. YES I’m excited. THRILLED.
In gratitude and excitement, I’m pledging to donate 10% of my writing income to worthy causes. I doubt I’ll be providing any sort of public documentation about my income, as it happens. That’s the sort of thing that belongs between me, my husband, and our accountant. I don’t know how exactly I’m going to report back to the world in good conscience, except to say that I’ve kept my word and contributed to a list of causes readers may or may not care for.
Those causes will include ones that mean something to me personally: my local Second Harvest food bank through Feeding America and Imagine No Malaria. I also have a soft spot (i.e. personal interest) in recovery efforts from natural disasters, initiatives in providing art and music to the public and particularly children. There’s Art Square 2012 (turning Times Square from an advertising space to an exhibition space) and Scarleteen (an online non-profit dedicated to providing free, accurate, and safe sex information to adolescents).
Not every cause is a giant corporation. Many are small, underfunded charities with narrow scopes and achievable goals. I like those. In California, we are able to buy gift cards for charity from Causes.com (operated by Network for Good), which allows the user to give $25 or $50 to any one of ONE MILLION non-profit projects and charities. I bought one today as a Christmas gift for someone I care about. I didn’t buy it so that he could go out and spend $50 on science books or Colombian coffee or Sonoma Valley wine or Omaha steaks. I bought it and gifted it so that he could help make the world a better place. I want to do that, too — make the world a better place.
Let’s face it, though. Romance novels don’t feed the hungry, clothe the destitute, or provide school supplies or HIV medications for the poor.
What better way can I have the best of both worlds, then, other than to give away part of something I love doing?
In the comments below, name (and link to) your favorite non-profit / charity. Tell me why you love it so much. Every commenter will be entered automatically in a contest to win a free copy of The Outcast Earl (.pdf or Kindle). The winner will be announced and the gift available on December 10. Be sure to include a valid e-mail in the comment information (or log in with your WordPress account) so that I can contact you if you win.