Earth Day Assignment: Donations for Trees

My cousin just offered me a unique opportunity. He asked me a question about charities. It being Earth Day, he wanted to donate money to plant a tree. But he didn’t know where to start. Since I also blog about environmental issues, he asked if I could help him out. I love researching, and have lots of recent experience in online researching, so I said of course! I imagine reference librarians go through a similar process, although I haven’t taken the course yet… All in all, a very fun and rewarding experience.

I’ve copied the post (and his comments and follow-up questions and my answers) below: 

The criteria: an organization that takes donations with a low overhead percentage; an organization that will plant a tree for donations.

1. First, there’s always Google. American Forests allows donations to plant trees where they are needed most, and for specific causes (see the drop-down menu). According to the second option, every dollar donated plants one tree. Each option has a brief description of the project. Their 2007 report, found here, states that they give grants to 35 partners to restore forest ecosystems by planting millions of trees. So not only do you know that your money is going to tree-planting, you know specifically for which project the tree will be planted. If you’re worried about your rights as a donor, look here for their Donor Bill of Rights.

2. Here’s another option (that doesn’t necessarily fit the criteria but might be interesting nonetheless): Volunteer to plant trees in your area. Like Denver. If you plant a tree by yourself, instead of with the Mile High Million (see previous link), you can still register your tree, and make it count towards the million trees that make up the organization’s goal. An organization that includes tree planting as part of a different range of activities is Boulder Mountainbike Alliance.

3. Googling a “city” with “tree planting charities” leads to an interesting notion – look up charities in the local yellow pages or online equivalent, and contact a local tree-planting organization. I know Washington, D.C. hosts an organization called Casey Trees, where volunteers plant trees in the city, to restore the city’s tree canopy. They gratefully accept donations, and although unlike American Forests, do not plant specific trees for your donation, you will know that your money supports tree-planting. You can also donate a large amount ($550) to have a commemorative tree planted specially.

In Canada, you can donate to Tree Canada, where you can designate which program you want your money to assist, and Trees Ontario, where your donation will support the tree-planting infrastructure. With the second, your money may not be used specifically for planting a tree, but you’ll know you’re supporting tree-planting in general, and it won’t be difficult to imagine that special tree your money planted.

To conclude, the first option is probably easiest, with the others requiring slightly more investigation and hands-on action, but they’re all viable options for donating trees and money for tree-planting. It should go without saying that the closer you are to the tree-planting or the organization that is doing the planting, the more input and feedback you’ll have about what your money achieved.

His response, and follow-up question:

Thanks for the input!
I tried a google search similar to your first recommendation, and while I didn’t find anything similar, I suppose maybe I didn’t know what I was looking for.
I have another question: is there somewhere that reports on the progress and actions of different charities as an objective 3rd party? Not like I’ll be donating tens of thousands of dollars, but I would like to support organizations that have a record of doing what they say they will.

My answers:

Hm. Well, like I mentioned in the blurb about American Forests, you can look at their annual report and see how they use their money in general. As for a third-party… it appears that the BBB reports on national charities. The link shows you the American Forests general info and report. I’m not sure if there is an equivalent for state charities, but you might try your state government website for more clues.

You can also search news articles for them, if you want more info, but this would probably be labor-intensive.

After another brief search:

Aha! does have a listing of Non-Profit and Charity Evaluators, here.


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