Black Friday shopping is the perfect time to support your favorite causes

For those willing to open their wallets, Black Friday presents an unusually impactful opportunity to do just that.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
US Marines in dress uniform stand with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh at the Toys for Tots headquarters on the waterfront during a press conference in Boston.

One positive development emerging in the wake of an ultra-contentious presidential election is the surge in people who want to contribute to social good, however they're able. For those willing to open their wallets, Black Friday presents an unusually impactful opportunity to do just that.

This isn't going to be a list of things you can buy for yourself with a portion of proceeds going to charity. Nope. Today we're talking about actually setting up charities and nonprofits with the tools they need to do their work. During these Black Friday sales, many of those tools will be at their lowest prices of the year.

So why not just give them cash? You can, of course, and please don't hesitate to donate money to your favorite causes. If you want to provide something more specific, though, don't be afraid to check in with them to ask what they need. The benefit is doubled – the nonprofit you choose gets something they need, and you get the satisfaction of knowing exactly what your donation is providing.

When Being Black at School founder Kelly Hurst spotted an Etsy vendor selling a $335 safety pin necklace and promising to donate only 5% of proceeds to charity, she had some very pointed thoughts about it.

"That's less than $20," she noted. "Go get a gift card from OfficeMax or Staples and send that [instead] so people like me can buy all the external hard-drives we need."

When I read that, my first thought was of all of the portable hard drives that are going to be on sale next week, and that we knew exactly where to find the best deals on them which could save her organization a small bundle money while it's still just getting off the ground.

You can spend too much money on a necklace, or you can buy a portable hard drive that has a real immediate impact for those actually putting in the work. And it just so happens to be the best time of year to do that.

Talk about a light bulb moment. That conversation is why this story exists.

The very first thing every nonprofit told us when we reached out was that gift cards were basically the best. For Being Black at School, it was OfficeMax that immediately came to mind. At Better Bites, gift cards for local grocery stores were the go-to item. That makes resellers like Raise, where you can buy gift cards at a discount, a great option for getting more for your dollar.

Many nonprofits also have Amazon wish lists that their patrons can buy from, and that's what we're focusing on the most in this article: Find out what nonprofits need, and then filling that need at the lowest price possible. Amazon is typically pretty aggressive about price matching its major competitors, so chances are pretty good that the price on an Amazon wishlist is already the lowest price available, but you'll want to check around just in case.

The bottom line here is that if budget-conscious nonprofits need stuff, then leveraging Black Friday sales to make that budget stretch makes sense. And the same goes for cash-strapped patrons.

The three nonprofits we highlight below are just a sliver of the good work being done in communities all across the country. Find the organizations that are doing work you care about, and reach out to ask them what they need. Whatever they need most, you'll probably find it on sale in the Black Friday ads. (And if you don't see it there, ask us!)

#1: Being Black at School

Former public school guidance dean Kelly Hurst founded Being Black at School to focus on helping schools discuss and address the many ways – large, small and often subconscious – that black students are at a disadvantage compared to their white peers in the classroom. To say this work is both important and tricky is an understatement.

"As a startup business I'm working on a shoestring budget while creating content that can be delivered in person and online," Hurst told us. "With the donations we have coming in right now we're using it to build the business, provide some web security for ourselves since we're an advocacy group, and we're in need of some resources. Since we all work from home, this list provides supporters with ways in which we can do the work and be safe."

The Amazon wish list Hurst refers to includes items that range from over ear stereo headsets for online conference calls to encryptable USB devices and more than a few books about race and multiculturalism in education. Much of it is likely to be heavily discounted during next week's Black Friday sales, whether at Amazon, Best Buy, or other retailers.

#2: Better Bites St. Croix Valley

Karyn English founded Better Bites after realizing that many items at community food pantries are left on the shelves because patrons don't know how or what to cook with them.

"If you're living on food stamps and food shelf donations, waste means you might not eat," said English, who holds a Masters in Public Health and certificate in Health Education and Promotion. "If you don't know how to cook, the thought of ruining a meal could be a huge deterrent to trying."

Better Bites takes food shelf clients through a program that introduces them to twenty vegetables and five lean proteins, teaching them how to cook meals for their families using slow cookers. Along with the slow cookers on their Amazon wishlist, clients get a kitchen starter kit that includes two cutting boards, a knife, three storage containers, measuring cups and spoons, and two serving spoons — all of which will be at the best prices of the year next week at retailers like Walmart and Kohl's.

#3: Toys for Tots

While the previous two nonprofits we highlighted are small, Toys for Tots is large, well-organized, and ubiquitous during the holiday shopping season. Sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corp, this national-but-local toy drive ensures that children of less fortunate families receive Christmas gifts. All donations are distributed in or near the communities where they're received.

The mission statement on their website reads, in part, "The objectives of Toys for Tots are to help less fortunate children throughout the United States experience the joy of Christmas; to play an active role in the development of one of our nation’s most valuable resources – our children."

The donation needs at Toys for Tots are straightforward: new, unwrapped toys. Of course, the Black Friday ads from Target, Walmart and Toys R Us are brimming with discounted toys, enabling those who wish to donate to buy more than they otherwise might be able.

You can find your local toy drop-off spot here.

This article first appeared on Brad's Deals.

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