A Tribute to Robin Williams, a Comedian and Philanthropist: Crazy Charities Worth Your Time

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” - Robin Williams


Robin Williams, or arguably the comedian of the century, made people laugh, cry and pee in their pants.  Known for his role and voice in  Mrs. Doubtfire, or for more serious roles such as his performance in drama, "Good Will Hunting," Williams surely left a mark on the American film industry that will echo for years to come.

Williams used his "own madness" not to slow him down, but to touch the world, all through humor.

While this blog post was originally supposed to be about encouraging people to explore new philanthropic opportunities and get the wheels spinning in their heads, I have decided to dedicate the following as a tribute to Robin Williams, a man who took life seriously, but never himself.

Lately, I have been extremely convicted about my need to take care of the poor and the needy as stated in James 1:27 (NIV)("Pure religion, undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world") and several other places in the Bible that I will share about in my next post.

At lunch, last week my co-worker and I began talking about charities to donate to when she told me the following.  This post takes a comedic spin on doing something nice for other people and tells you what you probably otherwise didn't know about crazy places you could give your money to.  And crazy they are.

Read, enjoy and have a laugh.  Robin Williams would want it that way.  A man of many talents, but most importantly his heart, Williams used his talents to not only entertain on the big screen, but to meet people where they are at when they needed a friend the most.

This San Francisco Business Times article remembers Williams as a man who gave.  Read here to see where Williams gave his time and money to.

Now onto crazy and weird charities worth your time contributed by Caroline Forrest:

Found this on the floor at work.  Exclamation point heart~

Found this on the floor at work. Exclamation point heart~

There is a charity that is nothing but naked clowns against multiple sclerosis. I am restraining myself from including them in this list, because, well, naked clowns.


So if you're at all like me, then you want to donate more to charity. However, there's just something holding you back, isn't there?It's not finances-- your plan to get married in an abandoned sewer (next blog post by the lovely Carrie Forrest) rather than a pricey premium venue is saving you enough that money is no concern-- and it's not accessibility, as the internet has made it possible to donate basically anything to anywhere, with enough anonymity that the only way anyone can tell it was you who donated is your radiating aura of smugness. No, if you're like me, the thing really holding you back from giving back to the community is that you just can't find a charity weird enough to satisfy you.

It's OK. I know how it feels.

Fortunately, I've had a few years of donating to only the oddest, most eclectic, and most downright confusing charities ever to march to the beat of their own banjo. It's difficult, even in the age of infinite information, to track down charities truly eager to make the world a better, weirder place, but I think I can introduce you to a few causes that I can promise will make your employer take a little bit of extra notice when you ask them to match your donation.

1. HELPING HANDS MONKEY HELPERS (link: http://www.monkeyhelpers.org/)

Photo Source: Free Digital Photos.net I love Monkeys!

Photo Source: Free Digital Photos.net
I love Monkeys!

The first cause is one that I have had to swear on multiple occasions I am not making up. This sounds like a strange sitcom gag-- used, in all likelihood, to introduce a monkey character to a show that has completely lost its spark-- but it's a legitimate charity that does exactly what it sounds like: it provides trained Capuchin monkeys to the mobility impaired. The monkeys are trained to help people-- mostly people suffering from spinal cord injuries, but others who suffer from impaired mobility can sign up to be paired with a monkey-- with daily tasks. The charity has been active since the seventies, and accepts both one-time and recurring donations to help keep their monkey business in business.*

2. HEIFER INTERNATIONAL: (link: http://www.heifer.org/)
This is another pretty well-renowned charity, and the basic gist of it is that you pay a certain amount of money, and Heifer sends an impoverished rural family some livestock. Established in the forties, Heifer was created to end world hunger, which is a pretty serious achievement. However, the fact that they have been doing good work, helping the starving, and revitalizing communities isn't the important part, not by any means. No, the important part is: you can pay to have some poor unsuspecting third-world farmer sent a box of annoyed bees. Angry bees not really up your alley? Send a goose, nature's own tremendous pain in the butt, or a goat, one of the single-most evil-minded deranged lunatics of the animal kingdom. Really, you have a variety of terribly malicious options, but if you're trying to impress someone at a party with how charitable you are, you can spin it to talk about how you're solving world hunger. It's a total win-win.

3. GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR CLEAN COOKSTOVES: (link: http://www.cleancookstoves.org/)
This one's for those who seriously want to help others, but also want to assist with a cause that nobody else realizes is actually a cause. Cooking stoves are actually a huge issue in most of the parts of the world where most nutrition doesn't come out of a suspicious microwaveable box. From native reservations in North America to Mayan villagers in Guatemala to impoverished Chinese farmers, the simple fact is that the lives of millions of people can be improved by sponsoring a stove. Not only do cookstoves do exactly what it sounds like they do-- cook-- but they also help to heat the house when it's cold, boil water to make it safer to drink, and prevent "creative" cooking solutions like open fires from burning down houses or filling them with poisonous gas.

4. DO IT YOURSELF! (link: http://weirdcharityshopdonations.tumblr.com/)
Of course, if none of these is doing it for you-- still not weird enough, or not the specific flavor of weird you were hoping for-- you can go old-school and donate your own weird, weird items to a charity shop or thrift store. Even if nobody actually needs a rhinestone-encrusted femur, novelty bed shaped like 13th US President Millard Fillmore, or a statue of Neil Diamond made entirely out of different blends of bleu cheese, they'll at least be able to divert a moment of their time by staring in rank confusion as they wonder who on earth bought something like that in the first place.

I hope this list has given you a few ideas on what to do with all of that extra money you have lying around (if not, you can always use it as wallpaper). True, there are a lot of causes, but it's important to remember: anybody can give to a charity, but it takes a real champion to give the gift of a stranger world.

* I am extremely sorry about this pun, and wholly expect the humor police will soon drag me out in the street and shoot me, as is only just and correct.

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