With thousands of nonprofit organizations, Tucson regularly ranks as one of the most charitable cities in the country. Hundreds of these are even locally focused, meaning your contributions can directly feed back into the community. It’s no surprise to learn 2020 has been an exceptionally difficult year for the nonprofit sector. With economic downturns, people are donating less, and with social distancing, people are volunteering less. The Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits estimates state nonprofits may lose more than $400 million by year’s end. According to their October report, the majority of Arizona nonprofits are projecting a net operating loss for the year. Luckily, 51% of organizations indicate it is “highly unlikely” that they will have to close permanently in their next fiscal year.
Arizonans have extra reason to donate to nonprofits, thanks to the state’s Credit for Contributions to Qualifying Charitable Organizations program. The Arizona Department of Revenue allows a $400 income tax credit for single filers, or $800 for married joint filers, donating to a nonprofit that provides “immediate basic needs to residents of Arizona who receive temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) benefits, are low-income residents of Arizona, or are individuals who have a chronic illness or physical disability.” For a full list of those qualifying nonprofits, visit azdor.gov.
Our local nonprofits benefit education, children in need, the arts, the homeless, animals and much more. There are a wide variety of nonprofits that call Tucson home, and this list represents a fraction of those you can contribute to this year:
With a motto of “changing lives for generations,” Casa de los Ninos is one of the most community-involved local nonprofits thanks to their goal of helping children and families live safe and healthy lives. Casa de los Ninos helps at-risk children who have suffered trauma and abuse through prevention, intervention and treatment strategies. They divide their programs into two categories: prevention services such as nurse-family partnerships and early education; and intervention services such as foster care, adoption and supervised visitation programs. Last fiscal year, they helped more than 5,000 children and 4,000 families. To make a contribution, visit casadelosninos.org or call (520) 624-5600 ext. 10400.
Thanks to the early literacy efforts of Make Way for Books, tens of thousands of local children have developed stronger language and learning skills. While teaching children to read is at the core of Make Way for Books, they host a wide variety of programs for parents and educators as well. Make Way for Books organizes school readiness projects, family education, and the Blue Book House Project, which places new and gently-used books in waiting rooms of social service agencies, medical clinics and other community locations throughout southern Arizona. Even during COVID-19 isolation, Make Way for Books is hosting programs through online lessons and their own app. To make a contribution, visit makewayforbooks.org.
Intermountain Centers was founded in Tucson in 1973, but have since expanded their mission of evidence-based health and human services throughout the state.
Whether they’re helping children, adolescents or adults, Intermountain strives to facilitate self-sufficiency. These programs include helping those with autism, behavioral challenges, adolescents aging out of foster care, and adults transitioning to independent living. All of this effort is done with empirical behavioral principles and individualized programs to maximize preventative and positive practices. Intermountain works with group homes, in-home services, out-patient services, and daily programs at their Intermountain Academy for children grades K-12. To make a contribution, visit intermountaincenters.org or call (520) 721-1887.
For those not in the know, The Loft Cinema is more than an average movie theater; it makes film a worthy charitable cause. Beyond showcasing independent and art-house movies, The Loft also serves as a hub for community engagement and collaboration through their local film festivals, free kids’ events, and “community rentals” where outside organizations, groups and individuals rent the cinema for special screenings and events. Even during 2020 when movie theatres are being hammered, The Loft is keeping busy and inventive with personal theater rentals, outdoor film screenings, and special online film opportunities. If you miss the movie theater experience, supporting The Loft is a great way to ensure they’ll still be around when we make it through the pandemic. To make a contribution, visit loftcinema.org.
A grassroots, community clothing bank, Spreading Threads provides free clothing to youth in foster care in Pima County and throughout Southern Arizona. Spreading Threads has a goal of making clothing banks welcoming and comfortable, and they do this by allowing foster children and their caregivers to visit and “shop” for new clothes like any other location. Their clothing bank also provides emergency help for children recently removed from their homes. In addition to monetary donations, Spreading Threads accepts new and gently-used clothing donations for foster children from birth to age 18. Clothes such as jeans, dress pants, shirts, button-ups, tennis shoes, and backpacks are especially needed. To make a contribution, visit spreadingthreads.com or call (520) 971-3237.
You’d be hard pressed to find an environmental nonprofit with more of a local focus than Watershed Management Group. WMG develops community-based solutions that lead to a more harmonious relationship between people, communities and the environment. They host a variety of Tucson-based programs, including classes on land stewardship, sustainable rainwater collection, a green living co-op, and citizen science. But WMG is about more than education, they offer assistance on greywater and rain harvesting designs, and host nature cleanups. Whether it’s at your home, your business, your school or your community, WMG can help you be a more practical and sustainable land steward. To make a contribution, visit watershedmg.org.
Mobile Meals of Southern Arizona recently celebrated 50 years of partnering with local hospitals and healthcare facilities to prepare individualized, medically tailored meals for local residents. In a year dominated by COVID-19, delivering healthy meals to seniors has never been more important. This local nonprofit offers specialty meals for locals in need, even delivering food for specialty diets such as diabetic, renal, cardiac and low sodium. Mobile Meals of Southern Arizona serves the City of Tucson, Sahuarita, Green Valley and select areas of Pima County, but does not deliver in Vail, Marana or Oro Valley. To make a contribution, visit mobilemealssoaz.org.
If you love the Sonoran Desert for its natural beauty, you might consider supporting the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity. However, the Center for Biological Diversity fights to protect natural environments all around the nation. In a push to halt the extinction of multiple animal species, the Center for Biological Diversity has published scientific articles, overturned improper decisions, submitted petitions and secured natural tracts of critical habitat. In addition, they also operate a Climate Law Institute to bridge a gap between science and policy for climate change litigation. To make a contribution, visit biologicaldiversity.org.
In a year with such economic hardship, nonprofits like the Primavera Foundation are especially crucial in their efforts to break the cycles of poverty and homelessness. In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, Primavera provided pathways out of poverty for more than 6,800 Southern Arizonans through their continuum of survival, stability, security and sustainability. Primavera’s programs include access to affordable rental housing, financial education, neighborhood revitalization and counseling. And through their Primavera Works program, the Foundation gets locals meaningful employment in contracted landscaping, assembly, moving, housekeeping, construction cleanup and other general labor. To make a contribution, visit primavera.org.
There was perhaps no industry quite so impacted by COVID-19 as event venues, and downtown’s beloved Rialto Theatre and Fox Theatre are not exceptions. The Rialto is operated by the nonprofit Rialto Theatre Foundation, while the Fox is run by the Fox Theatre Foundation. Both are definitely in need of support during such a quiet year. Perhaps all the worse is that for 2020, Rialto planned on celebrating its 100th anniversary all year long. Beyond hosting live music, the Rialto has also hosted standup comedians, event panels and holiday parties for the whole community. Donations will help ensure that these jewels of downtown will survive to celebrate for years in the future. To make a contribution, visit rialtotheatre.com
With so many school children’s education upended this year, nonprofits like the Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation are especially important. SARSEF promotes science literacy and engagement to inspire the next generation of researchers. And more than this, they provide lesson opportunities and supplies for teachers to better educate their students in science fields. Even though they couldn’t host their flagship annual science fair in person this year, SARSEF is staying busy with online programs for students, teachers and parents. SARSEF maintains that no matter what career path a young person may choose to follow, “an educated citizen needs to understand the role of science and engineering in our world and to appreciate how a scientist and an engineer think.” To make a contribution, visit sarsef.org/donors.
Few years have made us appreciate the outdoors quite so much as 2020, and for this reason nonprofits like the Tucson Botanical Gardens are especially appreciated. The Gardens host gorgeous botanical and sculpture exhibits throughout their five-and-a-half acres in midtown, but also host community classes and events so you can learn about plants, animals and the ecosystem we call home. The nonprofit accepts donations, or you can become a member, which includes free year-round admission, discounts in their gift shop, discounts on their lectures and classes, and a subscription to their newsletter. To make a contribution, visit tucsonbotanical.org/donate.
Native Seeds/SEARCH operates at an important crossroads of agriculture and conservation, working to promote sustainable farming and food security in the Southwest. Native Seeds/SEARCH sells hundreds of arid-adapted seed varieties, alongside Native fine art and crafts, gifts, heirloom Southwest foods and more. According to Native Seeds/SEARCH, these seeds, and the knowledge of how to grow them, represent sophisticated adaptations to the challenges of farming in the desert, adaptations that continue to be relevant to sustainable ecosystems of the future. You can support Native Seeds/SEARCH in a variety of ways, including donation, participating in their raffles, memberships, or purchasing from their “Sonoran Pantry.” To make a contribution, visit nativeseeds.org.
Learning how to ride a bike is more than a staple of childhood, it opens the doors to community, independence, self-esteem and working with your hands. El Groupo Youth Cycling supports these initiatives by providing Tucson youth bike-centered experiences that are both fun and challenging. Whether cycling for a commute, mountain biking or leisure, El Groupo encourages youth to become life-long bike enthusiasts. This nonprofit hosts bike clubs at local schools, summer camps, and “bike swaps” where the community can buy and sell bike parts. To make a contribution, visit elgrupocycling.org.
The Sky Island Alliance serves to protect the unique mountain ecosystems rising above our desert landscape that are home to some of the most brilliant animals around Tucson. Using science, education and advocacy, the Alliance works to protect species and conserve water through a detailed mapping and tracking program. And more than just a local effort, the Alliance focuses on a binational impact, bringing together advocacy in the US and Mexico so people are “connected to the region and its innate ability to enrich our lives.” To make a contribution, visit skyislandalliance.org.
The Children’s Museum Tucson|Oro Valley continues to fulfill its mission to provide play-based learning for children and families. During this year’s closure, the Museum began sending free Brain Boxes – STEM kits with supplies for experiments and activities – to kids in communities with fewer resources. The Museum also continues to provide daily virtual content, using popular Museum programming and creating new content for a digital audience. Opening the Museum to even a small number of visitors has been joyful for visitors and staff alike. A donation will ensure the Museum can continue to deliver interactive, hands-on learning experiences to children – in person or online – for kids all around Southern Arizona. childrensmuseumtucson.org
Arizona Land and Water Trust is committed to the protection of Southern Arizona’s western landscapes, its farms and ranches, wildlife habitat, and the waters that sustain them. The Trust takes a collaborative approach to conservation, guided by knowledge of local communities, partnerships and science to sustain people and places. Together with supporters, landowners and funding partners, the Trust has protected more than 56,000 acres throughout the region. The Desert Rivers Program works to retain more water in local river systems, building ecological health and community resilience. The Trust is accredited by the national Land Trust Alliance and won the Alliance’s National Land Trust Excellence Award in 2016. For more information, call 520-577-8564 or visit alwt.org.
The Community Foundation for Southern Arizona is like a nonprofit for nonprofits—it offers grants, logistical support and even office space at its midtown campus. It also funds scholarships and, in the midst of the pandemic, has stepped up to manage the City of Tucson’s We Are One/Somos Uno Nonprofit Community Grants that support nonprofits providing essential services. You can earmark your contribution to various funds designed to aid specific groups, as well. For more info, visit cfsaz.org.
Humans aren’t the only ones who need a little love this time of the year—so do pets looking for their forever home. The Humane Society of Southern Arizona takes in strays for adoption, reunites lost pets with their owners and offers vet, microchipping and other services. Meanwhile, the Friends of PACC support Pima Animal Care Center. PACC has come a long way in recent years. Just about 15 years ago, Pima County euthanized roughly half percent of the dogs and cats they brought in. Now, nearly nine out of 10 dogs and cats that are taken in make it back out alive. Plus, thanks to voters, the modern Pima Animal Care Center is a far more welcoming place for humans and animals alike. Still, both the Humane Society and PACC are always happy for more volunteers or contributions to help keep the critters happy and healthy. For more info, visit hssaz.org or friendsofpacc.org
In a normal year, the Boys and Girls Club of Tucson is an institution that provides a safe and fun place for kids to hang out, with clubhouses that feature computer labs, libraries, gyms, arts-and-crafts centers and a game room with billiards, air hockey and the like. But the organization really stepped up this year in the face of COVID, transforming their clubhouses into daycare centers for first responders, healthcare workers and other essential workers. If you want to make sure needy kids have a great day, this is a great organization to donate to. For more info, visit bgctucson.org
The Diaper Bank has seen a huge increase in demand these days. Nearly one in four children born in Southern Arizona don’t have diapers because their parents just can’t afford them. The Diaper Bank tries to bridge that gap by providing families with diapers. They know how to stretch your contributions—for every dollar you donate, they are able to deliver $3 worth of diapers to their clients. For more info, visit diaperbank.org
Too many kids need help and role models in this world—and that’s where Big Brothers/Big Sisters comes in. The organization pairs community volunteers with at-risk youth to serve as mentors while spending time with kids who need a little company. For more info, visit soazbigs.org