An Open Letter to Humanists: Donating to Humanist Charities

Dear Members of the American Humanist Association,

The Red Cross. Doctors Without Borders. UNICEF. OXFAM.

These and many other charitable organizations are undoubtedly familiar to humanists—we donate to them in times of trouble. We might not be able to physically get to a place that could use our help, but we can help others do what we can’t do directly. So we give.

But the question arises—are we giving to organizations that promote and express our values as humanists?

The AHA sponsors Humanist Charities, an adjunct which “specializes in benevolent aid and action to further the health and welfare of humankind. Its purpose includes applying uniquely humanist approaches to those in need and directing the generosity of American humanists to worthy disaster relief and development projects around the world.”

The Board of Humanist Charities evaluates organizations whose purposes align with those found in the Humanist Manifesto III, especially those that “affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”

After the 2010 Haitian earthquake, while people were texting donations to the Red Cross and pleas for funds were coming from organizations both religious and secular, Humanist

Charities contacted a humanist volunteer on the ground and helped arranged for direct funding of food and supplies to be delivered to an area hard-hit by the quake. We humanists made a difference to large groups of people.

And in 2011 we put out a call to humanists to help with the aid to the earthquake victims in Japan. We raised over $5,000 that went to support disaster relief efforts.

The greater good of humanity is promoted when we help others to the best of our abilities. Not everyone can donate every time, nor can everyone give the large amounts all charities look for—we all know that the economic realities of these times make that difficult. But as humanists we do care for others in circumstances detached from our locale and immediate family.

The Clear Fund notes that less than half of all the monies donated to the various national charities for the Haitian relief effort actually got used “on the ground.” Most were eaten up in administrative costs. While there always will be overhead in charitable operations, evenfor Humanist Charities, we strive to minimize what it costs to process a donation. (Credit card companies still charge a processing fee, for example, regardless of what the charge is for.)

I’m asking that as humanists and as members of the American Humanist Association, we look first to Humanist Charities as a place to give—in times of disaster or in good times when a charitable donation is the right thing to do. Chapters and affiliates of the AHA could start a donation pool; individuals who want to celebrate a milestone in someone’s life, be it a birth, death, or any event in-between should look first to Humanist Charities; celebrants who know of couples who are asking guests to donate to a charity in lieu of wedding gifts should suggest Humanist Charities as a way to better reflect the tone of the wedding. 

We all try and promote humanism in our daily activities, and when extraordinary events happen, we should strive to leave a humanist imprint. Humanist Charities should be the first stop for us to donate—it’s one way to put forward our ideals in to a world that needs our help.

Humanist Charities can be found at or donations can be sent via  the American Humanist Association offices addressed to: Humanist Charities,  1777 T Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009-7125  And if you have suggestions of charitable projects Humanist Charities should support, or if you’d like to get involved, please let us know.

You’re a humanist. Donate!

Howard Katz


Howard Katz is on the Board of Directors of the American Humanist Association and president of the Humanist Society.