If you care about science or a special scientist in your life, adopt a year-end tradition and include science on your annual giving list. Who made my giving list this year? Check out the list below for ideas to add to your own list and spread the word. If you are on Twitter, use the hashtag #supportscience to share the message through social media.
1. Contribute to your alumni associations and university foundations.
My list includes the alumni association or university foundation for both my undergraduate and graduate institutions. Many years ago, I made a promise that I would start contributing to the Chemistry Alumni Scholarship fund at Southeast Missouri State University that supported me in my undergraduate days. Last year, I started giving to that scholarship to support the future of young scientists. Plus, I have become a contributing member of the University of Illinois Alumni Association. Alumni connections are very strong and an important networking opportunity. Plus, most alumni associations offer very useful career development resources that will support you throughout a lifetime.
2. Get involved with citizen science projects.
If you are limited on funds, you can still support science by actually volunteering your time to citizen science projects that are open to the public. SciStarter features a collection of citizen science projects that anyone can do. Right now, you can get involved with projects such as the Christmas Bird Count through the National Audubon Society or record snowfall amounts this winter through the Snow Tweets project. I am going to spend a few hours this week stargazing for The Milky Way Project, looking through telescope imagery to classify infrared data that may provide clues on how stars form.
3. Donate funds to crowd funding science projects or non-profit science organizations.
I made a year-end contribution to Discover Life in America, my favorite non-profit that runs citizen science projects in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are identifying all the living species in the national park to aid biodiversity and conservation efforts, with nearly 1,000 new species to science discovered to date. You can also check out crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo, Microryza and Petridish for cool science projects and organizations that you would like to support. For example, you can support HiveBio, a new DIY biotech lab in the Seattle area who is crowdfunding through Microryza.
4. Help buy needed equipment for K-12 classrooms.
There are thousands of ambitious teachers who are trying to raise funds on DonorsChoose.org for equipment and supplies to enhance their K-12 classrooms. For example, this science teacher in Tennessee is raising funds to buy a 3D printer for her robotics team to design and make their own robot. You can even donate in honor of friends and family or buy gift cards to share.
5. Support the professional development of a scientist.
I pick the end of the year to renew my memberships in professional societies, including organizations that support a broad base of scientists. Two of my top choices include the American Association for the Advance of Science (AAAS) and the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). But all of these membership fees add up quickly, so think about purchasing a professional membership or donating funds towards travel to a science conference for a young scientist in your life. A pre-paid money card with a note that the money is to be used to support their awesome science is good way to give, too.
*Reminder: In the U.S., charitable contributions can be deducted on your federal income taxes when you itemize deductions on your tax return. See this guide for more information, and as always, consult a tax professional for any questions.