Photo by Mindful One on Flickr.

The season of giving is upon us, and many of us make meaningful contributions to charitable organizations at this time of the year. When thinking about what groups to support, please consider helping out some of our local nonprofits which work to improve the lives of people in our region and create better communities.

Here are a few nonprofits which our contributors listed as some of their favorites:

The Coalition for Smarter Growth: There is one organization in this region which advocates for all of the issues we discuss on this blog, including smart growth, transit, affordable housing policies, and bridging the east-west divide.

CSG advocates for policies in many of the parts of the region where they are most needed, from Loudoun to Prince George’s, and has been featured multiple times in the Catalogue for Philanthropy.

A movement is most effective when blogs, traditional nonprofits, and elected officials work together to promote ideas in concert. The Coalition for Smarter Growth is working every day to turn what we believe in and discuss here on the blog into reality.

They’re a small organization (4 full-time staff) and need our support, especially in this tough economic time, to continue doing their great work and to do even more. Plus, for the month of December, other donors will match every dollar you give to CSG.

Human services: Help those most in need this year with basic food, shelter, and more. This is especially important now with a bad economy, widespread unemployment, and governments cutting back on vital services. Direct service groups like Bread for the City and So Others Might Eat provide food, clothing, medical care, legal counseling, job training and more to the most needy.

The Capital Area Food Bank provides most of the food that the direct service organizations distribute. And DC Central Kitchen turns unused food from area businesses into meals for the needy, and trains unemployed people for culinary careers.

N Street Village helps homeless women find housing, get medical and mental health care, and job training; their center on 14th Street replaced an ugly parking lot and has become an anchor for more growth on its part of 14th Street. Charlie’s Place helps homeless people with food, clothing and job training. AMEN gives emergency financial assistance to Arlington residents in crisis.

Advocacy membership organizations: Many nonprofit advocacy groups are structured as membership organizations. Being a member supports their work and sometimes comes with a few extra bonuses as well. Consider joining the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and Maryland’s Action Committee for Transit. The DC Sierra Club provided much of the driving force behind streetcars. And of course, if you think DC residents should have voting rights like all other Americans, join DC Vote.

Environmental groups: Sprawl constantly threatens our natural resources and, by extension, the quality of our drinking water, recreational opportunities, and more. Some of the many local groups working are the DC, Virginia, and Maryland Sierra Clubs, the Anacostia Watershed Society, Friends of Rock Creek’s Environment, Anacostia Riverkeeper, Potomac Riverkeeper, and more. Casey Trees plants and nurtures street trees to help all neighborhoods develop a healthy tree canopy.

Education and mentoring: There are so many worthy education nonprofits it’s not possible to do them justice here, but here are just a few to start with: For Love of Children connects underprivileged children with one on one volunteer tutors; they’re looking for more volunteers as well as funding. College and Career Connections works in Ward 7 to encourage youth to stay motivated in school and go to college, which are key to success in the modern world. And Big Brothers Big Sisters of the National Capital Area has made a difference in so many children’s lives.

Food security and urban farming: People struggling with hunger and homelessness aren’t the only ones who need help with food. All children need healthy meals which are often difficult for poor families to afford. Urban farms and nutrition programs seek to make more fresh food available to poor neighborhoods.

Consider supporting the DC Farm to School Network, which gets healthy, local, and sustainable food to DC schoolchildren; Common Good City Farm, an urban farm and education center growing food for low-income residents; The Farm at Walker Jones is building a farm in the H Street area for kids to learn about food and to provide it to them and needy neighbors.

Your local aging in place “village”: A number of neighborhoods have “village” associations which help senior citizens remain in their homes by providing assistance with illnesses and disabilities, small home maintenance tasks, and connections to community activities. A diversity of ages is healthy and important for every neighborhood.

There are villages in Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle, Kalorama, Palisades, Chevy Chase, and more. Also, Iona Senior Center not only provides services for the elderly but helped fund the Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action program to make upper Connecticut safer.

Others in the Catalogue for Philanthropy: This annual publication showcases valuable, small, effective nonprofits in the DC metropolitan area around sustainability, education, human services and more. It’s a great way to find out about organizations worth supporting that you might not otherwise know about.

What other local and regional organizations do you support?

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.