Charitable giving guide, the 2007 edition

It's that time of year again -- time to make some charitable donations while the giving spirit is on you and while you have the chance to shelter some of your income from the revenooers. I'm rerunning last year's Charitable giving guide for the end-of-year, with a few updates. I've been lucky enough this year to have some money to put toward the causes I support -- hope you're lucky enough to do this, too. Here's my charitable list for the year.

US Charities

Electronic Frontier Foundation: EFF always gets my largest annual donation.

Last year: No organization works harder, spends smarter and gets more done for your personal long-term technological liberty than EFF. I spent years inside the org and I know for a fact that every dime donated makes a difference.

This year: Man, that goes TRIPLE this year. EFF's major work on clobbering the NSA and AT&T for their massive, illegal wiretapping program has convinced me to give EFF more money than I've ever given to a charity in my life. If one organization is going to keep the Internet free and open, it's EFF. Add to that a raft of incredibly smart hires this year, and you've got a powerhouse organization that deserves everything you can spare for them.

Creative Commons:

Last year: Just four years after launching CC has turned into a global movement. More than 160,000,000 works have been released under CC licenses. It's good news for creators and audiences -- but it's amazing news for the public interest. The proof that there's more than one kind of rightsholder using technology today has stayed the hand of more than one regulator. CC keeps getting better, smarter and more global.

This year: Like EFF, Creative Commons has had a knock-out year. The international projects all over the world, the widespread uptake of CC and its ideals by governments, artists, educators, scientists -- whew!

Free Software Foundation/Defective By Design: It's wonderful to see a campaigning group based on fighting DRM. Defective by Design has pulled off a number of audacious and clever actions that have raised public awareness of DRM. The fight starts here.

The Internet Archive: What would we do without it? I use it every day. Its mission: Universal access to all human knowledge. What could be more noble?

The Gutenberg Project: The world's leading access-to-public-domain project. They have truly created a library from nothing, and oh, what a library.

The MetaBrainz Foundation: I'm on the board of this charity, which oversees the MusicBrainz project. MusicBrainz is a free and open alternative to the evil (dis)Gracenote, which took all the metadata about CDs that you and I keyed in and locked it away behind a wall of patents and onerous licensing deals. The org that controls the metadata controls the world -- this needs to be in the public's hands.

Last year: The Participatory Culture Foundation: I'm on the board of this charity, which produces ass-kicking media software in the public interest. The best-known of these is Democracy Player, an Internet TV program that just works -- add feeds based on YouTube keywords, or published feeds from creators, and new video arrive automagically and just play. Because TV is too important to leave up to Microsoft and Apple.

This year: It's called Miro now, not Democracy Player, and it's gone 1.0. It makes all the other services like Joost look like proprietary crap (if the show fits...) and it's free to all comers. All Miro wants to do is make it easy for artists and audiences to get together without ending up love-slaves to some half-baked world domination scheme hatched by a DRM broker. If we're gonna have TV, this is the kind of TV we should have.

The Clarion Foundation:

Last year: I'm on the board of this charity, which oversees the world-famous Clarion Writers' Workshop, a bootcamp for sf writers that has produced some of the finest talents in our field, including Octavia Butler, Bruce Sterling, Nalo Hopkinson, Kelly Link, and Lucius Sheppard. I'm a graduate myself, and an instructor (I taught in 2005 and I'll be back in 2007) -- I received a substantial scholarship to the workshop in 1992 and it changed my life. I will pay that debt forward every year.

This year:: I taught Clarion last summer and spent a week in the company of the most inspiring, talented, committed, bright new writers I could have asked for. They reminded me of why Clarion is worth doing, giving to, and supporting.

Hospice Net: I make a donation to this charity every year in memory of my dear friend, former Boing Boing guestblogger Pat York. Pat was killed in a car accident, and her family nominated this charity for memorial gifts.


Last year: For the liberties the EFF doesn't cover, here in sticky meatspace, we have the ACLU. Fearless upholders of the Constitution -- an org that knows that you have to stand up for the rights of people you disagree with, or you aren't in a free society.

This year: Now more than ever, the ACLU deserves your support. The US Constitution is one of the noblest documents ever penned. We deserve to be held to its fine precepts.

Consumer Project on Technology: CPTech was the first copyright activist group to take the fight to WIPO, the UN agency that makes copyright treaties (you can thank WIPO for the DMCA -- they have the same relationship to bad copyright laws that Sauron has to evil, a kind of origin-node for all the crap that's destroying the infosphere). They marshalled a huge and effective activist opposition there, and are presently turning the agency upside down with a progressive treaty called Access to Knowledge.

Public Knowledge: Public Knowledge are the best copyfighters on the Hill, real DC insiders who know the ins and outs of fighting in the halls of administrative agencies like the FCC. We never could have killed the Broadcast Flag without PK, and I'm grateful that someone else is willing to be the person who puts on a suit and explains things in plain language to Congressional staffers. It's a thankless task. These days, they're leading the charge on Net Neutrality, a fight that we have to win if we're going to have any online future to speak of.

Canadian Charities

Online Rights Canada: ORC (awesome acronym, huh?) is Canada's leading cyber-activist group, a collaboration between EFF and CIPPIC at the University of Ottawa. They really mobilized during the last Canadian federal election and managed to kick out a corrupt politician who took campaign contributions from huge multinational media, software and pharmaceutical companies and then wrote laws in their favour.

Youth Challenge International: YCI sends young Canadians abroad to work on sustainable, community initiated development projects. Challengers work in international teams that include Costa Ricans, Guyanese, and Australians. I'm an alumnus, having done a hitch in a Nicaraguan squatter village in rural Costa Rica when I was 21, and it changed my life forever.

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation: My aunt Heather died of breast cancer when she was only 41. My whole family is now involved with the society. I don't live in Toronto and can't join the annual run for the cure there, but at least I can donate to the cause.

UK Charities

Open Rights Group:

Last year: Danny O'Brien and I co-founded ORG a couple years ago and I continue to serve on its advisory board. ORG has done stupendous work since its founding, culminating in its aggressive lobbying of the Gowers Commission review of copyright. The Gowers Report is out now, and ORG won -- the Commission has strongly recommended that UK music recording copyrights not be extended to 95 years. This is the first time that I know of that a copyright term extension has been shot down, and it's in no small part thanks to ORG.

This year: ORG's incredible work on electronic voting in Britain may have just saved my adopted homeland from disaster. Their comprehensive, sober-sided and incredibly frightening work made a gigantic difference in the halls of power.

NO2ID: As the UK sleepwalks into a surveillance state, NO2ID stands as the nation's best, last bulwark against an Orwellian nightmare of universal tracking. NO2ID has won substantial victories against the Blair regime's compulsive move towards a national ID card, keeping it at bay for years.

MySociety: Software in the public interest -- it's a damned good idea. MySociety produces software like Pledgebank ("I will risk arrest by refusing to register for a UK ID card if 100,000 other Britons will also do it") and TheyWorkForYou (every word and deed by every Member of Parliament). It's plumbing for activists and community organizers.


  1. My charity of choice for the year is “Pirates for the Preservation of New Orleans Music”, an organization created to aid the school music programs of New Orleans.

    With so many things to repair and replace in post Katrina New Orleans schools, spending on school music programs is at an all time low, despite the fact that there aren’t enough instruments to go around.

    The charity is working with several New Orleans charities to coordinate their efforts. They have also just released a fund-raising CD of pirate music, “Lafitte’s Return”.

    More information can be found at

  2. Worthy causes all.

    But is there any way to donate to them anonymously?

    Last time I donated to the ACLU, these unwise individuals apparently spent all the funds I gave them on soliciting me for more money.

  3. What about Child’s Play Charity? (

    They provide games to children’s hospitals to enrich the lives of the kids stuck there. If you’ve even spent any time there as a kid, you’ll understand why this is such a good cause.

    It’s run by Gabe and Tycho from Penny Arcade with **zero administrative costs**. They personally absorb any admin costs so all of your donation goes directly to the kids. In addition to money, they also accept donations of new video games and systems (handheld and consoles).

  4. I tend to donate to geeky charities, but I now mostly donate to The River Kids Project, which is helping stop child trafficking in Cambodia through educating and supporting the families most vulnerable to child trafficking.

  5. I think you should add They are small and do a wonderful job of using every dollar that comes in to provide front line secure communications to activist communities worldwide.

  6. Thank you for posting this list, worthy causes all.

    To Nekura20x6:
    I would tend to frown on the Amazon collection plate that is Child’s Play. I love Gabe and Tycho and the spirit of their actions, but I have serious qualms over actual execution of their activities. I have read many of the testimonials from parents and staff at the recipient hospitals who are overjoyed for their contributions, so I congratulate them on their successes all around, but i think my limited resources are better spent elsewhere.

    That said, I listen to Democracy Now! everyday, perhaps the best news source of any medium. All listener funded, always free to download audio, video, transcript for personal use or distribution. I see you have up there, Democracy Now! uses extensively as their online hosting service, so giving to them would also be an indirect way of helping DN! and the many other great services offers.

    Again, top quality daily news broadcasts from Democracy Now! that is free as in speech and free as in beer that needs listener support – and their partners

  7. These are great charities, for the most part. I would like to argue against giving to Defective by Design, though- they’re not really doing anything positive and really just rallying and protesting against Microsoft– and specifically Microsoft.

    They seem to ignore any other company that uses DRM schemes (like Apple). I don’t see this as a charity so much as a hate group.

    Please, give your money to someone who does something other than whine about obnoxious technology, like the Red Cross. Let the market deal with DRM.

  8. Unlike MySociety, neither NO2ID nor ORG is a charity – hence UK taxpayers can’t increase their donations through the Gift Aid scheme.

  9. I am donating to One Economy, a nonprofit working around the world that brings Internet access into the homes of low-income people, and employs local youth to provide technology training for their neighbors. You can donate online at, or contribute through Facebook.

  10. Great post, and great comments too.

    On the subject of developing world charities, anyone know how well the Oxfam Unwrapped scheme is administered? I’ve given gifts from their range before.

  11. I recently found out about the site that rates charities by how efficiently they spend their money–some charities spend too much on administrative expenses and fundraising and not enough on their expressed purpose (see this page for a discussion of their rating system).

    Anyone know of other good sites for comparing different charities (not necessarily just according to financial criteria)?

  12. @#21: rating a charity by how much of its budget goes to program is like rating a movie by how much of its budget goes to actors.

    Since when is overhead a bad thing? Doing great work requires great people, great technology, self-evaluation – all “overhead.” We understand that for every other business, why not charity? Charity Navigator is such a classic case of people using the information they have, instead of finding the information that matters.

    @#17: I know nothing about Heifer, or those awards (well, the Forbes one is the same kind of crap as Charity Navigator; the other two, who knows, though there’s probably more awards out there than there are charities).

    What I do know is that recommends Population Services International. And unlike FastCompany or anyone else, it explains why.

  13. (#3) “Last time I donated to the ACLU, these unwise individuals apparently spent all the funds I gave them on soliciting me for more money.”

    That’s about the only kind of junk mail I don’t resent, BSHOCK! I don’t mind it at all.

  14. @#13: re: Defective by Design

    Actually a lot of Defective by Design’s protests have been against Apple, both actual protests at store openings and calls for action. They’ve got some great iTunes add-like pictures where the white ipod headphone cord is shown tying people to the device.

    The rally against Microsoft recently has mostly revolved around the BBC iplayer and the Netflix movie download systems both requiring Microsoft DRM, so it’s more of a current event issue than an exclusive focus.

  15. @10: Yeah, is great. They’re one of the few geek organizations that I can give money to and trust that it’s really all going to be spend on providing useful services, not ending up as someone’s big salary or spent on a fancy fundraising dinner or something. Most of it goes towards buying computer equipment and connectivity to provide free, anonymous, secure hosting for radical political activists and dissidents. They do give a few full-time volunteers sub-poverty-level stipends to keep them alive and coding, but I think that’s fair :)

    They’re also hardcore about privacy and security, so if you donate anonymously, they make sure you stay anonymous.

  16. Next time the weather’s really miserable, get some five-dollar bills and hand them out to panhandlers who are standing out in the cold. If they’re begging in that weather, they need it.

  17. Probably my favourite idea from 2007 (although it’s older than that) is, a micro-credit site where you can lend (not donate) money to low-income entrepreneurs in the developing world, in chunks as small as $25. Although low risk, it’s a market ignored (or often unreachable) by traditional banks. You choose the person/project you want to fund, and the time in which you want to be repaid.

    Loans default (and I guess therefore become a donation) at a rate fewer than 0.23% so you change someone’s life (the borrower, their family, employees, local community) and then get your money back. Keep it, or give it as another loan. Over $16m distributed in loans so far.

    Almost as clever as the concept itself is the idea of Kiva Gift Certificates: give your loved ones cash for Christmas…only they have to lend it to somoene else before they get it.

    Check it out:

  18. Protect online privacy!

    For the first year, The Tor Project is our very own registered US charity, so please give us a little seasonal love!

    We are a nonprofit research and development open source project, working with privacy software to support freedom of information, freedom of expression, and human rights — worldwide.

    Your donation at our donation page helps us research, develop, maintain and distribute software that protects the privacy (and sometimes life and livelihood) of journalists, bloggers, democracy and human rights activists, labor proponents, and various folks very much like you.

    The Tor software protects your privacy as though you had “caller ID block” for your internet address. While we don’t encrypt end-to-end (which we highly recommend), we do conceal the *origin* of your communications.

    We also allow Internet users in countries with national firewalls (for example, China) to access all the information on the web by circumventing the firewall.

    For those who’ve known us for a while, yes, this is the same project as — we went independent this year, and are still closely allied with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

    Shava Nerad
    former Executive Director, The Tor Project
    happy PR and fundraising volunteer

  19. Regarding National Heritage Foundation Charity Giving:
    State of Maine
    Office of Securities_
    21 State House Station
    Augusta, Maine 04333-0121


    1. James L. Clifford (“Clifford”) (CRD # 1419478) is an individual who has been licensed in Maine as a sales representative or agent since at least 1985. His last known address is 955 Eastern Avenue, Holden, Maine 04429.
    2. From December 4, 1997, to the present, Clifford has worked as a sales representative or agent at the Brewer, Maine, branch office of Investors Capital Corp. (“ICC”).
    3. Pearl P. Schoppe (“Ms. Schoppe”) was a life-long resident of Orono, Maine, and the valedictorian of the 1936 graduating class of Husson College in Bangor, Maine.
    4. In May of 1996 Ms. Schoppe established a living trust (the “Schoppe Trust”) with herself as trustee and with two of her relatives designated as trustees upon her death. The original trust document directed that upon Ms. Schoppe’s death, after payment of any of Ms. Schoppe’s debts, expenses and taxes, and certain distributions, the remainder of the trust property was to be held in trust for Husson College with income distributions to fund a scholarship program.
    5. Ms. Schoppe was conservative with her investments. She essentially bought only certificates of deposits and fixed annuities.
    6. In October of 1998, Ms. Schoppe, then age 80, amended the trust document to, among other things, change the trustee upon her death to Clifford. The amendment also changed the provision regarding the distribution of the remainder of her trust property. As amended, instead of the property being held in trust for Husson, the trust instrument dictated that the property was to be “distributed to the National Heritage Foundation F.B.O. Pearl P. Schoppe Foundation.”
    7. The charitable purpose stated by Ms. Schoppe on the National Heritage Foundation application was “Assist students of the Greater Bangor/Brewer, Orono/Old Town, ME area who need financial aid to attend Husson College. To be paid out interest only 80% of interest to go to students, 20% of the interest to go back into the Foundation so foundation will continue to grow.”
    8. Ms. Schoppe died on January 19, 2000.
    9. On March 7, 2000, in Singer Island, Florida, Clifford and John T.”Dock” Houck, II, CEO of National Heritage Foundation, (“NHF”) completed the paperwork for “National Heritage Foundation Inc. FBO Pearl Schoppe FNDTN” to purchase a $150,000 variable annuity from Conseco Variable Annuity Insurance Company through ICC, using funds from the Schoppe Trust.
    10. On May 11, 2000, Clifford sent an additional $50,000 from the Schoppe Trust’s checking account to Conseco to add to the variable annuity.
    11. The subaccounts chosen by Clifford and Houck were largely more-risky growth funds, when Ms. Schoppe’s stated intent and investment history dictated the use of more conservative income-producing investments.
    12. The variable annuity sold by Clifford to the foundation was unsuitable for the charitable purposes expressed by Ms. Schoppe. There was no tax benefit and no value to having a death benefit on the life of Mr. Houck to offset the higher costs and reduced liquidity of the investment.
    13. Clifford received $12,600 in commissions on these transactions. In addition, Clifford has paid himself trustee fees exceeding $42,000.00 from the trust assets despite the fact that he appears to have provided little if any valuable services to the trust.
    14. Since the purchase of the variable annuity in March of 2000, Husson College has received no scholarship money from the Pearl P. Schoppe Foundation.
    15. Under federal law, variable annuities are securities and the offer and sale of variable annuities is regulated by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) under the Securities Act of 1933 and Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
    16. The NASD is a national securities association registered with the SEC under §15A and in accordance with the provision of §19(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
    17. NASD Rules are filed with the SEC and promulgated under §19(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. NASD rules apply to “all members and persons associated with a member. Persons associated with a member shall have the same duties and obligations as a member” under the association’s rules. NASD Rule 0115.
    18. ICC is a member of NASD and Clifford is a person associated with ICC.
    19. NASD Rule 2310 requires that a member have reasonable grounds for believing that a recommended purchase is suitable for a customer based on the facts disclosed by the customer including the customer’s investment objectives.
    20. By virtue of his training and experience, Clifford knew the requirements of NASD Rule 2310. Through his customer relationship with Ms. Schoppe, Clifford knew her investment objectives and the charitable purpose for which she established the Pearl P. Schoppe Foundation. Thus, Clifford intentionally or knowingly failed to comply with NASD Rule 2310. 32 M.R.S.A. §10313(1)(B).
    21. By using funds of the Schoppe Trust to purchase an unsuitable investment, Clifford engaged in unlawful or unethical conduct in the securities business. 32 M.R.S.A. §10313(1)(G).
    22. Pursuant to 32 M.R.S.A. §§10313 and 16702, the Securities Administrator may, after notice and opportunity for hearing, issue an order to revoke the license of a licensee or impose a bar on a licensee if the Securities Administrator finds that the order is in the public interest and that the licensee: (1) has engaged in unlawful, unethical or dishonest conduct in the securities business; or (2) has intentionally or knowingly violated or failed to comply with a rule under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
    Notice is hereby given that the Securities Administrator intends to issue an Order to Revoke Clifford’s Agent License and Censure Him or Bar Him from Association under 32 M.R.S.A. §§10313(1) and 16702(1).
    If Clifford wants to request a hearing in this matter, he must do so in writing within thirty (30) calendar days of the date of this Notice of Intent. 32 M.R.S.A. §§10708, 16702(1).

    Date: November 28, 2006 /s/ Michael J. Colleran
    ` Michael J. Collera
    Securities Administrator
    Date: November 28, 2006 /s/ Bonnie E. Russell
    Bonnie E. Russell
    Assistant Securities Administrator
    Date: November 28, 2006 /s/ Willis P. Smedberg
    Willis P. Smedberg
    Last Updated: December 20, 2006 4:42 PM

    Posted by: Eduardo Alarcon
    19319 Inverness Dr.
    Spicewood, TX 78669
    (512) 217-6655

  20. I just wanted to mention briefly that commenters Elie and Holden above seem to actually RUN their own charitable foundation and I find their remarks a little disingenuous in terms of how Holden claims to know nothing about Heifer and Elie points to a blog post by someone who is on the board of the organization he runs without pointing this point out.

    More on MetaFilter which, full disclosure, I am employed by

    I’ll be giving my money to Books to Prisoners and Food Not Bombs.

  21. The National Heritage Foundation/Congressional District Programs and their salesmen are under investigation by Federal and State agencies.
    If you have any questions please feel free to contact the owner of the NHF, JOHN HOUK, at (561) 301-3891 or
    Posted by:
    Eduardo Alarcon
    19319 Inverness Dr.
    Spicewood, TX 78669
    (512) 217-6655

  22. The National Heritage Foundation/Congressional District Programs and their salesmen are under investigation by Federal and State agencies.
    If you have any questions please feel free to contact the owner of the NHF, JOHN HOUK, at (561) 301-3891 or
    Posted by:
    Eduardo Alarcon
    19319 Inverness Dr.
    Spicewood, TX 78669
    (512) 217-6655

Comments are closed.