Boing Boing readers' charitable giving guide - the best of your picks

Last week, I posted Boing Boing's annual charitable giving guide and asked you to add your own favorites to the comments. There are some really compelling write-ups there, and I thought I'd pull out the ones that really struct me as a kind of "Boing Boing Readers' Charitable Giving Guide" (though I really recommend going through the comments on the original post for yourself!). And as always, please add your favorites here.

Two anonymous posters mentioned Child's Play: "the charity run by Penny Arcade to donate games to children in hospitals."

Another anonymous reader says: The purpose of the Afghanistan Women's Clinic (which is just starting to get off the ground) is to improve the health of women and children in the remote provinces of Afghanistan. The site has tons of info about the plight and difficulty of women's healthcare in that country. Currently they are trying to raise enough money to provide training for midwives.

From MrsBug: "Sustainable Harvest: Teaches poor (mostly) Central American farmers how to farm sustainably and organically, while helping them with low-tech solutions to feed their families (wood-conserving stoves, more diverse crop selections, etc)."

From DloPwop: "My favorite charity is Clean Water for Haiti, of which I am the director. We are a small, volunteer run NGO that sells Biosand water filters at a subsidized price. Our budget is only about $200,000 per year but virtually all of it goes to help the Haitian people find access to drinking water. If you want a more intimate picture of what we do in Haiti you can look at my wife's blog.

Dan Schnitzer adds, "Please consider giving to EarthSpark International, which develops local businesses to provide access to clean energy technologies. We are presently focused on Haiti. Full disclosure: I'm Co-Director of EarthSpark. You can also see what I've been up to here.

EMJ recommends Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF): "Our mandate concerns emergency relief, and the principles we honour while carrying out our work are contained in the MSF Charter. We launch our operations in areas where there is no medical infrastructure or where the existing one cannot withstand the pressure to which it is subjected. In most cases, relief programs change to rehabilitation projects that may run for several years after the most urgent needs have been met."

Another anonymous reader says, "A vote for the Office of Letters and Light, the group behind National Novel Writing Month, Script Frenzy, and the corresponding Young Writers Programs. They're working towards creative expression, literacy, and literary appreciation - and they're the people who keep us going every November and April.

wackyxaky testifies: "I've always found particular inspiration from Partners In Health ( They do comprehensive medical care in the most extreme poverty areas, such as the upper plateau of Hati, Malawi, Peru, and more. PIH is very highly rated in efficiency and success rates. I'm a little biased, because it was established in part by Paul Farmer, my idol. Part of what has made them so successful in providing healthcare is that they take a holistic view of healthcare, reforming and educating the way people think about health, improving hygiene and access to clean water, employing locals to do a tremendous amount of follow up work, etc. I can't recommend them enough."

Our Maggie has a bushel-load:

Harlem Children's Zone is an innovative non-profit that seems to be developing a new, actually effective model for improving the lives of underprivileged children over the long haul and breaking the cycle of poverty. You can read more about them in this Washington Post article.

Scholarship America strives to make post-secondary education available to all.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters, you know what they do. I'm a Big and this is a great program.

National Alliance to End Homelessness is just what it sounds like and their mission is particularly important today, when homelessness rates are at a recent high.

The Salk Institute is doing the basic lab research necessary to find cures for a whole host of human diseases.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria does important work getting preventative treatment and affordable medications to all parts of the world.

michaelocc says, "I'd ask any Torontonians interested in helping a worthy cause at The most mind-blowing holiday party ever to check out - our Twitter-powered giant Seasonal love-in for the geek, creative and marketing crowd in the GTA. Last year's event (recap) raised $25K for the Daily Bread Food Bank. Food bank use is up 18% this year - they desperately need our help. Tickets are dirt cheap and the party is just phenomenal. Trying to raise $40K this year. Help the world suck a little less and party your ya-yas off while you're at it."


  1. I am missing MY favorite charity, that isn’t really a charity:

    Micro loans of at least $25, pooled together to enable people to start or extend their business, getting them out of poverty through work. You choose which projects you want to support, anything from market stands, sewing collective, etc.

    Loans are paid back over time, and you can then either re-loan, possibly add some more cash, donate, or just take your money out again.

  2. I wish I had seen the original post. There are a bunch of charities I really like and would have noted.

    I’ll just put one I like here, which is probably fairly well known: Central Asian Institute, by the guy who wrote Three Cups of Tea.

    The CAI builds schools in countries like Afghanistan. The schools are mostly built by the people in the villages, so the people have pride in them and don’t allow them to get bombed by the Taliban. The schools obviously improve education, but also women’s standing in these countries.

    I think Nicholas Kristoff has said something to the effect that if Greg Mortenson were to use the money being spent on the Afghan war to build schools instead, the country would already be at peace.

    1. I wish I had replied to that thread myself.
      My personal charity is Heifer International, which helps people all over the world develop independence through sustainable agriculture (trees and livestock) and the encouragement of sharing the resources they develop and the knowledge they gain. Every year I donate the equivalent of an animal or tree to them financially, and at one point did some major fund raising for them in Second life.

      I’ve always admired their principles of helping people help both themselves and others, much like Habitat for Humanity but less well known.

    1. I had always used Charity Navigator and their associated Network for Good as well, but then I decided that Network for Good took a little too much off the top. Nearly 5% of every donation to them goes into their coffers, instead of 3% if a charity uses PayPal directly. This article made me not want to donate through them any more.

      Now I still use Charity Navigator, but only for bookkeeping purposes. However, I do regret that it is more difficult to make donations anonymously now.

  3. +1 on Child’s Play. Hadn’t heard about that until the comments here. Awesome.

    Also, I’d heartily second the mention of above. Fine, fine people doing a wonderful thing.

    Oh, and many thanks for lifting up the HoHoTO link too. Yay!

  4. World Hunger Year, a group that works to end hunger with both short- and long-term solutions, has been doing great work for seemingly ever.

    Also, add another vote for Medicins Sans Frontiers.

  5. For something a bit more local, consider making a donation to your nearest independent or community radio station. While I’ll more than happily plug WDBX-FM here in Southern Illinois, I’d be pleased to know folks had made a donation to any community broadcasters doing their best to bring good music, discussion, and ideas to their listeners.

  6. The charity I’d put a big shout out for is MINDROOM, dedicated to helping children and adults with learning difficulties. You can find it at

    I watched this charity grow from nothing, created at a kitchen table by one feisty and determined friend fed up with pulling her hair out with frustration at how hard it was to get clear, useful information when her daughter was diagnosed with learning difficulties. Now it is not only a clearing house for all the best and most current thinking in the field, it’s VERY Boing Boing: through conferences and global outreach it pulls together interested parties in wildly differing disciplines from across the whole spectrum, from the mainstream to the maverick, on the principle that when it comes to helping people, and especially children, the best idea should always, always win, no matter who had it, or where it comes from.

    It’s close to realising its dream of setting up its first one-stop-shop centres (literal bricks-and-mortar Mind Rooms) so that parents and children and adults can easily get the clear advice and practical help that the founder had to fight so hard to to get for her own kid…

    On a personal note, I support these guys because;

    a) you can’t NOT be impressed seeing friends build something so globally positive out of personal adversity with extraordinaRy determination coupled with an unfailing sense of humour.

    b) because I lucked out in life: I had a great education and had no obstacles to comprehension or processing that education (other than my own tendency to daydreaming and looking out the window which, since I write fiction for a living, turns out to have been a pretty damn useful grounding anyway…): long story short: my hardware unboxed and plugged in just fine. Even more of a blessing, my two kids don’t have to fight a learning difficulty either. They lucked out too – but 1 in 20 children are born with brains that don’t unbox and plug in glitch-free: Mindroom is aiming to provide tech support for them and their parents, without the annoying call-centre experience.

    Happy Holidays Boingpeople. And thanks for providing the best catch-all opportunity for displacement activity on the known web….

  7. My charity of choice is African Mother’s Health Initiative. AMHI has a few different initiatives surrounding childbirth and mother’s health in Malawi, but the part that really speaks to me is that they support children whose mothers die in childbirth – both with tangible items, formula and food, and to make sure that the community steps in to care for the children growing up.

    One of the board members spends most of her time in Africa, working as a nurse and working for the charity in her free time. Her blog is amazing and moving –

    And, something that is very important to me when giving to a charity – 98% of donations are going to the projects in Africa. No large charity overhead to support.

  8. …and another +1 to Child’s Play. It’s really a great organization for putting people in touch with their local children’s hospitals. I like knowing exactly what my contribution is being used for and being able to pick a local hospital to receive my gift. Their focus is on games, but each hospital makes their own list and there’s a need for other types of items as well.

    Learn more at

    1. Yes, I love that I may have just introduced the entire Back to the Future trilogy to a kid in Toronto.

      I don’t know about the other lists, but the Sick Kids one is definitely inclusive — games and systems and accessories, books, music, and movies. I discovered Rockabye’s lullaby versions of AC/DC through that list.

  9. My issue with Kiva is that they bury the fact that the loans made to the individuals on their site are high-interest loans made by local microfinance organizations.

    What they put up front is that that YOUR loan is interest free (and this phrase “interest free” is all over their press materials — it’s promoted). This interest fee loan is not to the individual in need but to the microfinance middle-man. This isn’t the end of the world, but, it’s unfortunate that people often make loans thinking it’s a direct relationship, and, that no interest is being charged.

    I contacted them to complain. They said they worked to make their organization as transparent as possible. Nothing has changed on their site.

    I second Partners in Health.

  10. I tried to post The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund the other day, but the comments on that post weren’t working for me for some reason…

    Defending the Comic Industry’s first amendment rights since 1986!

  11. Safe Passage. We are making a second service trip with 20 others again in June. Well run, very effective and very efficient and very good work. This is a bottom-up organization. They ask the target population what THEY need and then try and provide it.

  12. The Pre-Law Summer Institute for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives and the American Indian Graduate Center, both of which helped me prepare for and finance law school.

  13. People should choose charities that have the highest impact on saving and improving people’s lives. I highly recommend people read the reviews made by GiveWell ( and choose charities based on that. (We found this site based on a recommendation made by Peter Singer in “The Life You Can Save”.)

    A common complaint is that aid to the developing world does not work (indeed, it often doesn’t, and many at-home programs are also fairly useless). GiveWell does a very thorough job of evaluating charities, not based on what percentage “administrative costs” they have (a silly metric), but based on how much net cost they have per life saved (or operation performed, etc).

    Based in part on GiveWell’s recommendations my husband and I, to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary, donated 4% of our annual income for this year to a set of ten charities (Doctors without borders, Fistula Foundation, Fred Hollows Foundation, GiveWell, Hunger Project, Interplast, Oxfam, Partners in Health, Stop Tuberculosis, VillageReach). I encourage everyone to give! But give to the places that are the most efficient. :-) I believe together we really can end suffering due to global poverty if we all chip in.

    Peter Singer’s 2006 NYTimes essay is a good read.

    I’m sorry I didn’t see this conversation earlier, I really wish I had. I think we have a moral obligation to try hard to ensure that our donated dollars do actual good, not merely make us feel good.

  14. If you ever have any spare dough, Wikipedia’s always a solid choice. True, it’s not saving any lives (so it should come after charities for more urgent causes), but it has a good mission. Free knowledge to all!

    In Hebrew the word for charity is “tzedakah”. It doesn’t translate directly, though. The word stems from the root TZDK, which means justice. Similarly, “mitzvah”, which is a good deed, comes the root MTVH, meaning commandment. More accurate definitions of the English terms, I think.

  15. I’m a fan of LINK Niger which supports missions in one of the poorest countries in the world. Volunteers build schools, churches, clinics and wells in Niger, Africa. They also develop loving relationships with the people there.

    This is one of the charities supported by my business. 100% of all donations to THE LINK are used for direct support to Niger.

  16. Given the subject of the discussion I thought it appropriate to link to where I work, the World Society for the Protection of Animals ( I work in the UK branch of the organisation, which deals exclusively with animal welfare issues around the world.

    Please note I am not doing this to solicit donations but did not see the charity on the list! As a concerned citizen in the UK I will be donating my Christmas present money to Open Rights Group, NO2ID and Liberty.

  17. I’m a big fan of imagine1day.

    They are a nonprofit charity based out of Vancouver, Canada and their goal is to provide quality primary education to every single child in Ethiopia by 2020.

    It’s a huge goal, but their model is great because 100% of any donation, whether it be 1 dollar to 1 million dollars, goes directly to the schools and students in Ethiopia. Not a lot of organizations can say 100% of what’s given actually goes to the cause.

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