Boing Boing Charitable Giving Guide, the 2010 edition

Boing Boing's charitable giving guide has become a seasonal tradition of ours, listing the charities we personally support and want to give more attention to. As in previous years, we invite you to add your own favorite charities in the comments section.

Last year, the econopocalypse gave the charitable sector a rough holiday season. A year on, improvements are slow to come. But many of these charities help keep the world fair, free and healthy, so please spare what you can.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

It seems like every year, EFF's reason for existence becomes more self-evident: from Wikileaks-panic censorship to cozy telcoms deals to scuttle network neutrality to scary evoting mysteries to more warrantless wiretapping... EFF was founded by people who realized that the electronic world would quickly become as important as the real world for many aspects of our lives, and that the civil liberties battles we've fought in "real life" would have to be fought all over again online, by technically skilled, principled people. EFF always gets my biggest donation -- because our future is riding on it.

Creative Commons:

Creative Commons has permeated my life in a thousand ways -- on Boing Boing and in my writing, Creative Commons is responsible for how I get the job done and how I get paid for it. CC's advocacy of a nuanced, intelligent position on creativity and sharing changes the lives of creators, educators, scientists, scholars, and kids, all over the world. —CD

The Participatory Culture Foundation

PCF keeps on growing and making me proud to serve on its board. In addition to Miro, its brilliant Internet video client, they've just shipped their ambitious Universal Subtitles project, which aims at nothing less than to render every video on the Web universal, multilingual, and accessible. —CD

The Friends of the Merril Collection

Friends of the Merril Collection: Every library's "friends" organization deserves your support, but the Merril is special -- it's the largest public science fiction reference collection in the world, and performs a real service for the global community of sf writers and readers. As of this year, Americans can also get a tax-receipt for their donations to the Merril. —CD

Marine Mammal Center

Compassionately healing seals from diseases they did not want to contract the Marine Mammal Center then releases them into their native habitat -- if you are a marine dwelling mammal in trouble, and they can find you -- its proof positive the MMC will do their all to ensure your return to health. This tireless and heroic group of full-time staff and army of well trained volunteers need our help to continue helping beautiful creatures who can not help themselves. — JW

Doctors Without Borders

When the earthquake struck Haiti this year, many groups asked for money, but few made as much impact as quickly as did Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders. The international medical humanitarian organization was created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. Today, MSF provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. We've published items about their work in Congo, Haiti, and I've met with MSF staff in Guatemala, where they have a project dedicated to violence against women and girls. The do good work. They get things done in places where it is dangerous and difficult to get things done. —XJ

Friends of Gettysburg

From Gen. Buford's heroic first day defense to Pickett's disastrous charge -- no three days more define the struggle we now call the American Civil War. Viewed as the turning point of the war and the high-water mark of the confederacy, walking the roads, fields and hills of Gettysburg truly allows you to feel a deep connection with men and women who struggled here. Sadly, developers and other creeps continually try to modify, encroach upon and invade this monument; luckily we have an organization that still fights to preserve and continually improve access and education in and around the park - the Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg. They tirelessly work to preserve my favorite National Park, which is saying a lot as I live inside another. — JW

Youth Radio

Youth Radio is an afterschool program that teaches journalism, media, and audio production skills to underserved young people, mostly high school age You can hear their stories on National Public Radio, local airwaves, and of course online. A lot of the graduates stick around for a while as paid writers, producers, engineers, and teachers. — DP

The Sierra Club

The US's oldest and biggest grassroots environmental organization. Whether it's protecting endangered species, opposing dams, or helping you learn how to green your home, the Sierra Club has spent more than a century trying to keep the wonder of the natural world wonderful. — DP

Facing History and Ourselves

Facing History and Ourselves is an international educational group that helps young people study issues around racism, antisemitism, and prejudice in history, from the Holocaust to today's immigrant experiences to the killing fields of Cambodia. Their aim is to teach young people "to think critically, to empathize, to recognize moral choices, to make their voices heard, we put in their hands the possibility--and the responsibility--to do the serious work demanded of us all as citizens." — DP

Fundacion Sobrevivientes

Contact or Telephone (502) 2285-0100 or (502) 2285-0139

Fundacion Sobrevivientes (In English, "Survivors Foundation") works to end "femicide" in Guatemala. They provide legal aid, psychological care, and protection for rape victims -- including children. They assist women whose children have been snatched from them to be sold illegally into adoption. They provide support for families of female assassination victims. Founder Norma Cruz was featured in the documentary Killer's Paradise. Her work links the murders of thousands of Guatemalan women to the country's 36-year civil war. She, her colleagues, and family are frequently targeted by those who seek to prevent the center's work. — XJ

Free Software Foundation/Defective By Design

The Free Software Foundation's principled litigation, license creation and campaigning is fierce, uncompromising and has changed the world. You interact with code that they made possible a million times a day, and they never stop working to make sure that the code stays free. —CD

Wounded Warrior Project

Via Susannah Breslin, whose "War Project" interviews I've blogged here on Boing Boing, a recommendation to consider the nonprofit Wounded Warrior Project. The group works to raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of injured service members; helps injured service members aid and assist each other, and provides unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members. Many veteran's charities exist, few get as much good work done for actual vets as this one.—XJ

The Internet Archive

A free repository for all of human knowledge, a bottomless source of bandwidth and storage, the Internet's collective memory, the reinvention of the library right before our eyes. I don't know what I'd do without it. —CD


Since 2005, Kiva has been a pioneer in providing micro-financing to the "working poor", offering users the ability to choose their cause of choice. Micro-financing has shown itself to be a boon to the developing world, and especially in creating newly-empowered women entrepreneurs. Kiva has focused on this goal, and makes a difference in the regions they support.—Ken Snider

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. —CD

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. —CD

The Clarion Foundation

I'm also a volunteer on Clarion's board, helping to oversee 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 Shepard. I'm a graduate myself, and an instructor (I taught in 2005 and 2007) -- I received a substantial scholarship to the workshop in 1992 and it changed my life. I will pay that debt forward every year. —CD

Amnesty International

Just famed for their principled, effective campaigning for justice and fair treatment under the law, Amnesty has its finger in every pie -- freeing Gitmo detainees, defending jailed journalists, fighting torture and human trafficking, and standing up to bullies wherever they find them. They deserve every cent we can give them. —CD

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. —CD


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. Unwinding the violence done to fundamental freedoms over the past eight years will take time and money. The number of bad laws and regulations to overturn is staggering. —CD

Child Rights and You

I travelled to Mumbai last year for research and was overwhelmed by the terrible, ubiquitous child poverty -- thousands and thousands of children, barefoot, disfigured, begging. I asked my Indian friends about it and was told that it was endemic to Mumbai and India in general, and that many children are exploited by desperate parents or criminal "pimps" who muscle them out of the majority of their earnings. As a new parent, I couldn't help but wonder again and again how I would feel if it were my child living in those circumstances. I'm no stranger to poverty -- I helped build schools with Nicaraguan refugees in Central America, worked to set up an NGO in sub-Saharan Africa -- but I'd never seen anything to rival this. On advice from my Indian friends, I investigated and made a donation to CRY). CRY works to remedy the root causes of child poverty in India, in cities and the countryside, with a special emphasis on protecting girls from exploitation. The problem is deep and huge, but the solution has to begin somewhere. CRY also maintains a UK site for British donors. —CD

Canadian Charities

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. —CD

UK Charities

Open Rights Group

As Britain's slide into the surveillance society continues, as unelected officials present insane proposals to dismantle privacy and due process to catch pirates, ORG just gets more and more relevant. Membership is up 25% since the Digital Economy Bill was introduced and it continues to grow. Your £5/month pays to keep the lights on for a group of activists working to keep DRM off the BBC, working to ensure that you won't lose your Internet connection because someone in your house was accused of infringement. —CD


NO2ID stands as the nation's best, last bulwark against an Orwellian nightmare of universal tracking. NO2ID has won substantial victories against the New Labour's compulsive move towards a national ID card, keeping it at bay for years. The government wants to issue me (and other immigrants) one of these when my visa next renews, in two years. If they try to, I'll leave and take my family with me. My grandparents fled the Soviet Union rather than live under a ubiquitous surveillance system -- I'm not going to be enmeshed in one two generations later. —CD


Britain's answer to the American Civil Liberties Union. Every single time I read or hear a news-story about incursions on human rights in the UK, there's an articulate, knowledgeable Liberty commentator countering government's flimsy arguments and campaigning for our freedom. In an era where politicians spy on us seemingly through naked instinct, like ants building hills, it's groups like Liberty that present our best bulwark against tyranny. —CD


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. —CD


  1. I mentioned it last year, but I’ll mention it again: Sustainable Harvest, an organization that works to help small farmers in Central America grow food in a sustainable way that benefits their land, their families and the earth.

  2. The only overlap with my list this year is the Sierra Club.

    Oh, and the ACLU. And I think Amnesty International . . . I need to check on that.

    Ususally I donate to the EFF (I’m member number 127), but there were so many disasters this year that I ended up donation more to Mercy Corps and the like.

  3. The Sunlight Foundation is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency and to provide new tools and resources for media and individuals alike. We engage citizens and communities to demand policies that will enable all of us to hold government accountable. BoingBoing has kindly featured a number of our tools on the blog and even a donation of $1 would be greatly appreciated.

    Here is a link to the main donation page or get some spiffy swag with your donation here

  4. And just as last year, you guys left out Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders. That really surprises me given how much Xeni wrote about them earlier this year in Haiti.

    Forget the Red Cross. If you want to give to a humanitarian aid organization, give to the MSF.

    If you’re also into human rights causes, you may wish to consider the Innocence Project. The Innocence Project assists prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. They’ve managed to help exonerate dozens of people convicted wrongly, including multiple death-row inmates. Including a few sadly posthumously.

  5. Don’t forget Scholars at Risk (, rescuing politically inconvenient professors and sacrilegious scientists from censorship, imprisonment, and murder; preserving their good ideas for the rest of us.

  6. I’m surprised Child’s Play is not on here. They are a pretty solid organization. I’m glad someone has already mentioned it in the comments though.

  7. Oh hell, can’t believe i forgot these for UK folk…

    Citizens Advice
    Many people think they are government funded but it’s a charity and like many it’s struggling for resources. I volunteer for my local bureau and they do sterling work.

  8. I’d second Creative Commons.

    They’re constantly pushing to open up fields like science and education for content/data sharing and they’ve done some great work to that regard over the last year.

  9. Note: I’m the executive director for the charity I’m about to talk about.

    We’re Ferdinand Center for the Creative, a nonprofit working to start a design school in the Philippines to help artists who couldn’t normally afford design school. Some of the kids we’re helping come from backgrounds of the sex industry or hazardous charcoal factory work. We’re also educating and feeding children who live on the streets. You can find out more about us at

  10. Lots of great charities above, but how about this one. Imagine the look on a loved one’s face when you ell them you’ve bought them a rat for Christmas. A giant one at that.

    HeroRATs are a small charity who are using giant African pouched rats in Mozambique to discover land mines left over from that country’s civil war, and to identify people carrying TB.

    The rats have an acute sense of smell which can sniff out the explosive in the mines as well as chemicals given out by the TB bacterium. In exchange they get affection and an unlimited supply of goodies like bananas and peanuts.

    Rats are cheaper to train and keep than explosive detection dogs. Because of their tiny weight they are much less likely to set off a mine. They can quickly clear areas of fertile land that have been left unused because they contain the hidden mines, which not only means civilians are not going to continue to be maimed by mines, but they can use their land to become independent.

    The rats are also being used to sniff out TB in sputum samples. They are much quicker than an expensive trained lab technician and they don’t need expensive equipment – just those bananas.

    The charity is looking for people to sponsor a rat. You can pay a one off fee of €60, or twelve monthly payments of €5, or support them by buying HeroRAT merchandise.

    There’s much more information at and you can find links to their videos on YouTube including the suitably epic HeroRAT theme tune.

  11. The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) is a 501c3 nonprofit that takes an outside-of-the-box approach to civic engagement by using parallels from the Harry Potter books to educate and mobilize young people across the world toward issues of literacy, equality, and human rights. Their mission is to empower its members to act like the heroes that they love by acting for a better world. By bringing together fans of blockbuster books, TV shows, movies, and YouTube celebrities they are harnessing the power of popular culture toward making the world a better place. Their goal is to make civic engagement exciting by channeling the entertainment-saturated facets of our culture toward mobilization for deep and lasting social change.

  12. You forgot the Wikimedia foundation. As I always say to friends, pick any topic and the chances are that wikipedia is the most read and most influential website in that area. Creating a Free (as in beer & speech!) – and Verifiable (as in with reliable sources that you can decide for yourself whether you trust!) Encyclopaedia of everything ( and in every language), is a noble cause that deserves the support of every geek, freak and happy mutant around! You should donate here:

  13. Clean Water for Haiti is my favorite charity I mentioned Clean Water for Haiti in this same comments section last year. Haiti is pretty much the same in 2010 except that now the capital city is flattened and the population is in the midst of a major cholera outbreak. Clean Water for Haiti can help with the Cholera.

    In addition to looking at the website, you can get a more intimate look at what Clean Water for Haiti does on the Craig family blog

  14. I’m a student of international development, and I have had the opportunity to meet many leaders (including ones named below) in this field. The books linked below make great gifts for anyone interested in global poverty. These are my personal, annual “must-donates”:

    Oxfam – general international development (and favorite of ethicist Peter Singer)

    Partners in Health – Founded in Haiti in 1987, working in the poorest communities of the world today. PIH and Paul Farmer’s story is told in a great book by Tracy Kidder

    Women for Women International – Particularly their current work in the “rape capital of the world”, D.R. Congo. Focuses on women in war-torn countries. Founded by Zainab Salbi (Keynote of her speaking is linked. Such an amazing woman. Grew up in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq… she also has an autobiography).

    Room to Read – Bringing libraries and schools to remote regions of the world. Founded by a former Microsoft exec (detailed in his book) this organization runs with business-like efficiency

    Non-poverty charity shout-outs: MIT OpenCourseWare and of course the EFF.

  15. In embodying the actual meaning of “charity”, nothing beats the Heifer Project.

    Heifer International is in the business of ending world hunger. And it’s actually working; today millions of people were fed thanks to 65 years of Heifer projects. And those people are standing on their own feet, and helping others to stand up. They aren’t second-class clients of wealthy people suffering from liberal guilt, living on scraps; they are as good as anyone else in the world and they know it.

    Heifer doesn’t give sandwiches to people living unsustainable lifestyles in a unproductive wasteland. Those people will starve the minute you stop sending sandwiches, and in the meantime you’ve reduced them to beggary, and that’s going to wreck their indigenous culture (if they have any left) and diminish them as individuals. Giving people food doesn’t work as a long term solution, it’s only worth doing in short term recovery situations as a part of a broader strategy.

    Heifer provides people in war-torn and disaster-wrecked communities with the tools to build a sustainable future based on livestock and agriculture carefully chosen to suit the needs, abilities, and history of the inhabitants of those communities.

    Please read about Heifer on their website at – I’m not an employee or in any other way associated with heifer, although over the years I have helped buy an elephant, dozens of heifers, and many chickens, bees, and ducks.

    Heifer is different. It’s better. Recipients of Heifer assistance aren’t asked to “pay it back” – they are required to “pay it forward” by helping somebody else get back on their feet. This means a homeless single mother doesn’t have to sacrifice her pride in order to feed her children, in fact she will get to involve the children in an worthwhile global enterprise. Once she’s paid forward, she can continue to be involved with charity work or not, as she pleases.

    Since this is the Boing, I feel that I should point out that while Heifer was started by a Christian in accordance with his beliefs, it is not evangelical and does not discriminate based on faith or lack thereof. You are welcome to believe what you like as long as you want to help world hunger.

  16. I’m going to speak out against the Sierra Club being on this list. Like the NRA, their leadership has been captured by extremists. They’ve gone far beyond their mandate of protecting the environment, into creating wilderness where none has existed in over a hundred years — i.e., “re-wilding”. You may get warm fuzzies from their past activities helping preserve real prestine wilderness areas, trail building, and such, but that’s not what their current leadership is involved in — rather, they are intent upon turning mines, ranches, and other human activity that they view as “unsightly” back into wilderness. Which sounds good if you’re a city slicker, but we’re talking about mostly small ranchers, farmers, and miners here, family businesses that have never turned huge profits, not the big guys, the big guys can afford the lawyers and lobbyists to make sure they aren’t affected. I can’t see how anybody can support taking someone’s property that has been in the family for over a century via lawsuit abuse. (Yes, I can provide you examples if you ask).

    One thing I would like to add: Support your local food bank and soup kitchen. People are getting hungry right now. Really hungry. I will try to send a donation to the EFF too, but my first priority when giving was food, because freedom’s not much use to the dead. If I have anything left over on December 31 it’s going to the EFF, but the food bank and soup kitchen came first.

    1. I, too, think the Sierra Club is a bad choice. As an urban planner, I’ve noticed that many of their local chapters do nothing more than help NIMBYs fight sustainable development. Nationwide, when there’s a public outcry over dense development on a brownfield site, rest assured the Sierra Club is involved. They fight development in areas with a high concentration of members, which often happens to be in cities. The net effect is that development is pushed into rural areas.

      Anyway, there are lots of great environmental causes out there. I don’t think the Sierra Club is one of them. Their attitude towards developers is way too antagonistic.

  17. MSF/Doctors Without Borders is great. You might also check out Engineers Without Borders ( for a big helping of “geeks doing good.”

    Also, they’ve got corporate funding to match all incoming donations 1:1 right now.

  18. Developing youth into global leaders skilled in partnering with diverse peoples is the aim of the Global Enterprise Experience It links participants from 59 countries and 150 universities into global virtual teams to develop business solutions for global problems – such as sustainability, women’s development, indigenous people development, and fostering unity in diversity.

    Anybody wanting to develop their skills to be an effective global citizen may enrol for free on before March 9, 2011. You will be placed into a global virtual team of eight with members from four to six diverse countries and given a three week challenge on March 23. Donors are sought to enable this programme to continue, with many options for recognition and impact available.

Comments are closed.