Boing Boing Charitable Giving Guide, 2011 edition

It's time again for Boing Boing's guide the charities we support in our annual giving. As always, please add the causes and charities you give to in the comments below!

Electronic Frontier Foundation
The EFF's mission has never been more important: as laws like SOPA are rammed through Congress, as bloggers around the world are arrested and tortured with the collusion of American network-surveillance companies, and as the FBI's unconstitutional, warrantless use of surveillance technology like GPS bugs comes to light, EFF is poised to be center-stage in the fight for a free and open world with a free and open Internet. —CD

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 Foundation Beyond Belief:
This is a great one for anybody who wants to donate to one place, but have their money reach multiple causes. It's also a good charity for people who want to donate to charity as an expression of humanist values, rather than religious ones. It works like this: You donate to the Foundation Beyond Belief. Every quarter, the Foundation picks ten charities, one in each of nine categories—health, poverty, environment, education, human rights, peace, animal protection, child welfare, other worldviews—plus the Foundation itself. You can tell them how you'd like your gift divvied up among the categories. At the end of the quarter, 100% of the donations go to the chosen charities and the cycle starts over again. —MKB

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

World Vision:
An oldie, but goodie. Highly rated by Charity Navigator, World Vision is the classic way to donate in someone's name as a gift. Children, families, and communities all over the world benefit. Your friends and loved ones get to see, in a tangible way, how they've helped to improve lives. Buy 5 ducks and 2 chickens for a family or a cow for a small village. In the US, you can provide school supplies, winter necessities, and food to children and families. I once bought half a cow in the name of my grandparents. As farmers, they liked knowing that they were helping other farmers. What a great way to make connections! —MKB

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:
In global disaster zones, few groups make as much impact as quickly as do Medecins Sans Frontieres, 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

Nurse-Family Partnership:
Provides in-home nurse visits for low-income, first-time expectant mothers and their babies. This program is evidence-based and studies have shown that it has an impact on both public health, and reducing child abuse and neglect. In 2010, it was highly rated by It's also one of Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy's "Social Programs That Work". —MKB

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

National Lawyer's Guild: An American institution, these justice-loving lawyers have been a fixture at Occupy actions across the nation. When you see protesters with lawyers' numbers written in marker on their arms, chances are that's the local NLG chapter. —CD

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

Big Brothers Big Sisters:
As a former Big, this was one of the most rewarding programs I've had the pleasure of being a part of. It also works. The Big Brothers Big Sisters approach has shown success in randomized controlled trials and it's one of the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy's "Social Programs That Work". —MKB

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

Innovations for Poverty Action: Highly rated by, IPA does the studies that find out what kind of poverty interventions actually work and where those interventions work. IPA is led by scientists and uses randomized controlled trials to help make sure that charities are reaching their stated goals and doing what they're supposed to be doing. When they find programs that work, they also assist in scaling those programs up from trials to full-scale interventions. —MKB

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

National Academy Foundation:
The NAF supports Career Academies in low-income public high schools, programs that are proven to make a difference in kids' lives. Studies have shown that graduates of Career Academies see an average 11% increase in annual earnings, an effect that stays strong over the long term. Basically, they start out making more money and keep making more money. —MKB

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

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

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

(I like Kiva, too. It's a fun family activity to look at the proposals and decide where to make investments. Also, Kiva Cards are a cool gift to introduce your friends to the fun world of microinvesting! —Mark Frauenfelder)

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. This year marked the sad, premature death of its visionary founder, Michael Hart, and supporting his life's work is a fitting tribute to one of the Internet's true pioneers —CD

Mission statement: "Founded in 1991, the Institute for Justice is what a civil liberties law firm should be. As our nation's only libertarian public interest law firm, we engage in cutting-edge litigation and advocacy both in the courts of law and in the court of public opinion on behalf of individuals whose most basic rights are denied by the government--like the right to earn an honest living, private property rights, and the right to free speech, especially in the areas of commercial and Internet speech. As Wired magazine said, the Institute for Justice 'helps individuals subject to wacky government regulations.'" —MF

I've been a member of the American Civil Liberties Union for many years. They need all the support they can get to keep Americans safe and free from a government that answers only to their corporate string-pullers. —MF

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

Any homelessness charity that uses Critical Time Intervention strategies: Homelessness charities are inherently local things. Find one near you, then find out whether it uses CTI, a method of reaching people during crisis situations so that they never become homeless to begin with. CTI has been found to reduce the likelihood of homelessness by 60%, 18 months after people were randomly assigned to CTI-based programs. —MKB

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:
Justly 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

Two great jobs charities: Year Up is a national program that trains highly motivated, low-income young adults for well-paying careers. Candidates spend six months going through intensive training and six months on an internship. Most end up with jobs that pay upwards of $40,000 to $60,000 a year. At the other end of the jobs spectrum is The Hope Program, which focuses on getting extremely disadvantaged New Yorkers a job. The Hope Program is working with people who would otherwise have trouble finding any kind of employment at all, folks with histories of substance abuse, homelessness, and prison records. Helping people overcome those barriers and find employment can be a key to making sure they don't end up back in a bad situation. —MKB

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

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

Child Rights and You:
I travelled to Mumbai in 2009 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

Software Freedom Law Center:
As the leading legal clinic defending the interests of free software authors, SFLC is a nexus for the defeat of stupid software patents, work on free software stacks for use in defeating network censorship and shutdowns in repressive regimes, and fighting obscure but vital fights like the battle over UEFI, which threatens to make it both legally and technically challenging to install GNU/Linux on your own computer.

Neighborworks America: This national charity has done a couple of things I really, really like. First, it's a leader in providing counseling to families at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure. At a time when there are lots of scams ready to prey on the weak, Neighborworks protects and helps people keep their homes. Second, they're working for sustainable, affordable housing, making sure that all people can afford homes that are energy efficient and environmentally safe. —MKB

The 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

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. Direct Relief International ( ) is a nonpartisan, nonreligious charity that provides medical assistance worldwide.  They do some amazing quick-deploy work — and manage a superb efficiency level thanks to a behest that covers their operating overhead.  (And I’m not singing their praises just because they’re based out of my hometown — they do good work.)

  2. About World Vision: Wikipedia describes them as “an evangelical relief and development umbrella organization whose stated goal is ‘to follow our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.’ ” That’s not an agenda that everyone wants to get behind.

    1. Nope, it’s not. But some people support that agenda. And some, like me, don’t particularly care why you’re helping people … so long as you’re helping people. I wouldn’t recommend just any religious charity. But World Vision has a good reputation for giving people help without attaching strings. They’re acting on their faith in a way that is objectively useful and in a way that actually lines up with the words of Jesus. I don’t have a problem with that. 

      Note: I also recommended the Foundation Beyond Belief, and not everybody would support that agenda, either. 

        1. Because I was personally focused on economic inequality issues, especially those in the U.S., this year. The top Give Well charities for 2011 are targeting other things. Certainly, those things (like malaria) aren’t any less important. But I can’t recommend everything every year, so I like to pick a theme. 

  3. Hi Cory, great list! One that I’d love to add is a relatively new charitable organization, Create Excitement for Public Schools ( They are a nonprofit that is working to give money back to public schools by making donation as easy as treating  yourself to a lunch/manicure/everyday purchase.

    They’ve partnered with companies like Amazon and Groupon to give a percentage back of everyday sales to public schools! Though they’re new, they are out to change how people view donating and make it an easy part of the everyday.

    1. Wow, they honestly need to make themselves a website that doesn’t look like it was created in 1993. More importantly, there’s no information on that website what-so-ever. How do I know what the money is going towards? There’s just no information.

  4. Personally, I would also add Child’s Play to the list: This is a charity that is worth giving to regardless of who you are, what you believe in, or what causes you value. They use money to deliver toys and games to hospitalized children around the globe.

    1. Seconding this as a great charity. It’s probably where my household will be giving our Christmas donation to

  5. For anyone interested in fixing our failing War on Drugs I would suggest Students for Sensible Drug Policy ( and for people who like to fund the silenced science of the use of psychedelics in medicine I would suggest the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (  MAPS is the group supplying nearly all of the funding for clinical trials to use MDMA-assisted therapy sessions to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

  6. If you have ACLU and Liberty on your list, you need to have the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) as well! Full disclosure: I’m the director of communications and fundraising at CCLA, so I’m obviously biased, but CCLA intervenes in hundreds of court cases every year, is an effective watchdog on a whole host of issues, and works to keep the government accountable. Our portofolio includes:
    – Fundamental freedoms (freedom of expression, assembly, etc) – we did a lot of work on Occupy recently, for eg.
    – Public Safety (police accountability, privacy, due process, etc. ) – check out our most recent work on the Canadian “lawful access” bill:
    – Equality (immigration, LGBT, minority rights, discrimination)
    – National Security (counter-terrorism, rights of Canadians abroad, torture, etc. )
    We’re a small organization (10 staff) with a huge mandate and we need your support. Every donation really does make a difference and helps us inform, educate and empower Canadians on key issues.
    I hope you’ll check us out!

  7. Well our companies are not necessarily non-profits but they do need your support. I’m also a Service Disabled Marine Corps Veteran and I’m on a mission to promote and support Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses. The Wounded Warriors are coming home, getting out of the service and the jobs are very limited.
     Therefore many are starting their own businesses in an attempt to survive and support their families. These Wounded Warriors do very much NEED our support! For this reason we have created AKA The “Wounded Warrior Directory” a directory of over 5000 disabled veteran businesses that need and DESERVE our support. Please Help us let others know about these businesses by linking to Veterans Directory, liking us on Facebook, grabbing one of our banners or badges to display on your site, mention us in articles and or whatever else you can think of to support these veterans.  Thank you for helping to support this cause!!

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