Charitable Giving Guide

Here’s a guide to the charities the Boingers support in our own annual giving. As always, please add the causes and charities you give to in the forums!

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MGM shuts down volunteer "Rocky" charity run

The Philadelphia run, which recreates a scene from Rocky II, raises money to buy sneakers for a charity; MGM has seen its success and has partnered with a for-profit company to launch a non-charitable version and now has clobbered the volunteers to clear away competition.

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Charity collection-boxes shaped like life-sized homeless people

The Dutch homelessness charity Badt dressed mannequins as homeless people, sawed coin-slots in their foreheads, and seeded them around Amsterdam with signs soliciting donations. It's a clever campaign, but it says something a little unpleasant, in that we are apparently more willing to give money to a doll with a slot in its forehead than an actual homeless person.

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Jonathan Coulton responds to Fox/Glee's plagiarism of his song by "covering" it and making rival version available for sale

You'll have heard that Jonathan Coulton's iconic cover of Baby's Got Back was plagiarised by the Fox TV show "Glee" (it's not the first time). Coulton's story has been widely reported, but Fox/Glee have remained shameless about this.

Coulton's got a brilliant solution to this: he's released a "cover" of Glee's plagiarized version of his song, put it on Itunes as a rival to the official Fox version, and has announced that the proceeds will go to charity.

Jonathan Coulton ‘Covers’ Glee’s Ripoff of ‘Baby Got Back,’ Puts It on iTunes, Proceeds Go to Charity (Thanks, Larry!)

Donate to help schools purchase science supplies

From a rural Louisiana middle school that has never had a microscope, to a school in California that lacks basic laboratory safety equipment (think, nitrile gloves) — many schools in the United States aren't getting kids the resources they need to learn science. You can help by donating to these causes through Donors Choose. (Via Jaquelyn Gill at the Contemplative Mammoth blog)

Shirt that got Poop Strong man tossed off a Delta flight available once again!


After Arijit got thrown off of a Delta flight for wearing a TSA-mocking t-shirt I designed, a lot of people began to email, asking where they could buy one for themselves. Well, it seemed a bit weird to do a reissue and pocket a royalty for a shirt on the basis of someone else's legal hassles, so I worked with Arijit and Woot, and we've decided to reissue the shirt with all the profits being divided evenly between EFF, the ACLU, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Get yours today for a mere $15! Wear it with pride! Don't blame me if you get kicked off an airplane!

Also available in handsome tote form at $10 each.

Threat Level: Doctorow

FunnyJunk's bewildered lawyer: "I'm completely unfamiliar really with this style of responding to a legal threat"

The Internet's head exploded yesterday at the news that FunnyJunk had sent a $20,000 legal demand letter to The Oatmeal, asserting that the Oatmeal's complaint about FunnyJunk's users reposting Oatmeal content was, itself, an offense warranting a $20,000 settlement.

This act of monumental chutzpah ("You want ME to pay YOU $20,000 for hosting MY unlicensed comics on your shitty website for the past three years?") was matched by Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman's response: to promise to raise $20,000 for cancer charities, but before it was turned over to them, to photograph himself standing astride the pile of money and forward this photo, along with a cartoon depicting Funnyjunk's lawyer's mother trying to seduce a bear, to FunnyJunk and its counsel.

The fundraiser was a smashing success, blowing past the $100,000 mark in a day. Now, MSNBC has caught up with FunnyJunk's counsel, Charles Carreon, a storied attorney who made his reputation litigating the sex.com case. They find Carreon in a state of sheer bewilderment as he confronts the enormous storm of bad will, negative publicity, and public disapprobation he and his client find themselves amidst. As he says, "I'm completely unfamiliar really with this style of responding to a legal threat."

I'd be tempted to feel some sympathy for Carreon, save for the fact that the interview closes with this: "He also explains that he believes Inman's fundraiser to be a violation of the terms of service of IndieGoGo, the website being used to collect donations, and has sent a request to disable the fundraising campaign." It's hard to feel sympathy for someone who wants to take over $100,000 away from cancer charities because of a supposed violation of someone else's fine-print.

"I really did not expect that he would marshal an army of people who would besiege my website and send me a string of obscene emails," he says.

"I'm completely unfamiliar really with this style of responding to a legal threat — I've never really seen it before," Carreon explains. "I don't like seeing anyone referring to my mother as a sexual deviant," he added, referencing the drawing Inman posted...

"I don't think that what I did was unreasonable," Carreon says while discussing the initial demands sent to Inman. He tells me that while this situation is unique, he is typically open to negotiation. He ended the conversation with a promise to keep me updated on how things are resolved and on whether he takes any legal action against the folks who have been harassing him since Inman's "BearLove Good Cancer Bad" fundraising campaign started.

"It's an education in the power of mob psychology and the Internet," Carreon told me.

It's a testimony to the power of smart people to fool themselves that Carreon can clearly see the ugliness of "mob psychology," but not the ugliness of legal intimidation.

Also, I'm rather amused by MSNBC's treatment of the cartoon of the mother and the bear (above).

Cartoonist turns lawsuit threat into $100K charity fundraiser

6 myths of microfinancing

Over the years, I've been really impressed with the stuff I've heard about microfinancng charities like KIVA. The idea of helping people in developing countries launch and support small businesses, changing their lives and the lives of their children, makes a lot of sense. And the personal stories that go with microfinancing are pretty appealing.

I'm starting to re-think my opinions on microfinancing, however, after reading some of the research done by GiveWell.org, an organization that casts an evidence-based eye on what different charities do and whether they actually get the results they claim.

It's not that microfinancing is bad, per se, GiveWell says. It's just that the system doesn't measure up to the hype. And if you've got a limited amount of money to spend on helping other people, there might be more effective ways to do it that produce more bang for your buck.

GiveWell has written a ton on this, but I'd recommend starting with a blog post of theirs from a couple of years ago called 6 Myths About Microfinance Charities that Donors Can Live Without. This piece provides a succinct breakdown of what questions you should be asking about microfinance charities, and provides lots and lots of links for deeper digging. The myth that surprised me the most:

Myth #6: microfinance works because of (a) the innovative “group lending” method; (b) targeting of women, who use loans more productively than men; (c) targeting of the poorest of the poor, who benefit most from loans.

Reality: all three of these claims are often repeated but (as far as we can tell) never backed up. The strongest available evidence is limited, but undermines all three claims.

Humble Indie Bundle 3: new installment of terrific name-your-price DRM-free indie game bundle

The Humble Indie Bundle folks have just launched Humble Indie Bundle 3 (confusingly, this is the fourth Humble Indie Bundle, but the third was called Humble Frozenbyte, leaving the 3 designator free). For those of you who've missed the previous installments, the HIB packages a collection of five great DRM-free indie games and invites you to name your price for them, and to divert some of the money to one of a list of charities. I recently hung out with the Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (one of the HIB charities -- the other is Child's Play) and she was ecstatic about the enormous contribution HIB players had made to EFF. Without naming any figures, I can at least say that last year's HIB was enough to have funded my whole salary at EFF, over all the years I was there, twice over. In addition previous HIBs have raised enough for the game creators involved that they released their games as free/open source software by way of thanks.

I love the way HIB does its thing, especially the metrics they provide on how different operating system users give (all HIB games run on Mac, Windows, and GNU/Linux) and the running totals. This really seems to capture the giving and competitive spirits of gamers to amazing effect (I'm thinking hard about how to apply this to ebooks!).

This round's games are Crayon Physics Deluxe, Cogs, VVVVVV, Hammerfight and And Yet It Moves. I've just bought in (can't wait to play Crayon Physics with the kid!). Look for my donation buoying up GNU/Linux side of the financials.

Humble Indie Bundle 3 (via /.)