Boing Boing Charitable Giving Guide — the 2008 edition

It's time for another Boing Boing seasonal tradition: our charitable giving guide, a list of charities we personally support and want to give more attention to. And as in previous years, we invite you to add your own favorite charities to the list in the comments section. This is going to be a rough holiday for the charitable sector — we're all tightening our belts. Don't forget the charities that keep the world fair, free and healthy this holiday season.

US Charities

Electronic Frontier Foundation: Once again, my largest donation for the year goes to EFF. They're suing GW Bush and Gonzo over warrantless wiretapping, seeking DMCA exemptions for video remixing and phone unlocking, working to keep e-voting honest, busting the phone companies and fighting against telecom immunity; overturning crappy patents — the list goes on an on. Architecture is politics: the structure of the net will determine the structure of the society it underpins. If we lose the net's freedom, we lose everything. I've worked for EFF in the past and I know exactly how far they stretch every dime. It's magic.

Creative Commons: Five years in, and CC is better than ever. Governments around the world are releasing their material under CC; it's become the norm for science, documentation, fan-media, and many kinds of literature, as well as podcasts. The launch of ccLearn for schools was a huge step this year, and the organization keeps on doing fantastic work on a shoestring budget.

Youth Radio: Pesco sez, "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."

Xeni sez, "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.

Contact: or

Tel: (502) 2285-0100 or (502) 2285-0139"

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 Miro, 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.

The Clarion Foundation: 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 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.

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.

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.

ACLU: 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.

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. This year, PK was instrumental to opening up America's "white space" spectrum — fallow radio frequencies hoarded by broadcasters — in order to allow for thousands of times more WiFi-style bandwidth for us all to use.

Child Rights and You: I travelled to Mumbai earlier this 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 (we also nominated them as a charity in lieu of presents for people who came to our wedding). 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.

Canadian Charities

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: 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 — this year, they helped reverse an EU initiative force ISPs to disconnect their customers on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations of infringement. In 2009, we need them to help us fight off the national ID card, increased Internet surveillance, and a mad proposal to give the major record labels another 45 years' worth of copyright on existing works, despite the unanimous opinion of the government's own experts saying that this will be bad news.

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 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.

Liberty: 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.

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.