Boing Boing Charitable Giving Guide, the 2009 edition

Once again, I'm delighted to return to a Boing Boing seasonal tradition: a 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. As with last year, this is a rough holiday for the charitable sector — between Madoff collapses and econopocalypse, it's hard out there for everyone. But please, don't forget the charities that keep the world fair, free and healthy this holiday season.

US Charities

Electronic Frontier Foundation: As with every year, EFF gets the largest donation from me this year. Though I rooted for Obama, I harbored no illusions that his inauguration would usher in a golden era of civil liberties. Between secrecy — suppressing publication of the torture tapes and the text of the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement — and the Dems' traditional coziness with Hollywood (the DMCA was a Cliniton creation), it's more important than ever to have principled, effective civil liberties watchdogs on the scene. I've seen first hand how smart EFF spends, how much they do with just a little, and I know that every penny I can spare makes a difference.

Creative Commons: Now six years old, CC continues to grow in relevance and reach. More governments, schools, artists and corporations are finding freedom in the Creative Commons licenses. I make my living with CC, and so much of the media I love — the media that changes and challenges me — is released under CC licenses.

Mark sez, Sova Community Food and
Resource Program
operates three food pantries in Los Angeles to supply
very low income families in Los Angeles with groceries. "Nobody is
ever turned away without food."

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: 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.


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.

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 proud to serve on PCF's board as a volunteer, and I love the totally wonderful free media player they produce, Miro, an Internet TV program that just works . Because TV is too important to leave up to Microsoft and Apple.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

NO2ID: 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.