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Donations

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I just finished my end-of-year donations; not quite as last-minute as usual.

In case anyone's interested, here are some of the organizations I'm donating to. Much of this is repeated from last year's entry, but there are some updates too.

I really ought to categorize these for ease of scanning; the organization names don't always make obvious what they are or do. But that would add an extra layer of work to the process of posting this that might keep me from doing it altogether. So this year I'll just stick with an alphabetized list.

There are some further notes on other organizations at the end.

Almost all of these organizations take donations online, either by credit card or PayPal. I'll explicitly mention it when an organization doesn't take donations online.

Donations to almost all of these organizations are tax-deductible in the US.

American Civil Liberties Union
Supporting civil liberties, especially freedom of speech, in the US. Donations to the ACLU are not tax-deductible, though.
American Jewish World Service
Their mission: "helping to alleviate poverty, hunger, and disease among the people of the world regardless of race, religion, or nationality." They came to my attention when they were helping fund underground schools for Afghan girls during the reign of the Taliban.
Broad Universe
"[A]n international organization with the primary goal of promoting science fiction, fantasy, and horror written by women."
Carl Brandon Society
"[D]edicated to addressing the representation of people of color in the fantastical genres such as science fiction, fantasy and horror." They started taking memberships this year; for $50, you can become a Founding Member, but I think only 'til the end of 2005, so act fast! Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be a way to sign up online; I printed out their PDF membership form and mailed them a check.
Center for Constitutional Rights
Public-interest lawyers who continue to work on improving the legal situation for the detainees at Guantánamo Bay.
Clarion West
An annual six-week speculative-fiction writing workshop; I attended long ago. Many attendees have gone on to have high-profile careers in sf. Three CW alums won World Fantasy Awards last year. CW has some matching grants going; if they raise $1000 in donations this month, two alums and Microsoft will each match that money, so that $1000 will turn into $4000. So if you've considered donating to them in the past but haven't, now would be a great time. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have a way to donate online; I wrote them a check and mailed it.
Coyote Point Museum
A nature learning center here on the Peninsula; I'm most interested in their wildlife program. See my entry a couple weeks ago describing Kam's and my most recent visit. This is the one organization that I haven't donated to yet this year, but I'm expecting to do so before the end of the year.
Direct Relief International
"We focus on health--by providing essential material resources to locally run health programs in poor areas around the world and during times of disaster." I found out about them through Google's tsunami relief page a year ago, but like most of the organizations listed there, they also do good work worldwide and year-'round. I figure it's important to keep supporting tsunami-relief efforts even though that's largely dropped off the radar for Americans; also important to keep supporting general worldwide relief efforts and not just target specific big disasters.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières
"[D]elivers emergency aid to victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and natural and man-made disasters, and to others who lack health care due to social or geographical isolation." They do good work, even if they do have wacky ideas about titles.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Sort of the online equivalent of the ACLU, "working to protect our fundamental rights regardless of technology; to educate the press, policymakers and the general public about civil liberties issues related to technology; and to act as a defender of those liberties. . . ." I sometimes disagree vehemently with their phrasing and approaches, but I strongly support most of the work they do.
Exploratorium
Excellent and educational "museum of science, art, and human perception" in San Francisco. I rarely make it up there, but I maintain my membership anyway, to support their work.
Global Fund for Women
"[A]n international network of women and men committed to a world of equality and social justice, [which] advocates for and defends women's human rights by making grants to support women's groups around the world."
Habitat for Humanity
They build houses for people, and require those people to help build other houses for other people. Some friends of mine don't like the fact that Habitat is a Christian organization, but that doesn't bother me in the slightest. "We welcome all people to join us as we build simple, decent, affordable, houses in partnership with those in need of adequate shelter." As far as I can tell, they don't proselytize.
Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic
It's been providing absolutely free healthcare—"comprehensive, nonjudgmental, demystified, and humane"—in San Francisco for over 35 years now.
KQED public radio
It's one of the few radio stations I listen to these days, usually in the car. (Though since I don't drive much these days, I don't listen to the radio much. Still, worth supporting. I should probably also support the other public radio stations in the area, but I almost never actually listen to them.)
Peter Hartman Fund
My father taught at a community college near Tacoma, WA, called Pierce College. After his death, the Pierce College Foundation set up a fund in his name for providing math books for disadvantaged students. If you'd like to donate it, make out a check to "Pierce College Foundation--Peter Hartman Fund" and send it to 9401 Farwest Dr. SW, Lakewood, WA 98498; Attn: Cherry Tinker. You can also donate online by following a link from their giving page, but you can't specify a specific fund on that page; if you donate online, then stop by their contact page to let them know what you intended the donation for. (As with most of the items on this page, the Foundation is a 501(c)(3), so donations to it are tax-deductible.)
Project Vote Smart
Provides a huge amount of extremely useful information about ballot measures and candidates.
American Red Cross
I got a little dubious about the American Red Cross a couple years ago, when I heard rumors that a lot of money that had been donated to them earmarked for specific purposes had been put into their general fund. But I can't deny that they do good and important work. And talking with Kam about her volunteer work with them has made me like them more--among other things, it turns out that 97 percent of their workforce consists of volunteers. Turns out there's a lot that ordinary people can do to help out the Red Cross beyond donating blood.
Resource Center for Nonviolence
A Santa Cruz-based "twenty-five year old peace and social justice organization dedicated to promoting the principles of nonviolent social change." Looks like they're once again involved in the annual John McCutcheon concert in Santa Cruz, this time taking place on the evening of January 20 (with a family/kid-oriented concert the next morning).
Room to Read
Provides challenge grants to villages to build schools and libraries, mostly in Cambodia, India, Nepal, and Vietnam. Since 2000, they've helped local communities build 140 schools and 2200 libraries, among other things. Oh, and they've donated 1.2 million books.
Sarvodaya
As Mary Anne noted last year, this is the organization that Arthur C. Clarke recommends supporting in Sri Lanka. They've been doing good work for 45 years. See above note re tsunami; just 'cause it's been a year since the disaster doesn't mean the rebuilding work is done. Last year donations to them weren't tax-deductible in the US, but this year they have an American branch, Sarvodaya USA, that's registered as a 501(c)(3); Americans who donate to the US branch can deduct the donations.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties
They give food to people who need it. There are affiliated organizations all over the US.
Speculative Literature Foundation
Their mission is to "promote literary quality in speculative fiction, by encouraging promising new writers, assisting established writers, facilitating the work of quality magazines and small presses in the genre, and developing a greater public appreciation of speculative fiction."
Swarthmore College
It's my alma mater, and I still think it does good work.
The Women's Community Clinic
Another San Francisco organization providing high-quality free healthcare: "free, respectful, quality care for women, by women." Came to my attention via a Jon Carroll column in 1999.

And, of course, if you're looking for other places to donate before the end of the year, there's always Strange Horizons, which (like most of the organizations above) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so donations are tax-deductible.

Last year I wrote about tithing. This year I didn't manage to donate 10% of my income--more like 6%. That's partly 'cause my income was higher (due to stock options), so total donation amount in dollars was higher than last year; and partly 'cause I had some big expenses, like a car. Still, I could've afforded 10% this year; I just didn't really think about it 'til I was halfway through my donations list. And I hate to do one-time higher donations to nonprofits, because they always think I'm going to keep sending them money at the new level. Also, I made some extra donations earlier in the year; for example, my company matched some donations I made for Katrina relief, above and beyond their usual generous donation matching. Still, I should spend some time thinking about whether I'm satisfied with the level of donations I gave this year. I've still got a week to give more if I decide to.

Okay, I think that's all for now.

Reminder: if you do find yourself donating to nonprofits, I strongly recommend finding the little box many of them provide that says either "Yes, it's okay to share my name with other organizations" or "Please don't share my name with other organizations" and checking or unchecking it as appropriate. Maybe everyone knows this, but in case not: it's quite common for nonprofits to trade or sell their mailing lists, which can result in a flood of donation requests from other organizations. Many of which are also worthy, but there's only so many places one person can donate to--and I hate junk mail anyway.

11 Comments

Jed, that's a great list! We get a lot of direct mail solicitations, too, so I've gotten a lot more careful about checking the boxes. Helps cut down the mail a lot.

And about Habitat for Humanity. We used to donate to them every month, but switched over to MSF completely because the Christian stuff in the quarterly mailing started to get a little heavy for me. Or maybe it's just me, reacting to the general Christianizing climate in the U.S. right now...


Oop, sorry about that double post. The first one gave me a 'file not found, notify person-in-authority-over-this site' message, so I reposted.


Warm greetings to you in the name of "GOD".
HELP (Service organisation )was registered under foreign contributions regulation act to receive foreign contributions.The main aims are to eradicate poverty and illiteracy.
We need financial support to remote rural & tribal women's development project.
So please kindly inform about your support and write a letter for project details.

Thanking you,

yours faithfully,

vvchary
chairman of HELP.


Both MSF and CCR spend a little too much on fundraising for my tastes:

http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm/bay/search.summary/orgid/7728.htm

http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm/bay/search.summary/orgid/3628.htm

But I'll probably give to CCR anyway, since I feel so strongly about Guantanamo. Thanks for pointing it out, Jed.

And I have heard that MSF goes places other disaster-aid charities won't.


Sarah: Interesting re Habitat. I asked them to remove me from their mailing list a while back 'cause I get too much papermail and I rarely got around to reading their newsletter, so I can't comment on the Christian stuff, but I'm sorry to hear it reached the point of being offputting. I guess with the various religious aid organizations, I tend to be in favor of them as long as they don't discriminate in who they help. (Or in who they hire and who they condemn, which is why I have mixed feelings about the Salvation Army--the main organization appears to be fairly anti-gay, but some of the local branches appear not to be.) For years, I've been meaning to go help actually build a house for Habitat, but I never quite manage it.

Regarding that "HELP Org.INDIA" comment: I should note that I know nothing about that organization, so the comment about it should not in any way be seen as an endorsement from me. It may well be a legitimate organization, but it's not listed at charitynavigator.org, nor can I find any information about it online. And to quote Mary Anne from a year ago: "Please be wary of giving money to religious-affiliated organizations in South Asia. Many are perfectly fine, but some are essentially fronts for groups which advocate communal violence." V. V. Chary, I'm sorry to be skeptical, but I'd have to know a whole lot more about your organization (and see some proof that it exists) before I would send money to it. I suspect that few legitimate aid organizations in rural India are doing their best fundraising by posting comments to American blogs.

Ben: Thanks much for the charity navigator links. I'm sorry to see that nearly an eighth of the MSF budget goes to fundraising; that seems like an awful lot to me, especially if it means they're paying someone a lot of money to do things like come up with lists of hundreds of possible titles. They've been on my list only since last year, and I'm still not certain I want to donate to them long-term. But yeah, I've heard a lot of good things about their work, including what you said (that they'll go places others won't). I'm very surprised to see that nearly a sixth of the CCR budget goes to fundraising, 'cause my recollection from last year was that I had a hard time finding out how to donate to them, and got the impression they weren't used to taking donations from the public. But I may well be misremembering, and perhaps their fundraising efforts are aimed at bigger targets anyway.


Thanks much for posting this! I just finished making my list. (Yes, this means that i have not actually given any money yet, but, given my natural reluctance to actually do anything ever, making the MySQL database is 80% of the battle.)

I got a number of good ideas off your list, and the descriptions were particularly helpful, so i wanted to thank you for putting it online.

BTW, a charity watchdog organization which has been around for quite some time is the American Institute of Philanthropy. Unfortunately, they don't give away much information for free except their top-of-category lists, but i'm going to join them this year, so hopefully next year i'll be able to report on what i think of their newsletter and for-pay information.


Argh, knew that preview button was good for something. :>(

The organization i meant to link to is the American Institute for Philanthropy, and many apologies for blinding everyone.


Thanks, Chaos! (I fixed the link. It occurs to me that one of the drawbacks of Movable Type is that, like my homegrown system, it doesn't allow people to edit comments after posting them. I'll add that to my list of feature requests.)

Now that you've made the list, are you checking it twice?

Anyway, yes, please do report back on what you think of the AIP's for-pay info.


I mostly dropped out of Amnesty International because they kept trying to convince the Italian branch to outsource their grassroot fundraising to a commercial organization I felt was distinctly iffy. That, and the fact that the movement has moved away from grassroot to lobbying, mostly. They probably are much more effective that way, but there wasn't much for me to do except stand in the street and solicit donations, and that is so unpleasant for me that eventually I had to give it up.

It's still a good organization, and laudable for its complete internal transparency and democracy.

But mostly what I wanted to say is that non-profit organizations do need money, and quite a lot of it, too, and sometimes the only way to get it is invest a part of their budget into fund-raising. So that is not by itself a disqualifying point for me.

Spam on the other hand is. And alas, fundraising often means spam, telemarketing, or exploiting the hell out of students to stand in the street and push an organization they don't know much about to passerby. That I would very much like to discourage.

Being lazy, my donations are direct-debited to my account. Right now there's only Amnesty and the Valdese Church of Italy, which received the mandatory 8 per thousand of my tax money but uses it scrupolously only for secular work, and therefore harvests all of our godless atheists' money. They're Christians, but they are ridicolously progressive on every front, and nobody has every complained about them.

I should probably add something else to the list, although the end of the year is usually a very bad moment for me financially (I don't get bonuses).


Oh, and I do so wish Clarion West would accept some kind of electronic payment. My only option is cash in an envelope and I feel nervous doing that.


Anna, it's not that I object in principle to charities spending money on fundraising. I emphathize with their situation -- since a lot of people are not very interested in researching this stuff, and more likely to react to emotional appeals than to give money otherwise, it may make sense for them to target those people by spending money to raise money.

However, that doesn't mean they should get *my* money. Since I am willing to do the work of going to Charity Navigator or AIP and finding out how efficient a given charity is as a way of getting my money to help mend the world, it seems to me that I shouldn't let a big chunk of that money be spent on advertising -- unless it's to an organization has some offsetting unique advantage (e.g. if MSF really goes where others don't, that might be a reason to hold my nose about its fundraising costs -- though it isn't this year).

In other words, by all means let some charities spend money to attract infrequent, reactive donors -- but let picky donors choose charities that maximize their returns.

It's the same as any other kind of shopping, really.

On Clarion West -- surely someone in the US will let you paypal them money and write a check to CW? I would....