Before my current career, I worked in non-profit development (read: fundraising), where I learned early on about the philanthropic tax exemption. Thing is, I’ve never quite made it into a tax bracket where I can afford to donate more than the standard exemption, so instead I just use the standard exemption as a donation goal…albeit one that’s a bit far off.
I don’t have a whole lot of free time…And while I do volunteer quite a lot of it, these days it’s more advisory boards and editorial assistance than some of the causes I truly believe in. Therefore, it’s important to me to put my money where I can’t necessarily put my hands, so to speak. This year I’ve gotten a lot more into donating to oddball Kickstarter and IndieGogo campaigns, and I’m a bit obsessed with the power of Flattr at the moment, but rather than focus on those (which, frankly, have far fewer barriers to entry for first time donors), I’d like to focus on 13 (that’s 12 days of Christmas + 1 for good measure) organizations that I think do amazing work and are worth whatever you can spare this year.
They, like my views and interests, are diverse, but all are thoroughly researched (don’t believe me? Check Guidestar.org) and spend their funds well. I am either a member of, or have donated this year to every organization on the following list:
- The ACLU - Card-carrying member since 2009. And while membership is not tax-deductible, if that matters to you, you can donate to the ACLU Foundation.
- The Institute for Middle East Understanding - The IMEU is still a fairly small organization, but with huge impact: their work informs journalism on Palestine, a field that is…well, in desperate need of solid information. What I love about this organization is that I feel connected to it without feeling overloaded: they send regular updates on stories they’ve helped inform, and their (infrequent in a good way) mailings are always on point.
- Global Voices - I’m obviously biased (volunteer since 2007, board member since 2011), but Global Voices is still the leader in providing global insight into stories that matter. Over the years, we’ve moved from covering the ‘blogosphere’ to reporting on social media trends and other stories, not to mention developments like Rising Voices (which helps create new citizen media through training and microgrants) and Global Voices Advocacy, which is doing amazing work at the moment. GV remains independent and needs your donations to thrive.
- Creative Commons - Member since 2009, advocate since its inception. CC is not just an alternative to copyright, it’s a culture, a community, and one that cares deeply about its members. A little goes a long way with CC.
- The Tor Project - Obvious choice. While Tor is in a much better position in terms of funding than it was when I started supporting them, the need for Tor has increased globally, and will continue to do so. Help fund a secure, open web.
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation - We’re awesome. And we love cats. And every day, our team of 43 (!!) is working hard to keep your Internets open and secure. From fighting warrantless wiretapping in the U.S. to fighting for the release of jailed bloggers in Ethiopia, EFF has your back.
- The Fender Music Foundation - When my father passed away, my mother selected this foundation for donations in his memory (a huge thank you to all of you who contributed!) – My father was a musician and encouraged me to be too, shuttling me from saxophone lessons to choir to yes, band camp. The Fender Music Foundation works to ensure that music programs across the United States have the instruments they need.
- The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition - This is a local one, but if you’re a cyclist in the Bay Area, this is a no-brainer. $35 buys you membership, which benefits you and your fellow cyclists: the SF Bike Coalition has doubled the number of cycling lanes in San Francisco in the past decade. Member since 2012.
- The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts - Another local love. Smaller than the SFMOMA but probably more in need of your love, the Yerba Buena Center offers amazing exhibitions and programs and under the current performing arts leadership of Marc Bamuthi Joseph, I am super excited about the events in store. I am a member and, for full disclosure, also part of the YBCA’s inaugural think tank on the Future of Soul.
- Save the Children (Syria Fund) – One of the highest-ranking charities currently working on Syria (see my prior post). If you care about Syria, this is a great option for providing children with the emergency care and supplies they need at this time.
- Middle East Children’s Alliance – In any conflict, children are all too easily overlooked. With projects that range from planting a tree in Palestine (something my very lovely GV colleagues did in honor of my father last year) to building playgrounds to emergency care for Syrian refugees, MECA is on top of the most pressing needs for children in the Levant and what they manage to accomplish with their relatively small budget is amazing.
- Planned Parenthood - An obvious choice if you care about reproductive freedoms and affordable care.
- Wikipedia - I won’t lie: I pretty much decided to donate because they didn’t use Jimmy Wales’ smug face this fundraising campaign. That said, Wikipedia is invaluable and I think its independence from advertising and other strings is vital to its growth.