Give a real gift this year

It’s coming up to that time of the year (Christmas) when most people buy gifts for friends and family, but I’ve found it much more rewarding to give to those who really need a helping hand. One place which comes in handy in helping me to evaluate an organization is
Charity Navigator (abbreviated CN below).

Here’s my list in decending order of importance or amount given for the last few years:

  • Kiva:
    They are one of the only peer-to-peer Microfinance gateways. They use the power of the internet to facilitate microlending, which allows YOU to participate in microfinance with as little as a $25 loan (credit card via PayPal) . Your loans go out to people who desperately need the money, and you’ll get your money back from them in usually 9-16 months. They currently have a repayment rate of near 100%. So, want to have a direct affect on someone’s life, and it won’t cost you anything but a temporary loan? Donation page of Kirk Ireson.
  • Donors Choose (CN):
    Their mission is summed up well in their tagline: “Teachers ask. You choose. Students Learn.” Unfortunately many of US school systems are drastically underfunded. This organization gives you a chance to help change that by supporting a specific project a teacher proposes. Good karma.
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC) (CN):
    According to 60 Minutes, one of the few organizations helping out in Darfur, and they assist millions of refugees in 25 other countries as well.
  • Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) (CN):
    One of the US’s most effective environmental action groups. They use law, science and the support of 1.2 million members to protect the planet’s wildlife and wild places.
  • Environmental Defense Action Fund (EDAF) (CN):
    Similar to the NRDC, they start with rigorous science, then work directly with businesses, government and communities to create lasting solutions to the most serious environmental problems.
  • Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors without Borders (CN):
    An important international medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural or man-made disasters in more than 70 countries.
  • Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) (CN):
    A leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world by combining independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.
  • AmeriCares (CN):
    An international relief organization whose passion to help is matched by an ability to deliver; whether it’s an epic disaster or a daily struggle, they go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that medicines, medical supplies and aid reach individuals in need.
  • Gifts in Kind (CN):
    The eighth-largest charity in America receives donations from thousands of large and small companies then distributes the donations to more than 150,000 community charities across the United States and throughout the world.
  • First Book (CN):
    A non-profit with a single mission: to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books.
  • Carter Center (CN):
    Is committed to advancing human rights and alleviating unnecessary human suffering by waging peace, fighting disease, and building hope.
  • Seacology (CN):
    With a sole and unique purpose; preserve the environments and cultures of island nations.
  • Heart to Heart International (CN):
    A leading humanitarian organization which spends 99.1% of your money to work to improve health and respond to the needs of disaster victims worldwide.
  • There is always supporting your favorite open source project! In the past, I’ve given to Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Wikimedia, Firefox extensions, python.org, and several which are hosted at sourceforge.net.