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Christmas Cheer The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: Most Efficient, Worthwhile Charity? 570

Posted by timothy
from the cato-institute-of-course dept.
New submitter yanom writes "I'm thinking about making a holiday donation to a charity, but I'm not sure where to give it. I've looked at organizations such as the Red Cross and Village Reach that promote disaster relief and health in the developing world. I want my money to have the biggest possible impact, so where should I send it?"
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Ask Slashdot: Most Efficient, Worthwhile Charity?

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  • Charity Navigator (Score:5, Informative)

    by XanC (644172) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:36PM (#38409260)

    Charity Navigator [charitynavigator.org]

    • Re:Charity Navigator (Score:5, Informative)

      by infaustus (936456) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:45PM (#38409346)
      In a similar vein: http://www.givewell.org/charities/topcharities [givewell.org] GiveWell does a very thorough job of vetting charities and evaluating their impact.
    • by SteveFoerster (136027) <steve@nOspAm.hiresteve.com> on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:18PM (#38409622) Homepage

      I want to help Hawa Akther Jui [elearners.com], a Bangladeshi woman whose husband disfigured her right hand when she dared to pursue higher education against his wishes. She's determined to continue learning by training her left hand to write, and I admire her persistence. Anyone who wants to join me is more than welcome, details in my linked blog post.

    • by TheLink (130905)

      See also: http://www.givewell.org/ [givewell.org]

  • None (Score:5, Insightful)

    by obarthelemy (160321) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:37PM (#38409270)

    I've been profoundly disappointed by all charities I gave to or came in contact with professionally.
    Give your time to something close to you, not your money.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:12PM (#38409586)

      Giving your time may make you feel better - but when $10 can feed a family for 4 for a day or two, with soups, breads etc., your time is inherently useless. Go use your time to earn money and then pass it on. Barter was fundamentally inefficient - and hence money came to be. Why go backwards ?

      • by Trepidity (597)

        There's some truth to that, but there are also transaction costs, principal-agent problems, unsavory things hidden by black boxes, bureaucracy, and various other such problems. When you give a non-profit organization $100, they may do a wide range of things. The best case is that they optimally use it in exactly the manner you would've preferred. But since you aren't actually there to see they do, it's hard to be sure. They might divert an unnecessarily large amount of it to staff salaries, travel, perks, P

        • by unkiereamus (1061340) on Sunday December 18, 2011 @05:27AM (#38414838)
          I have 10 mod points, and I really wanted to use them on this post, but I think that you've said somethings that really need addressing.

          Before I go any further, I would like to admit right now that there are bad charities out there. One leaps to mind that we saw move in here about 2 years ago. It purported to be "thinking about the children", yet near as I can tell, the only charitable thing it ever did was spend about 5k to throw a christmas party for the kids (admittedly, they did that twice, bringing us to a total charitable contribution of 10k). Meanwhile, the head of this charity lived in a 750k USD house and drove a 90k USD car. Scams happen, I won't say that they don't.

          Next, a bit of background: I'm a paramedic, I have lived and worked for various NPOs in Honduras for the past three years. I tend to tell people that I volunteer down here, and while in the strictest sense, that's not true, in effect, it is. I make about 1/5 of what I could earn if I were working in the states (and if you know anything about EMS payscales, that's saying something.).

          So let's examine your four objections:

          1) Staff Salaries: As I said above, I make about 20% of what I could reasonably expect to make if I were working in the states. Theoretically, then, I should be able to work up there 20% of the time, then volunteer down here the other 80% of the time. Realistically, though, even supposing that I could find an employer willing to do that (Highly unlikely, in my field, though not, perhaps, impossible),, there's a big difference around here between the trust you get from the community from being someone who lives here full time and someone who comes in to spend some time volunteering, and no matter how skewed the numbers as far as how much time you spend where, you'll always be seen in that light. Around here, I'm known by those I work with as "El gringo grande" (I'm 6'8), but that's a term of endearment, rather than the more common "El gringo" that I see applied to many people who come here repeatedly. with the best of intentions.

          2) Travel: I've actually never been offered travel reimbursements, though I've had to turn down a couple of offers because I couldn't afford the travel costs. Now it's entirely possible that those charities found someone else to fill the role who could afford them, and could do it as well or better than I could, but frankly, and without a hint of egotism (no, really!), I'm very good at what I do, not only the actual meat and bones of responding to emergencies, but also in integrating myself into a community and educating without being patronizing. That last is a surprisingly hard task, I've met very few who can do it, and none who are better at it than me in my particular bailiwick...though I will say I've met two who are better at doing it in medicine in general.

          3) Perks: Again, I've never been offered any perks (aside form the medivac service I worked with offering my free coverage should I need their services), however unlike the above, it's never prevented me from taking a position, but then I'm healthy, young (28), and single. There are, I imagine, plenty of other people who couldn't take such a position without some assurance of health coverage, some sort of retirement or education for their kids.

          4) Finally, and in some ways the biggest point: "fees". First off, let's call a spade a spade, they're bribes. Having said that, though, bribes are important to actually getting shit done in most of the world. I've paid bribes, and I'll almost certainly pay more, but that's just the cost of doing business. Corruption has to be viewed with a certain amount of pragmatism. You're kidding yourself if you think that it doesn't exist in whatever (presumably, though I could be wrong) developed nation you live in, it's just that around here it's right up front where you can keep an eye on it. And really, it's cheaper and easier, too. If I want to do something around here, I slip a couple hundred bucks to someone in the health ministry, and away
      • by houghi (78078)

        It depends on what and when. Sometimes extra hands DO help. If you are good at IT, helping people on how to work with a computer might like learning them to fish.
        Just talking to a lonely elder person is better then buying them a TV or even (audio)books.

        Money is not always the answer.

        • by Dahamma (304068) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:49PM (#38409860)

          helping people on how to work with a computer might like learning them to fish.

          Except computers are significantly less nutritious. The basic necessities for quality of life (food, medicine, clothes, shelter) are still much more about money than time.

          Using your time to teach (or volunteer in so many other ways) is admirable, but you do also have to look at the opportunity cost. For someone who makes $100+ an hour (or equivalent) working a demanding job and then donating to a charity might be more effective overall than volunteering their time.

          Anyway, you make a good point, not disputing it (the OP saying "your time is not valuable" is just incorrect) - but in many cases you time *is* less valuable than your money...

      • by fuckface (32611) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:55PM (#38409930)

        If I give $10 they will spend that same money trying to solicit me for more. It's impossible to get them to stop. They can't spend my time.

    • Time is better, but money is important too.

      Courtney's House is good--small local shelter in DC for trafficking victims. Or Talk to Polaris Project, either to donate to them or to ask where the closest place to you is that offers safe shelter for trafficking victims--there aren't many in the country, compared with tens of thousands of victims.

      In the alternative, look for someplace that is underfunded and does good work. Unpopular but important causes, for example--legal aid, or someplace that does legal or

  • really? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    How about something close to home, efficiency doesn't always go along with need.

    • Good advice.

      It may not be as efficient, but donate to a local Occupy movement. Particularly in the northern climates, they need money for food, clothing, blankets, etc.. as these people are camping out (sometimes without camping gear because local ordinances do not allow it).

      As a gift that keeps on giving, these people are doing things that will beneift YOU in the long run.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by msauve (701917)
        "donate to a local Occupy movement"

        Nope. They're where they are voluntarily. And, since it's not a formal non-profit organization, no tax credit.

        Instead, donate to a local food bank (they can use cash contributions, too) which serves families which are involuntarily in need.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Galestar (1473827)
          1. If someone believes in their cause, but lacks the availability to participate themselves, donating is a very good way to support them. Just because *you* personally don't believe in their cause does not mean no-one else does. Most likely you misunderstand their motives; I would suggest you read/watch something other than the (corporate) main-stream media.

          2. OWS applied for 501(c)(3) since October, and accepts tax-deductible donations.
  • I like The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. It's good for the environment, it creates pretty parks, and it feeds people. http://www.ftpf.org/ [ftpf.org]
  • by v1 (525388)

    I read recently that the American Red Cross is one of several charities that "carefully walk the line" of being a nonprofit organization, and that 49% of their take goes to "administrative costs". (their "administrative staff" are very well-paid) Can anyone confirm or deny this?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by erc (38443)

      Confirm. My uncle retired from the ARC with a *very* good pension. I'd never give a dime to ARC.

      • by Vellmont (569020) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:53PM (#38409444)

        Excuse me, but what does one person retiring with "a very good pension" say about how high the administrative costs are vs program costs? Charity Navigator says ARC has a 3.9% administrative cost. The parent post claims 49% administrative cost (which is insanely high). If you believe Charity Navigator, he's only off by an order of magnitude.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by erc (38443)

          It should be obvious to someone who posts here. Think about it.

          During WWII, ARC would give away free coffee and doughnuts to officers, and that was well-publicized. What wasn't publicized was the fact that ARC would charge enlisted men a dime for the same thing. When my father learned of this (he was an officer), he demanded that his men be given the same deal. When ARC refused, he gave them their doughnuts and coffee back, and spread the story among the other officers.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:29PM (#38409710)

            It charged because the Army told it to. C'mon, a 5-digit Slashdotter should know about Snopes [snopes.com].

          • by Vellmont (569020)


            It should be obvious to someone who posts here. Think about it.

            I did think about it. My conclusion is that anecdotal evidence of one person who doesn't even mention numbers ("very good pension") is completely irrelevant when trying to get a handle on administrative costs vs program costs.

            During WWII, ARC would give away free coffee and doughnuts to officers, and that was well-publicized

            Yes, and as someone else pointed out, ARC was asked to do this by the U.S. Army:

            The request was made in a March 1942 lette

        • by erc (38443) <erc AT pobox DOT com> on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:13PM (#38409592) Homepage

          A quote from the comments section on Charity Navigator:

          I have worked for the ARC for over 11 years now as both a volunteer and a paid staff member. The organization is very top heavy with mostly overpaid executives at the National Headquarters in Washington DC. Generally the volunteers and staff "in the field" are the ones who go to great lengths to serve clients. Many positions in the field have been eliminated in recent years as the executives in the "ivory tower" protect their own salaries and positions. Our Service Members and their families are now served mostly by call centers empoyees who are inexperienced instead of caring employees working alongside our military throughout the world.

      • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@@@gmail...com> on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:59PM (#38409486)

        +4 insightful?

        It must be the Christmas eggnog.

        http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=3277 [charitynavigator.org]

        *shakes head sadly*

        • by erc (38443)

          3.9% sounds low until you figure it out in dollars.

        • by griffjon (14945) <GriffJon&gmail,com> on Saturday December 17, 2011 @05:29PM (#38411302) Homepage Journal

          I've spent the better part of my career as a nonprofit tech warrior, from serving in the Peace Corps to a variety of domestic and internationally focused NGOs and non-profits, small and large, contract, full-time and pro-bono.

          I hate the constant drive that non-profits feel towards minimizing anything that could be counted as "overhead." It's misleading, and eventually kills efficiency. Not having someone to answer phones, not having a budget to roll out a website, penny-pinching on every single thing that's not directly program-related does a variety of things. It burns staff out at an alarming rate, as they spend their often-unreported and uncompensated overtime to balance the lack of budget to hire additional staff or contractors. Second, it causes cost-cutting in ways that often lead to waste or additional in the long run. It suppresses wages and pushes good staff out of the sector entirely. Finally, it causes a donor-driven view of accounting, where every dollar must be accountable to some chunk of some program, instead of being broadly useful to the health of the organization and its mission.

          This hurts the organizations, obviously - but as a donor, that's less important - you (like those working at the organization) care about the cause. And year-end campaigns are a huge benefit to organizations - providing them with unrestricted funds that they can use for the health of the organization, instead of funds driven by grant projects.

          So give - as others have noted, find a local cause you're familiar with. Use CharityNavigator to weed out suspicious/dubious causes, but please - do not be turned off by high overheads. They're healthy. They mean the organization has a longer-term view on its role in making change.

          Even better - find a social enterprise - an organization that has a double or triple bottom line, creating a profit or self-sustaining funding situation by selling products or services which also help them lift up a community through employment, skills training, and so on.

    • by heypete (60671) <pete@heypete.com> on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:42PM (#38409316) Homepage

      More like 3.9% [charitynavigator.org].

  • by rbowen (112459) Works for SourceForge on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:40PM (#38409300) Homepage

    Www.LiteracyBridge.org - effective use of technology to make life better for real people. Worth your time (they're open source) and money.

  • Salvation Army (Score:5, Informative)

    by trout007 (975317) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:40PM (#38409302)

    What I like about the Salvation Army is they operate under the principle that people will always donate and they spend the money as it is donated.

    The Red Cross and others seem to want to build a war chest so that when a big disaster hits they will be prepared. They take money from big events and hold some of it over for other operations. What bothers me about this is it seems like they don't trust people to donate when something happens.

    • Re:Salvation Army (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:44PM (#38409338)

      If only they did not have an anti-gay agenda, I would concur.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I can't mod this up so I'll just add my voice to the comment.
      The Salvation Army is one of the better charities I have come across, I make it a point every year to donate either money, food, clothing or time.

    • Re:Salvation Army (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Vellmont (569020) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:16PM (#38409608)

      It takes time for donations to wind up as available cash to spend on disaster relief. Do you think when you make a credit card donation the money is instantly transferred to the charity? From what I've heard this can sometimes take months.

      I'm no charitable donations expert, but I'd guess that donations don't all come in at once, but slowly over a period of weeks. If a major disaster occurs, do you think a charity should just wait around for the money to come in, or start acting right away? Acting right away requires having money on hand.

    • Actually, there are budget models other than that of the U.S. government. Many of those models include saving money for anticipated large expenses, or for possible disasters. Some also include spending money where and when it is most needed - even if that requires saving it awhile. Instead of judging them on how quickly they spend donations, I suggest judging them on how effectively they use the money for their stated goals, and be sure to check a time period of at least a decade.
    • by sjashe (2534132)
      They always get my money.. I'm on the way out to ring the bell now.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Yeah, its the whole anti-gay agenda that bothers rational people about the SA as well as they're close relations to their own evangelical arm and partners.

      I give to secular charities, thank you very much.

    • The Red Cross and others seem to want to build a war chest so that when a big disaster hits they will be prepared.

      And this is bad why?

      Disaster relief is complicated, and thus expensive. You need supplies, equipment, and people with training. Between getting people to donate, getting funds to where they need to be, getting goods procured, getting people trained, and then moving it all to where it needs to be, the lead time is non-trivial. This isn't a hard drive; you can't just order it from NewEgg and have it there next day.

      I don't get this objection to disaster relief organizations being prepared for disasters.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you're just wanting to make a difference to someone, and not the tax write-off, find a family struggling to make ends meet and be their holiday benefactor, or give out sack lunches to the homeless, or volunteer at a soup kitchen. No better way to make sure your kindness does the most good than to do it yourself.

  • Wikipedia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rynor (1277690) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:43PM (#38409336)
    Wikipedia might be a nice option too, the knowledge they provide to everyone free of charge makes it a good charity in my opinion.
    • by abigor (540274)

      Agreed, this is one of my charities of choice, the other being the local SPCA, to whom I give on a monthly basis.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:46PM (#38409360)

    Unfortunately, a lot of charities have obscenely high administrative overheads, which means much of the money goes to lawyers fees, office rental in high rent districts, gala charity donation parties (granted, they pay for themselves) and other PR work. The Economist had a piece on this a while back. Even some of the UN agencies and a Lady Diana Charity Fund were some of the worse offenders.

    Hey, whoever said "Charity begins in the home" was probably right . . . if you give close to home, you'll be able to see for yourself where it is going.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:20PM (#38409632)

      I can confirm this, even on the "local" level charities. I have worked with several "charity" groups doing IT work (NO - I won't name them). Several times it was recovering their financial data files after being corrupted for various reasons. Every time, I about shit myself when I looked at the actual data (had to confirm the data was valid with accountants). The worst I saw was one group that used 5% of their donations for actual recipients, the rest went to "administrative" costs (salaries in the 6 figure range, pension, rent, etc.).

      I've since quit taking any work from charity organizations, and I refuse to donate any money to them.

      • After doing some study on charities, I personally refuse to waste my money paying their executives. I prefer to donate to local causes and ignore the 'big boys'.
  • Gamers Give Back (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:48PM (#38409382)

    http://www.childsplaycharity.org/

    All donations go to children's hospitals around the world. You can even donate toys instead of money if you don't trust how your donation will be spent.

    • by mrxak (727974)

      I give yearly to Child's Play. They're not in it to create a self-sustaining entity, and the cause could not be better. When you're sick, your quality of life can really make a difference in your recovery. If a game can distract a kid from their pain or fears for a little while, that is everything. Their administrative fees are pretty low, and quite reasonable considering what those fees are paying for. I'm sure PayPal and the credit card companies are getting their cut, and there's shipping costs for all t

  • by epiphani (254981) <epiphaniNO@SPAMdal.net> on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:48PM (#38409384)

    I did some research into this about a year ago - and decided to go with Plan International [plan-international.org].

    My criteria:

    • A large percentage of their donations had to go directly to the
    • Non-religious
    • Focused on third world countries
    • Infrastructure and educational projects
    • Long-term investment in specific locations

    I give specifically to their water project. I think that while sponsoring a child is significant, I find that I'd rather put my money specifically into infrastructure. Water and Sanitary systems, in my mind, are more important than education within a community - and I figure many others put money into education.

  • Help a neighbor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:48PM (#38409386)
    100% efficiency. No administrative overhead. Complete certainty that your gift wasn't squandered.
  • Kiva (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    One of the best places to bring your money to if you want to help people: http://www.kiva.org/.

    Microfinance where you can decide yourself which enterpreneur you loan money to. I can heartily recommend it :).

  • You could try examining potential recipients at Charity Navigator [charitynavigator.org]. They evaluate charities based on their operational effectiveness and allow you to compare a potential recipient against others that serve similar needs.

    I have used it many times and find it extremely helpful.
  • by pryoplasm (809342) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:52PM (#38409418)

    http://www.shelterboxusa.org/ [shelterboxusa.org]

    Basically, after any kind of disaster, natural or otherwise, they deploy a team out with plastic tubs filled with just about anything a family would need to start getting back on their feet like a tent, some basic food and water purification type things, along with some tools to improve what they have available. They are also constantly tweaking the box as better items become available, or in some instances they tailor the contents to where the boxes are being sent.

    Decent charity that I found out from a friend. I've started to donate to them yearly now, along with some other charities for more personal reasons.

  • Amref simply do things. They both help and train professionals on site.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Medical_and_Research_Foundation [wikipedia.org]

  • by JustOK (667959) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:54PM (#38409456) Journal

    It begins at home. My home. Please send money to Happy Dude, 742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield. Don't delay! Eternal happiness is just a dollar away.

  • I'd also stay clear of the United Way! I discovered that they had no clue as to where my AUTO-DEDUCTION was going! Add that to the their HIGH salaries, and there are two good reasons to go elsewhere!
    • by erc (38443)

      The United Way is terrible. They also strong-arm companies into strong-arming their employees into "100% participation". No, thank you.

  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:58PM (#38409482)
    donorschoose.org - they support educational projects. I like them because you give to a specific project, can chose the type of project,location, etc, and they clearly lay out the need, what will be supplied, and their administrative fees up front. If you want to support education, they would be a good choice.
  • Donate Locally (Score:5, Informative)

    by dokebi (624663) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:00PM (#38409492)

    Living in the US, I think it's a gross injustice that people in my immediate area don't have enough food to eat. As such, I have decided most of my charity contributions will go to the local community food bank. It's super easy to see how the money is being used (volunteer and meet the people involved, go down and talk to the admins), it improves the lives of people who live near you, and you get a tax deduction.

    National and international organizations are nice, especially for medical causes, but for me local food bank seemed best.

  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:02PM (#38409510)

    I was centrally involved with relief for the Haiti earthquake and observed the Red Cross and many other such organizations in action. Or rather inaction. Their lack of logistical expertise and disaster planning is shocking.

    But one outfit that did seem to have their act together was Doctors without Borders/Medecins sans Frontieres. They just hop on planes and start helping people, no BS. They also seem to have relatively low overhead, which is where the lion's share of every donated dollar goes at most charities. Maybe someone else on /. knows differently, but at least from the outside as a colleague they seemed effective and well deserving of support.

  • While I'll confess I have a fondness for "lending" through KIVA (http://www.kiva.org), you may find that your charity dollars go a lot further with local organizations, some of which are struggling. I live in Baltimore and have several favorites: The Ark, a pre-school that provides special services and a comfortable environment for kids living in homeless shelters; House of Ruth, our local women's shelter; Our Daily Bread, a formidable soup kitchen and feeding operation run by the Catholics. I've also found

  • by jfmiller (119037) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:03PM (#38409516) Homepage Journal

    I know that God is not popular on Slashdot, but even from a rational humanist perspective these charities are very effective. The administrative costs are usually born by regular tithing so any funds given to the charity can be spent 100% on the core mission of the charity. Especially, in the area of disaster relief, these charities also have strong connections with the local congregations who can quickly put resources to use where it is most needed. This in contrast to groups like the Red Cross usually have to spend time "getting in" to places.

    I know there will be some objections voiced that the money will be used to evangelize victims rather then aid them. I cannot speak for other sectors of the religious sphere, but charities associated with Mainline Protestant Christian churches operate in perpetual fear of this accusation and copiously avoid any activity that might be mistaken for proselytizing.

    I will end by plugging the charity of my own Episcopal Church: Episcopal Relief and Development [er-d.org].

  • by viniosity (592905) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:04PM (#38409534) Homepage Journal
    I give to Charity: Water [charitywater.org]. They've got a great proposition where 100% of your donations go directly to the field to fund water projects. They're also a tech saavy group of folks and try to prove that by providing GPS signals and photos of the project you funded. Administrative costs are covered separately by a group of benefactors (who understand they are solely paying for administrative costs).
  • I'd advise you and others to contribute all you can to the "Let's Buy Ken a Ferrari" fund.

    Rather than wonder where your money went, you'll enjoy the sweet, sweet sound of a V12 will be echoing throughout the concrete canyon as I blast down Main Street. You'll be able to shout "This is my gift to you all!" and feel the admiring glances of those who wish they had contributed as well.

    What could possibly do more to help mankind than to share the sounds of a V12 Ferrari?

  • Why not microfinancing, such as http://kiva.org/ [kiva.org] ?

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:13PM (#38409594) Homepage Journal

    It really depends on your definition of "charity", and your intent - it can be defined as anything that's non-profit and tax deductible, which has a rather large scope.

    Lots of things are non-profit and seen as charity donations - art museum and symphony, sports teams (kids soccer and baseball), research towards medicine (aids, MS), EFF and lawyer advocate associations, and so on.

    All of these enrich our lives and make the world a better place. Donating directly instead of through a charity organization makes better sense because more of the money goes directly to the organization.

    Your local Rotary club, for instance, is manned by locals who donate their time and would better know your community needs.

    If your intent is to reduce the suffering of people directly, might I suggest Plan USA [planusa.org].

    Plan USA chooses a needy child somewhere in the world and uses your donations to help them grow up. Their administrative overhead is relatively low, and you get periodic feedback showing how your monies are used. They also sponsor village improvements, such as sanitation, clean water, &c.

    In addition, your donation is year round instead of just during the holidays. IIRC sponsoring a child is on the order of $325 a year.

  • An alternative (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cheebie (459397) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:15PM (#38409598)

    If I may suggest an alternative, give micro loans through kiva.org instead. You can just keep recycling the money into new loans as you get paid back. The good gets multiplied many times over and communities get built up.

  • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:17PM (#38409612)

    DRI's been at the top of the list (compiled by Forbes) 9 out of the last 10 years. They do work in the US and around the world.

  • Don't send it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by houghi (78078) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:21PM (#38409648)

    Go to your local soup kitchen and ask what they need. Then buy it and give them the goods.
    Also don't just do it because it is Christmas. Ask what they need all year around and give food or whatever they need monthly or even on a weekly basis.

    Time is also something that they can use. Take time to talk to lonely elderly people. The downside is that you won't get rid of your money and get back more then you give away.

    Do not buy yourself a good conscience. Earn it.

    • by brusk (135896)
      Actually it's far better to give the soup kitchen cash. They buy food at wholesale prices, you're wasting money buying it retail. See this article [slate.com].
  • Local (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oligonicella (659917) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:34PM (#38409738)
    It never gets better utilized than local. A local church or community center or health service. Direct to the service you like best, even.

    You don't need a middle-man.
  • by dbrueck (1872018) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:37PM (#38409758)

    Pretty much as efficient as you can get: 100% of the proceeds go to help those in need. The LDS Church doesn't even deduct the cost of administering the donations, so literally *everything* you donate ends up helping the needy.

    http://www.ldsphilanthropies.org/ldsp/about/ [ldsphilanthropies.org]

    If you donate online, just enter the amount in the "humanitarian services" field - that goes to disaster relief and other efforts. If you call them you can have it applied more specifically. For example there is a program they are doing to supply wheelchairs to those in need, to help dig water wells to villages in Africa, etc. and you can ask that your money go specifically to one of those programs if you want.

  • by Hazelfield (1557317) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:41PM (#38409778)
    I see a lot of comments bashing the overhead costs of different charity organisations. Granted, some of it might be unnecessary, but not all of it. The logistics needed for a relief operation in a catastrophe site is a huge and difficult challenge, and only a sufficiently large and professional organisation can handle it. You need materials, food, shelter, trucks, people with different skill sets, lawyers and diplomats to ensure the cooperation of the local government, and so on. It can be quite chaotic, and of course it's going to be inefficient form time to time - but it helps. Without the people who are handling the economics and the logistics, there would be no food or shelter for the workers in the field to hand out.
  • Effectiveness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jiro (131519) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:41PM (#38409782)

    If everyone who gave to charity gave to the one who deserves it the most, then all causes in the world except for the most worthy one would receive no money, until that most worthy cause was completely paid for, in which case the second most worthy cause would receive all the money, etc.

    So I'd think a bit before giving to the most worthwhile. If it was me I'd give to groups that did things I knew about even if they weren't the most worthy groups in the world, which would include geeky groups like the EFF, or maybe local organizations.

    I also agree with others that volunteering your time is a bad idea. Use your time to earn money and donate the money. We have division of labor for a reason. People like volunteering because it's more personal, but "more personal" and "helps people more" aren't necessarily the same thing.

  • Child's Play (Score:5, Informative)

    by HalAtWork (926717) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:58PM (#38409958)
    Child's Play seems to be a good one, they help kids with severe problems suffer less and recover faster [childsplaycharity.org].
  • Hire... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shark (78448) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @03:02PM (#38410000)

    Give work to someone who needs it. It's probably the most efficient use of your money that I can think of.

  • by Intropy (2009018) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @05:19PM (#38411236)

    I like to fund medical research, most frequently cancer. I do so for two reasons. First, I like to think that I'm making things better forever. Research doesn't get used up, so whatever I donate we're now that farther ahead in science than we would be otherwise. Second, selfishly, I think someday I just might need to benefit directly from what that research produces.

    There is frequently a lot of hue and cry here about the evil drug companies overcharging for medicines they have patents on. Don't want them to have those patents? Fund medical research yourself with a charity who puts the results into the public domain. I know it's not perfect since someone is free to use those results commercially as well, but it's an improvement.

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @09:48PM (#38412904)

    Engineers without borders might be interesting:
    http://www.ewb-usa.org/ [ewb-usa.org]

    I like the fact that they have established a way of dealing with their charity faliures [admittingfailure.com], which makes them a respectable charity in my book. ... And adds some credibility to the profession of engineering, imho.

    My 2 cents.

Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. -- Bertrand Russell

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