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Giving to charity

Mary Anne asked in her blog how you decide how to give to charity. So I decided to answer the question here.

C and I take a rough look at our finances and see if we have any leftover to give. Lately we've been giving less, because although currently our insurance pays Little T's medical and therapy bills without too much hassle, sometimes we do get denied for the odd thing. This may continue as he gets older, so we need to make sure we have enough saved for his needs.

In general I prefer charities that empower people to help themselves such as through microloans or better health care or preserving their environment. Then I look over their finances. Unless it's a microloan charity (microloans are expensive to distribute) I want less than 15% to go to fundraising costs and another 10% to admin costs. I look at Charity Watch and Charity Navigator which both monitor charities' finances. Charity Watch just provides a top-rated list online while Charity Navigator provides rating for every charity. Unfortunately Charity Navigator's rating system seems somewhat broken if the charity's revenue or expenses decreases although their raw stats are great. I also support museums and the SF opera. See below.

  • Freedom From Hunger - They give microloans primarily to women. They also provide basic education to women to help them start their own business. It's top rated by Charity Watch


  • Nature Conservancy - They buy land to prevent it from being developed and work with developers to save land. IMO working with businesses is one of the best ways to save the environment if it's done properly. Their finances always seem to be in excellent shape.


  • Planned Parenthood Mar Monte - When C and I first started dating, I wanted him to get STD tested just to be on the safe side. PP was the only place he could go with no insurance. They tested him, and asked for no money in return. Free health clinics are one of the best ways to help improve sexual health. Planned Parenthood Mar Monte is an affiliate of the national charity Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which I accidentally gave money to once. Unfortunately the PPFA president is #24 in terms of total compensation earning over $500k, so I should probably look elsewhere for a good national health clinic charity


  • Sierra Club - One of the few truly grassroots environmental organizations. Highly rated


  • Doctors Without Borders -Also highly rated by Charity Watch. I used to give to Oxfam, but it's lower rated and I've realised that I'd rather give medical aid than food to someone.


  • Bryn Mawr College - My alma mater. I'm impressed with how many students there are the first ones in their families to go to college. Getting a good education is one of the best ways to help someone out of poverty.


  • Various museums and the SF opera - None of them are important in general, but I do feel that if I go to a museum or artistic venue regularly then I should support them with membership.

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