Where To Give

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Around the holidays, I usually get some email asking where to give money to help advance the issues I cover here. That, or where not to give money, given that common charities like the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society sometimes take the “fighting disease” thing to the level of lobbying the government to pass laws that control voluntary behavior (see smoking bans, fat taxes, etc.).

Here are a few places I recommend:

Reason Foundation. Obviously, a gift to my my employer supports my work, as well as the magazine as a whole, the foundation, and reason.tv.

Kiva. My new favorite charity brings microfinance to the masses. Kiva finds entrepreneurs in the developing world who need small (by our standards) gifts to either maintain or expand their businesses. You read over the profiles, choose a recipient, and make your loan (as little as $25). You can then track your beneficiary as they use the loan. When they pay you back (no interest), you can then re-lend to someone else. The repayment rate is more than 99 percent. Read the NY Times’ Nicholas Kristof on Kiva here.

Institute for Justice. Incredible record in winning real economic freedom for real people. Probably the best bang-for-your-buck libertarian organization around.

Cato Institute. And probably the most influential libertarian organization around. I don’t agree with everything Cato scholars put out, but Gene Healy, Tim Lynch, Jim Harper, Chris Preble, and Ted Carpenter alone are worth a check.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Who better to make the argument for legalizing drugs than a bunch of ex-cops, judges, and prosecutors?

Innocence Project. Looks like they may be in need of some help this year.

Mississippi Innocence Project. If you’d like to help undo the damage done by Dr. Hayne & Co. in Mississippi, donate specifically to the Mississippi Innocence Project.

Cory Maye Justice Fund. As I’ve noted in the past, this is not a legal defense fund. Maye’s legal defense is paid for. Instead, donating here gives Maye money for his prison canteen, to give to his family so they can visit him in prison more often, and might let him buy some Christmas gifts for his kids. It’s managed by his attorney, Bob Evans. But Maye has the say in how it’s spent. Not tax-deductible.

Ryan Frederick Defense Fund. Frederick on the other hand is paying for his legal defense. So donating here will help him with his trial next month. Also not tax-deductible.

Modest Needs. A great little organization that makes small, one-time loans to people in need to prevent them from getting evicted, losing their jobs, or having to go on public assistance. They help with things like medical bills, car repairs, or other unexpected expenses.

Alaska Wildlife Conservation. Private wildlife preserve near Girdwood Alaska. The Agitatrix and I visited this summer. They raise baby moose orphaned when their mothers get hit on highways, injured bald eagles, orphaned bear cubs, and so on. They’re also raising bison in hopes of repopulating parts of Alaska. Some photos here.

Dogs in Danger. Website that pairs people looking to adopt a dog with dogs in shelters who are nearing their date of euthanization. They do great work, though the site itself damn near makes me want to cry. Good for a donation, but also, if you’re looking to adopt a dog, check here first.

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20 Responses to “Where To Give”

  1. #1 |  MikeL | 

    You may also want to look at Centurion Ministries http://www.centurionministries.org/ . They are a faith-based group that do work similar to the Innocence Project.

  2. #2 |  Jason | 

    Great recommendations, thanks.

  3. #3 |  If you wish to donate for liberty, where should you? « Muse Free | 

    […] Check out this great list by Radley Balko. Liberty can thrive only if people who care enough about it do something, and surely a check of $25 or so won’t pinch you too much. Radley’s list include key libertarian organizations, charities that actually work and people who have been unjustly persecuted by the state. […]

  4. #4 |  Marty | 


  5. #5 |  Rob Clive | 

    Thanks for these. I really like the idea of Modest Needs!

  6. #6 |  rob sama | 

    Don’t forget Choose Responsibility http://www.chooseresponsibility.org/

  7. #7 |  KBCraig | 

    Thanks for the nod to LEAP.cc, but it’s not all former LEOs, judges, prosecutors, etc. Active duty officers are welcome, also; I am one.

  8. #8 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    Thanks for the tips Radley. I have contributed to IJ, bought products from CATO, am a subscriber to Reason, and I am an associate member of LEAP!

    Hey KB Craig, It’s great that you are active AND a member of LEAP. I may join you one day (I’m in a related field, but not a sworn officer at this time). Would you mind sharing some tips about your decision to join LEAP while on the job? Did you run it by the command staff first? Did you get any shit? Did they place any restrictions on what you can say or do in your capacity as a member of LEAP. I would really appreciate any feedback you could provide me with, because I would really like to do this if I’m hired.

  9. #9 |  Kristen | 

    I don’t intend this as a specific attack on Cato, but I think the events of the past decade or so demonstrate the futility of “libertarian public policy organizations” like Cato, CEI and even the Reason Foundation. Scholarship is simply not up to the task of undoing over a century and a half of damage to individualism and economics. All libertarians would do better to abandon the Beltway circuit altogether.

    Groups like IJ — those that focus on action rather then “persuasion” — are better models going forward. But Cato is just throwing money down a hole.

  10. #10 |  Thomas Paine's Goiter | 

    “Thanks for these. I really like the idea of Modest Needs!”


    I have Modest Needs hit my checking account once a month for my contribution and have done so for the last five years. I was browsing the site and read an application for help – a mother in Oregon needed $398 for a prosthetic eye for her three year old daughter because she had outgrown her first one. Being a new father at the time, I ended up in tears and in two clicks, I was regularly contributing. You choose to direct your contributions to individual applicants and Modest Needs emails you the thank you letter from the applicant. No matter what your mood, you’re instantly lifted when reading the thank yous.

    It’s an amazing charity.

  11. #11 |  Balloon Maker | 

    Modest needs? whoa whoa whoa. I thought libertarians hated poor people and jesus. Mike Huckabee told me so.

  12. #12 |  Tom | 

    Thanks Radley. I just loaned $50 to a guy opening a fertilizer store in Peru.

  13. #13 |  Jefferson | 

    On a related note, subscriptions to reason are good Christmas presents for people who lean libertarian but don’t totally understand it yet.

  14. #14 |  Lenny Zimmermann | 

    I’d also recommend http://www.eff.org. While not explicitly “libertarian”, they seem to be the most effective rights organization around in the electronic medium. These are the folks suing AT&T over their warrantless wiretapping collusion with the Government. Better than the ACLU overall, IMHO, as I can’t think of anything EFF has done that I’d disagree with. Overall I think they are a great organization to donate to and they protect our rights right here in cyberspace to keep blogs like this free from government intervention.

  15. #15 |  Jefferson | 

    And don’t forget Radley’s tip jar!

  16. #16 |  Radley Balko | 

    Tom —

    I mean to give you a +1 karma, but clicked the wrong one.


  17. #17 |  paul | 

    kiva = genius christmas presents

  18. #18 |  Booze News Roundup « The Cocktail Revolution | 

    […] Radley’s got a list of freedom-loving charities to consider donating to this year.  I hadn’t heard of Kiva before, but I’m definitely planning on giving them a look. […]

  19. #19 |  Frank N | 

    RB, you forgot to mention the “Frank N Bailout Fund”.

  20. #20 |  Tami | 

    If I may offer a suggestion, the Pain Relief Network. I know you know our work and we appreciate all that you do covering the disgrace of this nation’s failed drug war policy. I never cease to be amazed how this aspect of the drug war, with 78 million chronic pain patients in this country is so often left out of the drug war debate. Every American should support this effort, remembering we are all but one car crash or catastrophic diagnosis away from being a despized citizen, a damaged body that needs opioid therapy. Good luck everyone, as our pain treating physicians are being herded off to prison as drug traffickers.

    “Welcome to PRN
    Pain Relief Network was founded in 2002 in response to the Bush Administration’s crackdown on pain treating physicians. The Department of Justice launched its “Oxycontin Action Plan” in response to a DEA press campaign that asserted that Purdue Pharmaceuticals had unleashed an “epidemic” of drug abuse across the country, particularly in rural Appalachia (See The DEA’s OxyContin Action Plan: An Unproven Drug Epidemic).

    Much like previous drug panics (See Agency of Fear: Opiates and Political Power in America), the Federal Government sought to frighten the public. Because this drug panic coincided with the launching of the Bush Administration’s war in the Middle East, the campaign was highly successful.

    Doctors who treated chronic or intractable pain with opioid pain medications were literally rounded up and put on trial, the government demanding that they serve decades, sometimes hundreds of years in prison. Medical professionals not yet targeted, responded by fleeing the discipline of pain management in droves. Clinics across America have become tertiary medical facilities of the federal apparatus, essentially operating at the whim of DEA. Behind the scenes, and sometimes out front,

    PRN represents the solitary organized response to this onslaught.”