Suggestions on Where To Give

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

As we get close to the holidays, I always get quite a few emails asking what organizations I give to, or for recommendations on where to donate to support the ideas and issues we cover on this site. So here are some suggestions:



For general support of libertarian ideas, I’d recommend Reason and Cato. (Disclosure: I’ve worked for both.) There are obviously lots of different varieties of libertarianism out there, and there are lots of other libertarian think tanks and advocacy groups that do great work. But I subscribe to the Reason/Cato philosophy, both in the ideas, which ideas to emphasize, and how they advocate them.

I’ve recommended them a number of times before, but in terms of winning tangible results for your donated dollar, no one is better than the Institute for Justice. IJ consistently wins precedent-setting cases that codify new protections for economic freedom. Perhaps just as importantly, IJ is brilliant at choosing its cases. In fighting for the economic freedom of people who have been plowed over by rent-seeking corporations and burdensome regulations, IJ is the walking, talking, litigating rebuttal to the lie that libertarians don’t give a damn about the poor or the powerless.

For supporting/encouraging the next generation of libertarians, I recommend two organizations, Students for Liberty, and the Institute for Humane Studies (Disclosure: I’ve given speeches, paid and unpaid, for both organizations.) Students for Liberty is relatively new, started up just a few years ago by Alexander McCobin. The way the group has grown has been inspiring. It’s been a joy to watch the size of the conventions and groups I speak to grow each year. More importantly, they’re attracting smart, articulate, socially well-adjusted students. Also important: They’re bringing in women. I’m not being flip, here. Any non-mainstream ideology will inevitably attract cranks, conspiracy theorists, and other folks from the fringe. SFL has done a fantastic job of making libertarian ideas more mainstream on college campuses.

IHS has been around for a while. But I was a faculty member at their journalism seminar in June, and, again, was really impressed with the quality of the 75 or so students who attended. IHS has been sponsoring seminars, internships, and handing out scholarships to liberty-minded students for a long time.

As I say, there are lots of other great libertarian groups out there. My recommendation of the groups above isn’t meant to imply that other aren’t worthy of a donation.


Criminal Justice

First and foremost, the Innocence Project. There isn’t an organization on the planet that has done more to expose the inadequacies of the criminal justice system. They’ve almost single-handedly moved the criminal justice debate, on issues from forensics to prosecutorial misconduct to police misconduct to issues like false confessions and eyewitness testimony. Oh, and they also get innocent people out of prison.

I’d also highly recommend Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which has had great success in focusing public attention on the problems with taking sentencing discretion away from judges. They too have won some tangible policy changes. Like IJ, FAMM understands the value of a sympathetic story to change policy.

Friend of The Agitator Eapen Thampy has started a promising new organization called Americans for Forfeiture Reform, which works to raise awareness about forfeiture abuses, to change forfeiture laws to make them more fair, and to match victims of forfeiture abuse with attorneys or legal organizations who can help them out.

I have more disagreements with the American Civil Liberties Union than any group I’ve mentioned so far. But there’s no question that they’re an indispensable force for good on the drug war and, more than anyone else, in defending civil liberties in the war on terrorism.



I’d also like to recommend supporting investigative journalism, in whatever way jibes with your politics. Though I just moved from a non-profit to a corporation, I think journalism on the whole is moving more toward a non-profit model. I think that’s great, and I think it will lead to a more honest kind of investigative journalism, where the biases of the reporter and publisher are clear up front.

That said, the non-profit model does require donors to keep it afloat. So if you’re a libertarian, I’d again recommend Reason. If your politics lean left, consider supporting publications like Mother Jones and The Nation. I don’t agree with everything they do, but both have done some great reporting on civil liberties and criminal justice abuses. New journalism non-profits like ProPublica (which has done some great work on forensic science) and the Center for Investigative Reporting are also worth supporting even if, again, libertarians may not be fond of everything they put out.

Unfortunately, the conservative political magazines don’t tend to do much investigative reporting. (And James O’Keefe is only marginally more of a journalist than Ashton Kutcher.) But there are some free market-oriented, non-profit investigative journalism programs. State free market think tanks like the Goldwater Institute are now starting their own journalism programs. And we’re seeing more organizations like CalWatch, which focuses on exposing government waste and abuse.



The other advocacy group I gave to this year was the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the group currently fighting SOPA, that took on Righthaven, and is generally on the correct side of most web and privacy issues. (Even their position on “net neutrality” is refreshingly nuanced.) The Sunlight Foundation and Sunshine Review also do great work on government transparency.

These are all policy-oriented suggestions, of course. My only recommendations outside the policy world is that local is usually better than national, and to be wary of the big, well-known disease-fighting organizations, whose concept of prevention often leads to advocating legislation to ban or severely restrict the stuff they’ve decided is bad for you.

I’m sure I’ve left some good groups out. Feel free to make your own recommendations in the comments.

(One more disclosure: This year, I gave to Reason, Cato, IJ, SFL, EFF, and the Innocence Project.)

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48 Responses to “Suggestions on Where To Give”

  1. #1 |  Greg N. | 

    Thanks for the love, Radley! And let me add: if you’re going to give to one writer/blogger out there, make it Radley!

  2. #2 |  FloO | 

    I love this post, good information.

    Plus it isn’t a “suggestion on where I should go.”

  3. #3 |  Nephilium | 

    Just because it can’t be pushed enough. I always recommend Child’s Play:

    You can either donate directly, or purchase gifts for participating hospitals. It’s a charity dedicated to getting games and toys into hospitals for sick children.

  4. #4 |  Eric Oden | 

    Please check out the Free Wheel Chair Mission for that extra cash you need to get rid of.

  5. #5 |  Miko | 

    Your local Occupy group almost certainly has things that it needs. If you truly want to support the libertarian cause, Occupy is a much better bet than the mostly right-wing pseudo-libertarian organizations mentioned above.

  6. #6 |  David | 

    On a tangential note, the wildly successful Humble Indie Bundle game sale site has for some reason stopped supporting the EFF with its proceeds, so if you’ve bought from them in the past (and you should!), consider a direct gift to the EFF as well. They could use it right about now.

  7. #7 |  M | 

    There’s also which isn’t a 501c3, so no write off, but the Police Misconduct tracking project is a worthwhile cause and unique so far as I can tell in trying to provide reliable statistics in the long term.

  8. #8 |  Brandon | 

    Miko, the group that wants to increase the size and scope of government in order to avoid paying their student loans and institute a maximum wage on private companies doesn’t exactly reek of libertarian bona fides. Is this just brazen dishonesty, or am I missing something?

  9. #9 |  Danny | 


    More proof that Radley is a Koch-tastic shill!!!

    (…or … maybe … not…)

    sorry, haters :-/

  10. #10 |  Episiarch | 

    Your local Occupy group almost certainly has things that it needs. If you truly want to support the libertarian cause, Occupy is a much better bet than the mostly right-wing pseudo-libertarian organizations mentioned above.


  11. #11 |  Radley Balko | 

    If you truly want to support the libertarian cause, Occupy is a much better bet than the mostly right-wing pseudo-libertarian organizations mentioned above.

    I hope you were laughing while you typed this. Or at least drunk.

  12. #12 |  George in AZ | 

    Actually, The American Spectator has done some good investigative reporting over the years and is a strong conservative publication.

  13. #13 |  Jim | 

    Support the libertarian cause but no No Ludwig Von Mises Institute? No Future of Freedom Foundation? But Mother Jones makes the cut? Err, umm, ahh, okay…

  14. #14 |  Mike | 

    The fun thing about the ACLU is that we participants all agree and disagree with the ACLU at times. Where do you, Radley, and other followers, disagree with them?

  15. #15 |  Spaz McGee | 

    Although it might raise a few libertarian hackles, I’d also suggest The Center for a Stateless Society – – great writing/opinion work from left libertarian anarchists, free market mutualists, etc – doesn’t always fit with your normal libertarian stuff, but most of it will at least be interesting, and they are without question committed to freedom.

  16. #16 |  Radley Balko | 

    Support the libertarian cause but no No Ludwig Von Mises Institute? No Future of Freedom Foundation?

    LR and LvM are important contributors to libertarian thought and the libertarian movement. Both publish people I like and respect. But both have also published silly pieces attacking me, Reason, and Cato. I believe LR published a piece this year in which the author expressed his desire that Reason not exist. That’s their prerogative, of course. But I’m certainly not going to recommend people give them money.

    FFF is a great organization, and certainly worthy of a donation. As are lots of other libertarian groups. I just listed the handful that for various reasons I happen to find most worth supporting.

    But Mother Jones makes the cut?

    You apparently didn’t see the headings. I suggested Mother Jones for left-leaning people who want to support investigative journalism, not as a recommendation for people who want to promote libertarian ideas. Not everyone who reads this site is a libertarian. If a publication is putting out good investigative journalism that exposes abuse of individual rights, then yes, I think it’s worth supporting, even if I don’t subscribe to that publication’s political philosophy.

  17. #17 |  Jeremiah | 

    I like my libertarianism straight up, not diluted, so I’d mine the incredible free and low-cost books, audiobooks, podcasts, and other offerings at the Mises Institute. Cato and Reason are efficiency advisors for the welfare state, not principled libertarian institutions. Reason’s founder, Robert Poole voted for the execrable John McCain.

  18. #18 |  Radley Balko | 

    I like my libertarianism straight up, not diluted, so I’d mine the incredible free and low-cost books, audiobooks, podcasts, and other offerings at the Mises Institute. Cato and Reason are efficiency advisors for the welfare state, not principled libertarian institutions.

    Then give to Mises. This post was a response to people who asked for my recommendations.

  19. #19 |  Sailor | 

    LR and LvM would get a lot more traffic from me and maybe a donation if they didn’t publish those childish hit pieces on their various targets.

  20. #20 |  Danny | 

    Jeremiah —

    Thank you for standing up for the Judean People’s Front against its hateful and vicious true enemy: the Judean Popular People’s Front.

  21. #21 |  Windy | 

    These are not politically oriented institutions, but I donate a few times a year to St. Jude’s, they treat kids for free and totally subsist on donations; and they allow the parents and siblings to stay with the kids during the whole phase of treatments because they feel families help the children to beat their cancer, plus the do good research on finding treatments and cures that actually work to save the lives of these children. The other one I support with multiple donations throughout the year is the North Shore Animal League because they are more than just a no-kill shelter and adoption agency, they also maintain seriously ill or injured animals for life; they also subsist solely on donations. The Shriners’ Burn Hospital is also a good choice for donations (my grandpa was a Shriner, but that’s not the only reason I have for supporting this cause).

  22. #22 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    #20 Danny:

    LOL, thank’s for dropping some Python knowledge on these scrooges. Damn, Radley can’t even make some holiday giving suggestions without bringing out the my ideology is bigger n thicker than your ideology crowd.

    Remember folks, being principled is admirable. Being a humorless ideologue is just annoying. Happy Holidays Radley! God dammit, now I’m gonna get raked over the coals for perpetuating the “war on christmas.” Fucking culture wars. This is why the terrorists hate us (sarcasm)!

  23. #23 |  JOR | 

    #17, I share the preference for principle, consistency, and thoughtfulness over mainstream appeal, but there are some very principled and thoughtful Reasonoids, and some incredibly silly, shallow, and frankly unprincipled voices in the orbit of LRC/LvMI.

  24. #24 |  Eapen Thampy | 

    Radley, thanks so much for the plug. We’re excited to be working on reform efforts around the US in 2012 and can very much use the support.

    Eapen Thampy
    Executive Director, Americans for Forfeiture Reform
    3630 Holmes St., Kansas City, MO, 64109
    Phone: 573-673-5351
    Email: or
    Web: and

  25. #25 |  Scott Grossman | 

    Radley, I’m surprised you didn’t mention the foundation for individual rights in education (FIRE).

  26. #26 |  Steve Wells | 

    As a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), I would be remiss if I did not plug NACDL’s foundation as a potential beneficiary of charitable giving:

    The foundation is the fund-raising arm of NACDL since NACDL does lobby. NACDL lobbies congress, writes amicus briefs on important constitutional issues,* and has addressed several areas of concern to criminal justice:

    forensic reform
    therapeutic courts
    Grand Jury reform
    Erosion of mens rea in criminal cases
    The increasing federalization of the criminal code

    NACDL has worked with groups such as The Heritage Foundation, the ACLU, the CATO Institute, FAMM and other groups across the political spectrum to promote fairness and due process. Reports on issues listed above can be found on their website. Those reports are also cited by lawmakers from both left and right as grounds for reform and change. In their report on the increasing federalization of criminal laws, for example, NACDL created a convenient ‘questionnaire’ for representatives and senators to use before drafting further federal legislation.

    *Justice Stevens, prior to leaving the court, discussed NACDL as an example of an organization that provides good amicus briefs. NACDL’s amicus briefs were well-received by members of the court because they were not only professional and well-written, they were also objective. That is, the briefs frequently address the effects of potential rulings and discussed the merits/demerits of both sides. As such, even though NACDL is an obviously ‘partisan’ group, their amicus briefs are given a great deal of weight.

  27. #27 |  Steve Wells | 

    I neglected to point out an interesting donor to NACDL’s Foundation for Criminal Justice: Koch Industries.

    From NACDL’s Website:

    At a breakfast held before the NACDL Spring Board Meeting on May 20, NACDL presented Mark V. Holden, general counsel of Koch Industries, with its Defender of Justice Leadership Award in recognition of his and Koch Industries’ “vision and courage” reflected in their ongoing support for NACDL’s mission. Upon receiving the award, Holden explained to NACDL’s Board of Directors that his and Koch’s unconditional support for NACDL is “because your role was provided for in the Bill of Rights…. [and] our founding fathers believed you all were and are essential and necessary for the proper administration of a free society and to ensure and protect the freedom and rights of individuals.”

    “We support what you in this room do every day to ensure individual liberty and freedom,” he added.

  28. #28 |  Robert S. Porter | 

    LR and LvM would get a lot more traffic from me and maybe a donation if they didn’t publish those childish hit pieces on their various targets.

    Or, you know, if they weren’t a bunch of creepy Southern restorationists.

  29. #29 |  David | 

    Also surprised FIRE didn’t make the cut, certainly with another mention.

  30. #30 |  David | 

    Worth, rather.

  31. #31 |  Jeff Goldman | 

    I am a proud card-carrying member of the ACLU and will be donating generously again at the end of this year! I hope others will do the same.

  32. #32 |  Tim P | 

    Give to The Nation? C’mon man!

  33. #33 |  Tim P | 

    Big prediction! Ron Paul gets 12% in New Hampshire and 10% in South Carolina. That’s slightly above average for pro legalization candidates running in open primaries. He get’s 13 – 16% in Iowa because of the organization factor. The Iowa Republican caucus is heavily influenced by the fact that large swaths of the Dutch northwestern part of the state are among the most Christian conservative voters in the country percentage wise. This is a built in firewall keeping Ron Paul from winning Iowa. Voters in Iowa will not “caucus” for Newt Gingrich and he get’s 15% Romney get’s 25% because that’s what he paid for. That’s almost half of the rest of the caucus voters still out there? Perry, Bachman, Santorum, where do the conservatives go? Bachman gets 10%, Santorum 7%. Who do we have left? Where do the all the lost Gingrich voters go? Paul is attacking Gingrich on the airwaves and that is a waste of money because Gingrich never really had the support being reported. The only people rooting for Gingrich are is the CREEP. Paul should attack Romney, and PERRY! Perry is a natural for the western Iowan, and the Dutch reform members. Perry is spending big money on TV and TV is cheap in Iowa. So Hunstman 3%, Santorum 7%, Bachman 10%, Gingrich 16%, Paul 16%, Romney and Perry 45%, 3% uncommitted. Perry finishes 3rd or 4th in NH, wins SC and is the next president. Arithmetic, it’s easy.

  34. #34 |  Johnny | 

    I have to go with Death with Dignity because I can’t think of anything more sickening than the government dictating that I must spend the end of my life in agony while bankrupting my family. Um…sorry. Pretty grim there. Merry Christmas?

  35. #35 |  Tim P | 

    The Nation! I would send the Nation some money so they could get a new sports director.

  36. #36 |  Steve P | 

    Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, and SSDP. MAPS is set to run phase III clinical trials for treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in little more than a year. FDA mandates that phase III be completed within 2 years, so we must have all resources available.

  37. #37 |  Steve P | 

    ** Correction: using MDMA to treat PTSD

  38. #38 |  Give AFR some holiday love! « Americans for Forfeiture Reform | 

    […] AFR some holiday love! By Eapen Thampy, on December 15th, 2011 Yesterday, Radley Balko at The Agitator graciously plugged Americans for Forfeiture Reform as a donation-worthy organization this holiday season: Friend of The Agitator Eapen Thampy has […]

  39. #39 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Although it might raise a few libertarian hackles, I’d also suggest The Center for a Stateless Society

    This is where I’d like to point out to all libertarians that an awful lot of libertarians become anarchists as they grow older. Don’t fight it. Giiiiiiiive iiiiiiiiinnnnnn.

    There are also a lot of small batch distilleries that have been hit hard by the economic downturn and would appreciate contributions (I think they give you some product in exchange). You’ll be glad you did when the extended family is on their 3rd day of visiting.

    Now I’m off to read what LvM said about RB. Not all of their contributors are gold. In fact you have to wade through a fair amount of articles with promising titles and high-school-level content. I usually use the site for their archive of the masters’ works.

  40. #40 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    I have to go with Death with Dignity…

    That’s more appropriate for Easter donations.

  41. #41 |  Andrew S. | 

    Tim P., I think I’d rather have 4 more years of Obama than have Perry in office.

  42. #42 |  Tim P | 

    Andrew from the sound of your comments you, along with Mr. Balko are very comfortable with President Obama. I’m still kind of stunned he suggests giving to The Nation.

  43. #43 |  Erin | 

    Atlas Economic Research Foundation,, which has been helping libertarian think tanks and leaders around the world for 30 years.

    And also a personal favorite, Convoy of Hope, who does amazing on-the-ground work (I donated to them for Joplin relief and was amazed at how efficient they are!)

  44. #44 |  JOR | 

    “Very comfortable with Obama” =/= “preferring Obama to Perry”.

    Keep in mind that pretty much every libertarian who bought into the notion that replacing the party in charge in 2008 would make much of a positive difference has been terribly disappointed. What you read as Team Blue sympathy usually has more to do with complete disillusionment with the whole political process.

    Being an anarchist, personally, I really do not care who wins. Even if someone like Ron Paul won, I’d expect him to be assassinated or otherwise rendered irrelevant before he could accomplish anything. But, just sayin’, both of the individuals Radley has sympathized with most as presidential possibilities have been Republicans.

  45. #45 |  Tim P | 

    “Being an anarchist” We’re done! You would be the perfect Balko contributor.

  46. #46 |  JOR | 

    Not really. I’m too grumpy and contrarian. I’d end up fighting him over everything, manufacturing disagreements where I felt no adequate conflict existed. Because if there’s anything libertarians are good at, it’s that.

    And besides, he’s a statist.

  47. #47 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    “Being an anarchist” We’re done!

    A wise man. Because it would be like Richard Simmons fighting Ndamukong Suh with Suh being the anarchist.

  48. #48 |  Wednesday Linkage « Ice Cream Headache | 

    […] Radley’s list of suggestions for end-of-year charitable giving. […]