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At the risk of sounding like this guy, it’s worth remembering that this is not only the end of the year and the holiday season, this is also the end of the 2015 tax year. If you itemize your deductions, this would be a good time to evaluate your finances and donate some money to a cause or two. Or more.

Choosing where to donate money is challenging. Not only are there myriad worthy causes out there, there is a lot of pressure from just about every non-profit organization that you have ever patronized. If you subscribed to its email list, liked it on Facebook, or followed it on other social networking sites, you have undoubtedly heard its call for a donation. And since you’re a good person, it’s hard to say no to many of them.

Also, it’s not an exaggeration to say that these fundraising campaigns resemble holiday sales in their year-end “donate now” pleas.

Years ago, I heard an interview with someone who manages a large endowment that donates million of dollars to many causes. If you think your Facebook feed is crowded with pleas for money now, imagine what this this executive gets on a weekly basis. Rather than deciding on a case-by-case basis where to donate the money, she revealed that the endowment only grants money to organizations working on a set of specific, predetermined causes. In other words, they have decided in advance what causes are important to fund and donate only to those. It’s a sane approach for a multibillion-dollar endowment, it’s a sane approach for a millionaire one-percenter, and it’s a sane approach for someone with more limited resources, like you.

My own philanthropy is very limited, but I decided years ago I would focus on two causes very important to our lives: transportation and communication. In my estimation, access to transportation and to communication are human rights.

Some day, I’ll articulate my reasons for my thinking, but for now, I would like to offer my own list of worthy organizations and their Charity Navigator scores. Perhaps you will consider them worthy of a year-end charitable gift, too.

  1. Transportation Alternatives is a New York City–based organization that advocates for bicyclists and pedestrians. Over the last fifteen years, they have helped remake New York City streets from high-speed arteries for automobiles to a more “complete streets” design for a variety of transport modes. They are a big reason why New York City has so many more bike lanes that a decade ago. Motorists at first hate them, but they really shouldn’t because, with a bike lane, bicyclists will stay out of your way.

    Your locality likely has a similar organization advocating for more intelligent uses of roads and other transportation infrastructure. Support it!

    Charity Navigator: 4/4

  2. Electronic Frontier Foundation has been a mensch for computing and the Internet for over twenty-five years. They have been instrumental in the fight against unfair anti-circumvention laws, net neutrality, and many other causes.

    Charity Navigator: 4/4

  3. Wikipedia. Although you know that if everyone reading Jimmy Wales’s plea donated $3, their fundraising needs would be met in an hour. You also know that you’ve been seeing that plea for weeks, meaning that you’re going to have to pick up the slack.

    Charity Navigator: 4/4

  4. Internet Archive aims to be for the world’s largest computer network what the Alexandrine Library was for the ancient world: a collection of all the world’s knowledge. Don’t let a lack of funds do to this valuable resource what the Romans: destroy and cause an irretrievable loss of public knowledge.

    Charity Navigator: Unrated, Private Foundation

  5. Speaking of libraries, your local public library could use some money. Public libraries are not only organs of information for everyone, they provide space for scholars, children, and the inquisitive. The New York Public Library has been actively asking for donations over the last few weeks, but they have close to $700 million of hedge-fund billionaire’s money. Your local library probably doesn’t.

    Charity Navigator: 4/4 for New York Public Library

Incidentally, Charity Navigator is also a non-profit organization and is itself seeking donations.

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