As the tax year draws to a close, people sometimes round out their charitable giving. There are always more good causes than there are dollars. While something could be said for combining one's giving into a single gift that might actually make a noticable difference to one group, Caroline and I have instead adopted a somewhat scattershot approach, which includes giving to homelessness relief, various educational institutions (here at UM, we give to a group which supports student-funded-fellowships in the summer: law students use them to work for pro bono groups—a double-effect donation), and a fund that helps provide lawyers for the indigent. We haven't yet decided whether and how much to give to whom in the upcoming election, perhaps because this year I seem to suffer from a problem a bit like a N-dimensional Buridan's ass.
You don't need me to tell you how to find similar groups active in your community. We do, however, give to two less-well-known charities that I think are worthy of your consideration if you are planning any charitable giving.
There are a handful of groups doing good work in the information privacy field, including the
ACLU and (significantly more often than not, but not inevitably) the Center for Democracy and Technology. [Update: And of course EFF does great stuff too! (But you knew that.)] And there are very good people at each of them. But of them all, my favorite is the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). I may not always agree with Director Marc Rotenberg on every detail, but I deeply admire his efforts and the organization he has built. EPIC's work is of consistently high quality on both the domestic and international fronts, and it is a leader in the causes of information privacy and electronic civil liberties. I believe that these issues will only become more important in the next five years. EPIC is both pioneering and effective. Donate here.
Another group that I believe delivers enormous bang for the buck is Ashoka, a US-based charity that gives grants to “fellows” — they call them “practical visionaries” — who work for institutional or economic reform, primarily but not exclusively in poorer countries. Individual grants are actually pretty low, a “living stipend typically for three years, depending on individual need and local salary standards”. So far Ashoka has supported 400 fellows in 48 countries — and they produce results. Donate here.