Holiday fundraisers

By Phil Plait | December 12, 2011 7:00 am

Winter is always a big season for charities. Christmastime is traditionally a time to give, but that means competition among charities increases, and it’s hard to separate out which ones you want to give to. And some "traditional" charities seem like they do good work, but have some pretty intolerant and bigoted beliefs they keep relatively quiet. So deciding to whom to give can be difficult.

So if you have a few bucks, here are a handful of charities I like.

Recipe4Hope is campaign to raise money for the Autism Science Foundation. I am very wary of groups claiming to research autism, since so many of them are fronts for anti-vaccination promoters. ASF, though, understands that vaccines do not cause autism, and is looking into actual scientific research. Here’s their video for this year:

100% of the donations will fund ASF’s pre- and post-doctoral autism research fellowships, helping young scientists start their career researching autism. They have a donation page set up, and the campaign runs through the end of 2011.

The James Randi Educational Foundation has an annual Season of Reason campaign which raises funds to keep JREF operating. Donate $100 (or sign up for $25/month or more) and they’ll send you a SurlyRamic ornament! The JREF has really ramped up their educational efforts over the past couple of years, and your donation will go toward teaching people the critical thinking that is so, well, critical to making important decisions.

I already wrote about Astronomers Without Borders recently, and while the Sky Safari campaign is over, they’re still accepting donations! AWB does great work, reaching out across the world to educate people about the night sky, trying to unite everyone through a love of astronomy.

Foundation Beyond Belief is a secular group that picks 10 needy causes every quarter and gathers funds for them. They don’t necessarily exclude religious charities, but they do choose them based on compatibility with humanist goals, and they have a specific program called Challenge the Gap, which promotes finding common ground between theists and atheists, something I obviously think is a noble and worthwhile goal.

Got some charities you like? List them in the comments!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Miscellaneous, Religion, Skepticism

Comments (32)

  1. Kevin

    It’s a shame about the Salvation Army. I’ve donated money to them plenty of times, and don’t regret it, but I’m going to be more vigilant in the future. As a young gay man myself, it’s frustrating at times dealing with the ignorance of the world. Then again, as a skeptic and a scientist, it’s also frustrating at times dealing with the ignorance of the world.

  2. I’m an employee at a struggling no-kill 501(c)3 non-profit animal shelter in central Florida. Times are tough, we’ve had major cutbacks on employees (down to two, one on duty 5 days of the week, only 2 days we overlap – and it’s easily a 2 person job to do the morning cleaning and be ready to be open to the public for adoptions by noon, so unless we get volunteer/community service help, we’re unable to open for adoptions before 2pm, which only leaves 2 hours that the public can come look at animals that day, as we close at 4p).

    Right now, we’re lucky that a lot of donated food/supplies are coming in, so we don’t have to worry about spending money on buying food to feed the critters, but we need money for utility bills, employee salaries, and vet bills (every animal gets spayed/neutered and vaccinated before going to their new home, and there’s routine medicinal/vet care – many of our dogs are approaching senior ages.)

    You can donate by check or Paypal – the address and links are on the shelter’s website – – it’s tax deductible, so please consider helping a small shelter.

  3. Chad

    Child’s Play Charity – giving games to kids in hospitals:

  4. Nothing can end hunger. Seriously it can. Go buy some virtual cans of Nothing at and raise money for The R.I. Community Food Bank. Citizens Bank will match your gift too!

  5. Andrew

    Always at the top of my list – Medicines Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders

    I know there was controversy with the ACS, but there’s a history of cancer in my family, so I also donate to any cancer research I can. On a similar note, the local hospitals in my area (and my hometown) have charities that I donate to regularly as well, for similar reasons.

  6. Bill

    The American Diabetes Association ( is the largest national non-profit agency dedicated to preventing and curing diabetes and improving the lives of everyone affected by all types of diabetes – Type 1, Type 2 and gestational.

    Donations will be used to fund the Association’s research, prevention, advocacy and education programs.

  7. Since my kids have Celiac Disease, I have a personal interest in supporting that cause and even do a crazy Christmas display that allows Internet surfers to view and CONTROL it:
    Over $60,000 raised for the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research … which is (arguably) the leading institution looking into diagnosis and prevention/cure of something that strikes 1 out of 133 Americans.


    P.S. Thanks for the attaboys about my Lunar Eclipse time-lapse:
    Note that I went out the next morning to shoot the full moon setting over the Colorado Rockies – scroll down to the bottom of the page to see that there now.

  8. David

    Things here in Tucson (I like to keep things local if possible): Humane Society of Southern Arizona; the Community Food Bank; my church’s food ministry program (I go to a truly inclusive Episcopal church that espouses progressive theology and that wholeheartedly welcomes the GLBT community); Wingspan, Tucson’s GLBT center. We have other wonderful non-Christianist organizations as well–too many for me to even think of right now.

  9. Ed

    To each their own Phil, but ASF is nothing more than a vaccine manufacturers front group. All their research is epidemiological (statistical manipulation). They produce research which suggests injecting infants with bolus doses of organic mercury and residual human DNA is safe. Do you folks really want to donate your hard earned money to the pharmacuitical industry so they can continue their lucrative practice of inducing chronic lifetime disease’s like Autism, ADHD, life threatening food allergies, asthmas, etc. (these are just the ones that start with an A)? It’s your money!

  10. Ed (9): … and I assume you have evidence that ASF is front group for vaccine manufacturers? And even if they are, how that’s necessarily a bad thing? I also assume you have some evidence that vaccines cause autism (or any of the maladies you claim), despite the VAST amount of evidence showing it doesn’t? Difficulty: you must cite carefully done, double-blinded and controlled experiments published in medical journals.

  11. VinceRN

    Our giving tends to increase this time of year, like many peoples. However, we tend to give locally during the holidays. There are lot’s of small, local groups that are working hard to feed and shelter those without food and shelter right here in our area, and groups trying to make sure that kids who otherwise wouldn’t have much of a holiday, do. About the only ‘big’ charity we give to this time of year is Toys for Tots.

    When looking at a charity, especially locally, I don’t really care what their beliefs are. I care what their end product is. If a group is getting people off the freezing streets and feeding them, or getting presents to foster kids or kids in poverty, they can be atheists, Christians, or Hare Krishnas for all I care. They can be liberal or conservative, they can be small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri, it doesn’t matter to me.

    It’s the work they are doing that matters, not their motivation.

  12. Seconding Child’s Play – as a kid I ended up spending a lot of time in the hospital and so their mission (making childhood hospital stays suck less) really speaks to me.

  13. Thank you for your endorsement Phil!

  14. Phil- Thanks so much for your support!

    Ed- ASF has never taken money from vaccine manufacturers or pharmaceutical companies.

    –Alison Singer, President, Autism Science Foundation

  15. Worldbuilders is a wonderful charity administered by writer Patrick Rothfuss that works at the behest of Heifer International. Also, you get to buy GOATS for the needy. Yes, GOATS!

    Additionally, every $10 donation gets you a chance to win a lot of cool swag like autographed books by well known authors.

    Lots more information here:

  16. Ms. Singer! Thanks for leaving those notes. It’s my pleasure; Dawn Crawford is the one who emailed me about the campaign. And it’s nice to see you here; I’ve written about you before. :)

  17. TheJAYFK is promoting a “12 Villages By Christmas” #VaxDrive through the American Red Cross to vaccinate children around the world against measles. Considering the anti-vax stuff that has been around lately, it seems a nice, though perhaps small, step in fighting back.

    I also am a big fan of Child’s Play, though I mainly contribute by donating through Humble Bundles. :)

  18. Penny

    Ms. Singer founded the Autism Science Foundation with millionaire vaccine industrialist Dr. Paul Offit. ASF is the only autism research organization founded on the basis of the science it won’t pursue .

    Alison Singer cannot honestly call her group an “autism charity” when its activities are focused on promoting and defending drugs (ie vaccines) for the pharmaceutical industry.

  19. Penny (18): OK, I’ll ask you too. Got any evidence for those claims?

    For example, how are its activities “focused” on promoting and defending drugs? Mind you, by the words you use that means that’s their main thrust, as opposed to actual research into autism.

  20. Naomi

    Phil, my objections with the Autism Science Foundation isn’t due to any connections with vaccinations or not, it’s because it’s run by a lunatic who once almost flippantly discussed murdering her autistic child. I’ve outlined my objections in this entry.

  21. Ah yes, Penny shows us a textbook antivax cut-and-paste. Pretty much anyone trashing Paul Offit as an “industrialist” can be safely ignored. He’s a common target, much as Michael Mann is vilified by climate denialists.
    So Penny, how many lives have you saved?

  22. ragnar

    Funny how neither Ed nor Penny have been back with evidence.

  23. AthiestMom

    Phil, thanks for the links, specifically the link to ASF. I was unaware of them, and as the mother of a child with autism, it seems that the ASF is a foundation that I can support in good conscience.

  24. Back on topic, the International Dark-Sky Association is a non-profit that is working to fight light pollution for astronomy, wildlife, energy conservation, human health and more. You can find them and donate at

  25. AtheistMom

    Phil, thanks for the links, specifically the link to ASF. I was unaware of them, and as the mother of a child with autism, it seems that the ASF is a foundation that I can support in good conscience.
    (um, I’m reposting this because I misspelled “Atheist” in the name field of my previous post. sigh…)

  26. Wayne on the Plains

    Naomi (20),

    I was prepared to come to your defense after reading your messages in the previous thread you linked to, but watching the video I am certain she was contemplating murder/suicide, rather than murder, which is a very different thing. No less horrible in some respects, but not in the cold-blooded way you imply. You may very well have some legitimate complaints, but the video is not compelling unless you are already biased against her.

  27. Melissa Dowd

    I like “” which provides new books for needy children…as the title suggests, often the first book a child has ever had. They rate 3 out of 4 stars from Charity Navigator and is well rated by the BBB. 97% of their revenue goes to programs. If we had better education, maybe fewer people would be bamboozled by the likes of anti-vaxers and climate change deniers.

  28. BAC

    I suggest Americans United for Separation of Church and State — which doesn’t think “The Flintstones” is a documentary! You can get to them here:


  29. @28 Melissa Dowd: Thanks for sharing that! Sounds like a great organization, and it’s one I’ve never heard of before.

    Reminds me of this fantastic book I’m reading now, called “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind.” It’s about a boy in Malawi who grew up in poverty, even to the point of not being able to afford to go to the equivalent of junior high school. But at about age 11, he borrowed and read some science books and taught himself about electricity and basic engineering. He built a windmill using tractor parts and various pieces of machinery that let him light his room at night. Eventually he figured out how to light his family’s entire home, which saved them money on kerosene for light at night. Soon people were coming from all over town to charge their mobile phones, as power in the city center was unreliable and it cost money to charge their phones. His projects got the attention of people from further away and he was interviewed on a radio program and things kind of snowballed. Anyway, he went on to speak at TED and got a scholarship and is now doing all kinds of great stuff with impoverished kids and helping communities generate power locally. It’s a really, really inspiring story. Never underestimate the potential of curious kids with access to books :)

  30. Naomi

    Wayne @ 27, it still stands. The fact remains that she flat-out stated the only reason she didn’t do it was because of her neurotypical daughter – indicating that she would have gone through with it if her autistic daughter was her only child. And the worst part is for the stated reason – not wanting to put her in a special ed school! Not endless stress, not despair over her daughter never being able to live a good, fulfilling life – she just didn’t like the schooling options! (There are always options, incidentally, if you look hard enough.)

    And okay, I can concede that sometimes people have dark thoughts. But the part I find honestly disgusting? She said this, calmly, IN FRONT of her daughter – the one that just tried to show an affectionate gesture towards her before she pushed her away. ‘Autistic’ doesn’t equal ‘vegetable’. Even non-verbal autistics can understand what’s been spoken around them.

    If you had thought about committing a murder-suicide because you didn’t like your daughter’s schooling options, and the only reason you decided against it was because of your ‘normal’ daughter, would you say this in front of her?

  31. Thank you, Phil, for putting up this post! It’s always great to learn about charities and the like that you may not have heard of before. For my part…

    My son has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which is a motor neurone disease that affects 1 in 6000 births, and roughly 60% of affected children die by the age of 2, making it the number one genetic killer in the 0-2 age range. My son is one of the “lucky” ones; he’s 4 1/2 and doing quite well — he’s very chatty and very bright — but he will never be able to walk or crawl and is at greatly increased risks for pulmonary illnesses like pneumonia.

    So every year we strongly encourage friends and family to donate to Families of SMA, at (or click my name), to raise money to find positive treatments and maybe even a cure for this condition.


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