Charity Pitches

By Sean Carroll | June 21, 2011 8:27 am

Don’t worry, we’re not asking for money. Admittedly, that’s what usually happens when the word “charity” appears, i.e. at our Donors Choose challenges. But now I have a whopping $100 burning a hole in my pocket, due to my plucky third-place finish in the 3 Quarks Daily contest. Back when I was a struggling grad student or post doc, this would have gone straight to pay for Ramen noodles or whatever. But now that I am a faculty member who lives in a nice house and drives a fancy car, I can pay it forward a bit.

Thus, I’m going to take the $100 and match it myself, donating $200 to charity. (Yes I know, the big spender. Hey, it was only 3rd place.) There are plenty of charities I know about already, but I thought that since these ill-gotten gains were based on the blog, I should ask the blog for advice.

So in comments I’d like to get your pitches for a worthy cause I might not have heard of. The winner — in a contest judged only by me — will get the $200. It will be most effective if you leave both an explanation of why this charity is so great, and a link to an easy way to donate.

Of course there is a hidden agenda here — while I’m giving away this huge pile of money, anyone else who reads the list is welcome to be inspired to donate as well. No pressure, except that you would be a better person and feel good about yourself.

Pitch away.

  • Ian

    Whatever suggestions get made, you can look to see how effectively your contribution will be put to work at

  • dean

    These days I’m all about giving to Wikipedia: ‘Making it more difficult for people to get away with bad ideas’

  • Mike


    No need to get all fancy on this — especially since it’s not that large an amount 😉 Give it to a local food bank. You know it will be put to good use and someone will really benefit from it.

  • Andy

    I strongly recommend The Madagascar Ankizy Fund. This organization, which was started by vertebrate paleontologists who made some pretty incredible dinosaur discoveries in northwestern Madagascar, supports health and education initiatives throughout that country. I’ve been a member of the paleontology crews over there (particularly the village of Berivotra, where the first Ankizy Fund school was founded) and have witnessed firsthand the massive difference that the Ankizy Fund teams make. In addition to building and supporting schools, dental care has been a major focus. This country of over 16 million has only one dental school, so dentists are scarce, and few people can afford routine or even emergency care. A simple tooth extraction can save a child’s life. With much aid to Madagascar cut off on account of an unstable government, groups like the Ankizy Fund are more important than ever before.

  • Sili

    I like Mike’s suggestion. Charity starts at home.

  • Eugene

    Organization for the Peasants of Lavache, Haiti. $65 pays for the education of a child for one year. 100% of your money goes to the Haitians directly (you will get a finance report on how your money is spent), no big NGO-overhead.

  • Dan

    I run a small non-profit that works with musicians in Africa, having them record music to educate the youth about HIV/AIDS. We’re still growing and all the money we raise goes directly to program development and future recordings. It’s a fun and important project and it’s where I pour my efforts…

  • Michael

    Since you are in/around Pasadena, might I suggest you consider donating to the leading charity supporting the homeless in your area, the Union Station Homeless Services? The economic downturn has had a especially negative impact on the homeless — particularly the large numbers of newly homeless families. Donate online:

  • Krish

    Innovations for Poverty Action:

    They use the scientific method in their charity. They conduct randomized trials to ensure what works and what doesn’t. They find out what works and they scale it up. Jacob Appel who works for this organization has written, along with Dean Karlan, the excellent book, ‘More Than Good Intentions”, in which they outline their scientific method. As a scientist, this might appeal to you. You can donate easily on their website.

    Also if you’re interested in this topic (of scientific charity), there is another excellent book, ‘Poor Economics’ by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee of the Jammel Povery Action Lab at MIT. Also the awesome TED talk by Esther Duflo, .

  • Allyson

    Local afterschool program in South Central. I <3 them. Good people doing good work.

  • Dan Miller

    For straight-up utilitarian bang for your buck, it’s tough to beat Deworm the World. Neil Sinhababu has a great writeup that goes into more detail than I can, including an easy donations link.

  • EllieMurasaki It’s less ‘charity’ and more ‘loan’, but you can relend the money as it comes back in, indefinitely if nobody defaults on you (and nobody’s defaulted on me yet) and you can help a lot of entrepreneurs around the world who need a few hundred dollars lump sum to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

  • fakename

    Hopefully there will be no more comments then I have 1 in 13 chances of getting the money to go to where I want it. It is Skateistan. Here is their website where you can donate

    Initially it was started by an Australian who taught little boys/girls to skate board in the streets of Kabul, now they have grown in to an organization dedicated to providing these kids with a sweet few minutes of entertainment in a part of the world where life is tough.

  • Helen Yoo

    Speaking of DonorsChoose, I think this is an awesome organization. DC has definitely made a huge impact in my classroom! They have allowed my high poverty first graders, access to so many more books, materials, and technology! Especially during these times of limited budgets, and increased class sizes, DonorsChoose is a blessing. Donors can select projects by subject area, location, or grade level. If you’d like to see my projects or select one of your own, please visit :)

  • Desiree

    My sisters and I recently set up this NGO with the aim of fostering disadvantaged, abused and AIDS-affected children in Cape Town, South Africa. We, ourselves are from a working class family and we were fortunate enough to be able to obtain a good education. This we want to provide for these children too to stop the cycle of poverty and hopelessness.

  • George

    CASA. Take a look. If you need further information my wife would be happy to fill you in with more details. Invest in children some will be scientists.

  • jim

    If you want to maximize your freedom and human rights ROI, there is no better investment vehicle than Ron Paul 2012.

  • Dr Gerard Hammond

    I’ll add a $50 to your choice Sean.

  • Edgar Duenez-Guzman

    I will go for the opposite pitch than the local charity that seems to be prevalent in the comments. I suggest VillageReach. From GiveWell:

    “VillageReach aims to improve the systems that distribute medical supplies to rural areas in Africa, so that life-saving supplies get to those who need them.”

    They are a very well regarded charity (top in the list at GiveWell) and they claim that $200 averts the death of a child on average (covers roughly 14 immunizations). So go ahead and save a life. What could have a greater impact than that?

  • Sean

    Thanks, Gerard! Obviously too many worthy choices here…

  • Steven

    I’d like to suggest donating it to a camp put on for kids who have, or are affected by HIV/AIDS, where they get to attend summer camp and not be marginalized for a week.

  • Eric Church

    I advocate that you give to Girls On The Run, Santa Fe: GOTR is an organization that works in Santa Fe elementary schools to get often otherwise-inactive girls out running — the simplest exercise. GOTR-Sf is having its fundraiser coming up. It’s called Lunafest, and it’s a series of short films. Your $200 would provide a big downpayment on running shoes and tee-shirts for the girls — all the equipment they really need.

  • Rationalist

    What is interesting about the pitches is that almost none of them make a rational argument as to why their pitch represents not just a worthy cause, but the best worthy cause. Givewell is the only suggestion which incorporates some notion of doing the most good for $100.

    Personally, I would suggest that the best charitable causes at the moment are meta-charities: charities which work out what the most important problems are.


    Paraphrasing: “There is a large divergence in relative cost-effectiveness in lives saved of different charitable programs (which can approach a factor of 1,000, not just a factor of 2”



  • Eric J. Blommel

    These days, a person has to get creative in raising money for school. That’s why I set up a free website to accept donations at

    I am raising money for graduate school. I’m working towards a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology at University of Colorado Denver’s School of Education and Human Development.

    I’ve decided to pursue this career for many reasons, but the most important one is because I’ve been helped myself. I would like to pass on the help that I have received to others. The area of study I plan to focus upon is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as second-hand PTSD (helping those who have suffered alongside a primary PTSD sufferer).

    By the way, I recently discovered an article that confirmed my choice. It seems there is a shortage of male therapists, and men are more likely to seek therapy from other men. This article in the New York Times describes the situation:

    So, if you are able to help me achieve my goal, I would be extremely grateful. Any amount you are able to contribute towards my education and training will be deeply appreciated. Won’t you help? I thank you very much for your time and attention.

  • Rebecca Sparks

    Mickacoo — a division of Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue dedicated to the rescue of doves and pigeons in the bay area. It is a very little organization, but they have over 300 birds they are trying to rehome (taken from a hoarder, if memory serves). Adoptions are slow, as people are largely unaware that pigeons make good pets.

  • Fedor

    I’ll second #17,, or There’s no better investment than Freedom

  • Pingback: Charity Update | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine()


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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