Highlighting My Favorite Charities

A long-time reader writes in with a question I’ve thought about answering for a while now:

“I was wondering what your favorite charities were and why you thought they were worth giving money to.”

There are four specific charities that have “risen to the top” in my book. They all have a few things in common, which I’ll get to in a minute. Let’s look at the four winners first:


DonorsChoose is an online charity that connects donors to classrooms in need. Donors “choose” which projects to fund based on whatever criteria they want.

The website allows you to browse teacher “projects” based on location, subject, cost, poverty level, and more. For example, there are three projects available right now in my city, and many more in the local area. Or, I can select a specific subject I’m interested in—like Music.

Once the project is funded, you get a packet of materials with photos of the project happening in the classroom, a detailed financial report, and even handwritten thank-you notes from students if you give over $100!


Kiva is a microfinance lender that connects donors to people who need small loans to get a small business started in financially challenged areas.

Field partners (local microlending institutions) make these loans and post the entrepreneur’s stories on Kiva. Donors then finance these loans to essentially “take them over” from the field partners.

Through Kiva, donors then become “the bank,” getting paid as the entrepreneur makes payments toward the business loan.

Children International

Children International is a sponsorship program that allows long-term sponsorship of donor-selected children to provide basic items—including healthcare, nutritional support, clothing, and school supplies.

The program allows for two-way communication between donors and sponsored kids, including exchanging photos and encouragement. The site even offers the option to write these letters online, though handwritten notes still seem so much better, in my opinion.

If you’re really interested, there are even opportunities to visit your sponsored child personally, which I can only assume is a pretty awesome experience.

Charity: Water

I wrote a bit about Charity: Water in my Blog Action Day appeal a few weeks ago. This charity is unique because 100% of all public donations go directly to providing water to those in need. They’re able to do this by utilizing in-kind donations from big donors and companies to cover administrative costs.

Charity: Water’s mission is to address a sad reality: 1 in 8 people (about one billion) don’t have readily available access to clean drinking water, a basic human need. Bad water affects children, especially, because they’re more susceptible to diseases.

Projects can be funded with direct donations (which pool together), or you can sponsor a well, which runs $5,000 for a village or $20,000 for a school.

What I Like About Them All

If you’re an astute observer, you may have noticed the commonalities between these fine charities. All of them do these things to some degree:

  • Allow the donor to have a very specific view about where and how their money is used.
  • Allow for feedback from the recipients to the donors about what kind of difference the donation has made.
  • Allow both large and small donations to make an impact in their own way.

What Are Your Favorites?

At one point or another, I learned about these charities through friends, family, other bloggers, and co-workers. Word-of-mouth is an awesome way to spread the word about innovative and worthy charities.

So go ahead—share your favorites in the comments today!

Photo by Hamed Saber