Published December 26, 2015 on

December invariably invites a look back over the closing year, and that can quickly lead to assessing one’s life to date. I’m as susceptible as anyone to this progression, and always conclude that I’m so grateful for where I am and all I have. Naturally, charities count on many of us wanting to act this sort of feeling, as they should. That’s why we all hear from worthy organizations from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.

Last year, I was inspired by Nick Kristof’s year-end giving list, so I decided to document my charitable donations this year. If you believe that what you give to reflects what you care about most, it’s an interesting exercise. No surprise, my choices clearly reflect a few passions.

If you find inspiration in the list below, wonderful. Please donate today. Or make your own list of worthies, and give to those. If you’re motivated at least in part by having charitable deductions, your deadline is the 31st. By the way, I’ve checked my list (at least those eligible) against Charity Navigator; they all score either three or four stars (the top of the range) for financial management and transparency.

Human rights / social welfare

  • Global Fund for Women — When women and girls have fundamental rights, the world progresses. GFW campaigns and does grantmaking around the most central needs.
  • Planned Parenthood Federation of America — #IStandWithPP, always.
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights — Practicing public interest law in the best sense, for 39 years NCLR has led legal battles addressing equality, from same-sex marriage and custody to survivor rights and bathroom use.
  • Compassion & Choices — This is the organization that worked with Brittany Maynard, and develops legislative efforts state by state around end-of-life rights; they’re why we won on this issue in California this year.
  • Montgomery Hospice — For the last two years of her life, my mom was in their care in Maryland — a gift to her and our family.

In San Francisco

  • Compass Family Services — Twitter brought Compass to my attention: a 101-year-old agency that brings stability to homeless families.
  • Glide — Glide is an only-in-San-Francisco kind of place. Come for the joyous Sunday service, stay to serve meals.
  • St Anthony’s Foundation — Helping San Franciscans who live in poverty with clothing, meals and respect.
  • Gubbio Project — A simple and powerful idea: a Tenderloin sanctuary for homeless people to sleep and wash up — and feel cared for by a greater community.
  • San Francisco-Marin Food Bank — Serves 225,000 people a year with foods to cook, and meals. Volunteer there to experience an impressive supply chain at work.

Education, Arts, Culture

Reading and writing

  • First Book — “Putting new books in the hands of children who need them most.” As an early reader and book lover, this mission speaks deeply to me.
  • 826 Valencia — Founded in 2002, 826 supports and helps kids learn to love the literary arts. And that can open all kinds of doors…
  • Alliance for Developing Education — This year I honored gay friends who recently married by supporting their dream project: building a middle school in Cambodia.


  • Public Radio Exchange (PRX) If you know me, you know I’m a radio nerd. PRX distributes and licenses public radio programming of all kinds, for podcasts and mobile apps and lots more (and you can find plenty of stories on their site too).
  • Kitchen Sisters — A special favorite. They find stories at the corners of culture, and always surprise and delight.
  • Pro Publica — They produce independent journalism in the public interest, and even better, they believe these stories can and should have “moral force”.
  • StoryCorps — “Every story matters,” says founder Dave Isay, who makes no bones about his roots in social justice. Apart from the stories told, StoryCorps teaches the value of listening.
  • International Center for Journalists — I’m honored to be on the board of this organization, which supports journalists around the world with technology tools and training to get stories, often where they’re not welcome.
  • Theatre Communications Group — And I’m on the board here too, to support the wonderful work of nonprofit professional theatres around the US. Among other programs, TCG advocates in Washington on behalf of the performing arts.

Visual art

  • Creative Growth — This Oakland-based organization supports and showcases work by artists with disabilities, and their impact is felt around the world (as you’ll see in this wonderful New York Times profile).
  • Creativity Explored — A similar org in San Francisco (offering daily studio space to disabled artists) never fails to delight.
  • Phillips Collection — My favorite Washington museum, a haven of seeing and learning. Duncan Phillips’ wonderful house became America’s first permanent showcase for modern art (opened in 1921).
  • On the theory that their presence always benefits the community, I’m also a member of a number of museums. I’m glad they’re there whether I go often or not! I hope you can also support your local museums, or your favorites where you travel.

Animals (OK, well, mostly dogs)

  • Best Friends Animal Society — This Utah-based sanctuary is at the forefront of no-kill training and education, and their red rock acreage takes in all kinds of animals. They also serve as a clearinghouse and trainer for many shelters around the US.
  • San Francisco SPCA — Founded in 1868 (it’s the 4th oldest US animal welfare org), and initiators of the no-kill movement. My dogs have received great care from their vet service, and their community programs are groundbreaking.
  • Rocket Dog Rescue — The liveliest of the Bay Area rescue groups (there are many), with a cadre of tireless (also, fanatic) volunteers who save scores of dogs, often at the 11th hour. Both of my dogs came to me thanks to Rocket Dog and its indefatigable founder, Pali Boucher.
  • Muttville — This wonderful San Francisco group takes in, and finds homes for, older dogs, many of whom have plenty of life and love to give, but often aren’t as desirable for adoption. Save the seniors!

That’s my list this year. I hope you feel motivated or inspired to make some donations yourself. And please, don’t worry about whatever amount being “too small.” Whatever you can give is gratefully received, and often, at this time of year, can be matched via other donors or programs. (If you were to “only” become a member of your favorite organizations, even at the lowest level, you are supporting them – and that’s all to the good).

There will always be many needs in the world, and each of us can help where we feel moved to help.

With greetings of the season,