Whew, all the year end contributions are done. This year's recipients - deemed worthy based on my research and my personal charitable priorities, include:
Human/People Based: I like to support the charities that help people in places and situations where no one else will, which use money efficiently to provide life saving care, and which are not religiously affiliated. Doctors Without Borders and International Rescue Committee do a great job; both are 4 star charities per Charity Navigator. If you give before 12/31, your contribution to IRC will be matched. Kiva is an interesting charity where you can make a micro-loan to someone of your choice and if they pay as agreed, re-loan the money to someone else when repaid. It's a great way to make a direct difference in someone's life.
Environment/Habitat Conservation: I look for charities focused on preserving the planet, protecting wildlife corridors, and conserving animal habitats wherever possible. Many of these overlap a bit with wildlife/animal focused charities. Nature Conservancy is a favorite (though 3 stars) and I give to them monthly. National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) is a four star charity dedicated to environmental protection. This year I added Ocean Conservancy (3 stars) as well. Rainforest Alliance (4 stars) has a triple matching contribution until the end of the year, and does a lot of work on behalf of rainforests worldwide, including a program I like that helps rate travel companies and their environmental policies. Sierra Club (4 stars) is another long time favorite, offering cool trips as well as doing lots of great environmental work. Of course, close to home, there is the Idaho Conservation League (3 stars), a new charity for me this year, focused on conservation issues within my state.
Animal Conservation and Advocacy: Wildlife is my number one priority, and the conservation thereof, but of course domestic animals need protection too. Domestically, I give to Animal Legal Defense Fund (4 stars), lawyers who advocate to use and change the law to protect animals. They help when overworked prosecutors can't handle cruelty cases, and they provide resources to cases that might improve the state of the law. I also support my local Idaho Humane Society, providing necessary animal management and care. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (3 stars) has a matching gift through the end of the year, and runs an animal sanctuary that is nationally known, as well as focusing on no-kill shelters. Farm Sanctuary (3 stars) is a new charity for me this year, focused on helping improve conditions of animals suffering in factory farms and taking in farm animals in need. African Wildlife Foundation has long been my favorite of favorites since African animals are my absolute favorites and I adore Africa. A four star charity focusing on both wildlife and land preservation, I give to them throughout the year. Defenders of Wildlife (3 stars) focuses on endangered species protection and ran a creative program to compensate ranchers for livestock lost to wolves when wolves were reintroduced. National Wildlife Federation (3 stars) has some great wildlife trips and does some good work, though I admit I am annoyed at all the "freebies" they have (wrapping paper, cards, labels, etc.) instead of focusing on conservation. World Wildlife Fund (3 stars) also offers interesting trips but focuses on animals and environmental protection. Wildlife Conservation Society (4 stars) works on habitat preservation as well as species conservation. Save the Elephants does elephant research in Samburu, and I have a special relationship with them because I saw an elephant born and they helped me identify the family he was born into and visit him again 18 months later.
Lesser Known Animal Charities: Although these are generally not rated charities, I have some experience with them personally or believe that they are worth contributing to. Ewaso Lions is a lion research project based in Samburu, Kenya and run by a lion researcher I had the pleasure to meet in Kenya and have kept in touch with (she has an interesting FB page too!), so I give a little bit monthly to hopefully help further her efforts, which I know to be worthwhile. I give monthly to sponsor a hectare of land in Virunga National Park in DR Congo to be patrolled for snare removal and to support the officers working there to protect mountain gorillas. I can't safely go visit in Congo and support their efforts, as I can the similar efforts in Uganda and Rwanda, and these gorillas desperately need protection. Congo is the third and final area in which these creatures live, and donations directly help pay rangers who put themselves on the line - and lose their lives sometimes for the gorillas, so the very least I can do is support their efforts financially. Cheetah Conservation Fund recently got rated for the first time on Charity Navigator and did not fare well, but I know that Dr. Laurie Marker with the organization has done so much for cheetah conservation, including a pioneering guard dog program in Namibia, I am not willing to withdraw any support...yet. They often have a year end matching program for donations, including this year.
I Fund Them Because I Use Them: I support Boise State Radio because I love public radio and listen to it nearly every day. I also give to Charity Navigator because I use and rely on their ratings and think it is an effort worth supporting.