David R. Henderson  

The Best Charities

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I received the following from a regular reader of this blog, an economics professor who was one of my best teachers when I studied economics for a year at the University of Western Ontario:

Hi David, I have enjoyed your postings [here and here] on how to help struggling economies, and I especially liked the suggestion of donating to appropriate charities.

I wonder if you could post a list of charities you might recommend (with, of course, a solicitation from your readers to add to the list, explaining why they think the charities belong on the list).

All the best,

My honest answer is that I don't have recommendations that I'm relatively sure of. But I bet a lot of readers do have good ideas. Do you?

Comments and Sharing

CATEGORIES: Income Distribution

COMMENTS (16 to date)
Vinnie writes:

I've only ever heard good things about Partners in Health. Also, as a member of Engineers Without Borders, I'd like to believe we're one of the good ones, but I don't know what an outsider (or, say, Bill Easterly) would say about us.

Michael writes:

I'm quite biased on this issue. My father runs a small charity in Watts. He provides food for poor children and their guardians, most of whom live in public housing.


The front page solicits donations for 650 food boxes for children to eat over spring break, but that goal was recently met. Donations will go towards the regularly scheduled projects.

There are no paid staff. Almost all of the overhead is paid out of pocket. You can rest assured that your donations will be used to purchase food.

Donations are tax deductible.

AS writes:

givewell.org rates Village Reach and Nurse-Family Partnership the highest for International and US charities, respectively. I'd be inclined to trust their research.

Carl writes:

I donate to Innocence Project - it's a legal fund to represent people who have been wrongfully convicted and later exonerated by (usually DNA) evidence.

Andrew Hofer writes:

I am biased, but I am the Chairman of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. (www.rfbd.org).

RFB&D makes textbooks and other print material accessible to blind, visually-impaired, Dyslexic and other print-disabled individuals. One of my fellow board members went from flunking out of college to excelling, to being the chief engineer on the Pegasus Rocket project thanks to our products. One of my colleagues attended Harvard and MIT using RFB&D textbooks.

We make society both more just and more productive, and our efficiency in doing so is increasing rapidly.

Andrew Hofer writes:

if the focus is international relief, I like Mercy Corps.

Johnny Briggs writes:

I like Kiva. It helps third world entrepreneurs get their first break. Most of them pay back the microloans in a year, so in a couple of years it's real easy to be loaning to 30-40 people.

c141nav writes:

Go to


Chris Lemens writes:

Modest Needs (www.modestneeds.org) is a really interesting one. Their goal is to pay specific, small bills ($1,000 or less is usual) for individuals who need a little help to get back on their feet and stay self-supporting. Typical examples include people who are working, but their car broke, or they got a medical bill they can't pay, or a family breakup means they need to pay a rental deposit, or the like.

People apply for help on the Modest Needs site. Modest Needs checks out their story, verifying the amount owed and so on. Donors get points with which they can score the applicants, so that donors influence which applicants get funded. Modest Needs notes whether the applicant has ever received help from them before (and donors generally don't fund repeat applicants).

Modest Needs usually has some larger charity matching donations, so small donations go a long way. They also usually have a donor who covers their minimal administrative expenses.


Michael Bishop writes:

http://www.givewell.org/ is the best

jsalvatier writes:

Yup, using givewell should be your default for making donation decisions.

Vinnie writes:

It's a little ironic that most of us jumped on this as a chance to promote our favorite charities. It probably serves as a good illustration why we need to be careful with charitable donations in the first place.

Wayne writes:


They have information on how much they spend on activities like advertising and administration. You can also take a look at the charity's balance sheet.

PrometheeFeu writes:

I like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation. They fight for a number of technological freedoms which I believe in the long term will have a significant positive impact on economic development worldwide in addition to the immediate positive impact on civil liberties. (which is why I just have to add the ACLU even if they sometimes stray)

geckonomist writes:

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