Every year they ask that if you don't contribute, you still must return the form with the word "no" written across it. As a guilt-trip, it probably works great. However, as I'm not a fan of emotional manipulation of that sort, I write "no" anyway. But I still give money to charities when I can afford to do so.
A decade ago when I was a naive young tree-hugging liberal who figured the plight of endangered species greatly outweighs anything that might possibly be going wrong with human beings (there are 6 billion of us, after all), my choices were:
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - there are dozens, if not hundreds of environmental conservation organizations that, as far as I can tell, are basically all the same. The WWF is very large and does all sorts of things worldwide. My rationale is that it makes more sense to focus my money on the ones that are obviously successful instead of scattering it to lots of different places. Pooling of limited resources et al.
Nature Conservancy - these guys aren't big into political activism and lobbying. The basic philosophy is simpler, quieter, and in my opinion makes a lot more effective sense: they buy the land they want to preserve. Sometimes money really does talk louder than words.
Nowadays I've added "bleeding heart" to that.
- Modest Needs - this place provides emergency funds to the working poor. For example: being laid off with no health insurance when an illness hits; the car you use to get to work breaks down, and you can't afford to fix it, and you lose the job if you don't get to work; you miscalculate your bank balance by a few dollars, bounce a check, and must now pay ten times as much via bank fees for bouncing it and late fees for whatever you were trying to pay with that check. The idea is to help people avoid going into the downward spiral toward homelessness in the first place.
National Relief Charities - The most recent place I've been scoping out. It's a group of organizations that help Native Americans, who are the poorest of the poor in the U.S., and the group done the most wrong by the U.S. Their method is to ask the communities what is needed rather than just give random stuff, some of which might be more harm than good in the long run.
My main concern with places that help fellow human beings is that they not be religion-oriented. Those always seem to have ulterior motives, wanting to turn the people they help into versions of themselves, and I refuse to have any part in that.
Then there are the "fun" places. It isn't a matter of life and death if they don't get money, but they've certainly done a lot to enrich my life, and I donate out of gratitude.
- RolePlay OnLine (RPoL) - I've been playing there since 2003. I give money every year to help with the server costs.
Nanowrimo - Likewise (since 2004). Plus they build libraries in third world countries so children there can learn the joy of reading.
Eventually I'll probably add Pandora and Wikimedia to the list, but the above places are what I can afford now.