Tom MacWright

Where my donation dollars are going

This year I decided to grow up and donate like an adult. I’m eventually trying to hit the average, which I haven’t done.

Which is embarrassing, but it’s one of those things where you have to re-evaluate your situation and realize circumstances, priorities, and world environments have changed.

If you’re in the same situation, I figure this list would be useful as a starting point. I don’t think anything here is particularly risqué, but it does reflect a generally mainline liberal, pro-free-speech, technology-aware viewpoint.

  • GovTrack: support via the GovTrack Patreon. The information leverage per dollar of GovTrack is incredible: it’s only one or two people at the helm, but providing a continuous service for democracy - specifically, recording and publishing it. GovTrack is a bastion of facts, a key way to strengthen primary source journalism.
  • NYCLU: the New York wing of the ACLU. I donated to this one since it was a Christmas present for my sister and brother-in-law, but would encourage supporting whichever region you live in or care about: most of them do very well on Charity Navigator.
  • another slim and efficient non-profit organization rallying for truth, government transparency, and primary sources, and doing so since 2007.
  • The Internet Archive: the Internet is famously forgetful: major resources like GeoCities have disappeared in a flash. The Internet Archive not only keeps the Wayback Machine, a literal ‘internet archive’, running, but also serves as an archive for public domain and copyleft media that, unlike so much else, doesn’t disappear. Heck, I uploaded a recording of the William & Mary Appalachian Music Ensemble in 2009 (the year I played in it), and it still exists.
  • WABA: the Washington Area Bicycle Association is Washington, DC’s ‘bike lobby’, and it’s a great one: this year they’ve been successfully rallying to reform DC’s negligence policy for crashes.
  • Planned Parenthood: you’re probably aware of Planned Parenthood: this one’s a no-brainer, especially considering the challenges they’ll face in the coming administration.
  • ProPublica: a vision of another kind of journalism: ProPublica is a non-profit but has great critical writing, as well as a team with impressive technical ability. I’m optimistic that they’ll become more and more influential and provide a pattern for how to do ‘journalism in the public interest’.

As the year moved on, I moved from technology-centric donations to more general rights-based ones, like NYCLU and ProPublica, and I think that trend will continue: I’ll keep supporting bastions of technology culture and freedom like the Creative Commons and EFF, but focus on on-the-ground efforts that more directly affect disadvantaged people. Because that’ll be the priority very soon, for obvious reasons.

Disclosure: I know people at GovTrack,, and WABA, because I care about those things and hang in those circles.