At the turn of the year, you may well be thinking about donating some of your hard-earned to one or more worthy causes. After you've thought about more conventional charitable giving, I'd like to suggest the following organisations as candidates for a few more of your local currency units. Such a donation may not have the direct effect that you'd associate with something like disaster relief, but it might just increase in some small way the prospects of a better future for everyone…
The Wikimedia Foundation asks you to "imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge". If that sounds a bit grandiose, consider the number of times you use Wikipedia every day and how much you're therefore saving because you don't need to buy Encarta any more.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation have been fighting to defend your rights in the digital world since before most people thought there might be rights in the digital world. If you join them, or send them a donation, there is more chance they will be around to defend your rights the next time they are threatened. And anyway, who wouldn't want to support an organisation that sued Barney the dinosaur?
Our digital world is as vibrant as it is in large part because of the way that creative people build on the work of others. I love being a part — however small — of that creative universe; that's why I use Creative Commons licenses to mark many of my own works as free for other people to use, under certain conditions. For example, my flickr photostream and (as of this week) this blog are marked as free for non-commercial use as long as you give me attribution. You can support this approach to creativity by donating to Creative Commons. Of course, licensing your own work where appropriate is like a donation to every creative person out there; doesn't that make sense too?
Happy New Year!