Not necessarily in that order
Resources on illness, death and dying, loss, grief, and positive aging

Selected Works

Enjoying the golden years
Autism, Asperger's syndrome, Savant Syndrome
(and donating your body or body parts)
Depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other forms of mental illness
Including suicide and assisted dying
Plus memorials and requiems
(stories about specific diseases, conditions, syndromes)
Narrative medicine (or medical narrative) Memoirs of illness, crisis, disability, differentness, and survival
Assisted living, nursing homes, cohousing, or living in place (with or without caregivers)

Charity and volunteering: Giving wisely and doing good

Want to give to the charities that spend most of what they take in on the charity program itself, not on fundraising? Me, too. I've linked here to sites that provide the most help figuring out which programs are worth supporting. Other things you can donate: food, blood, organs (kidney, etc.), computers, vehicles, and surplus items (things you don't want or need and hope someone else can use). Combine decluttering with philanthropy, and earn a tax deduction.
Top charity ratings
Tips on charitable giving
Rethinking charity
Worst practices in charity world
Donating your body or body parts


Armchair Advocates (using social media to advocate on behalf of the causes that matter most). Facebook page. How are companies, organizations & individuals using the web to move people from armchair to action and invest in global causes? Read Are You an Armchair Advocate?" (Charles A. Bentley, Huff Post, 3-17-13)
Catchafire (matches professionally-skilled volunteers with nonprofits and social enterprises. Read Catchafire CEO: If I Don't Use My Time Well, My Employees Won't Either (Catherine Clifford, Entrepreneur, 1-15-14)
Create the Good (AARP, search function for finding volunteer activities in your area) Some interesting projects turn up, such as the Lost Ladybug Project: Observers Needed!
Focusing Philanthropy (identifying nonprofit organizations as candidates for personal philanthropy)
Idealist (find volunteer opportunities, nonprofit jobs, internships, and organizations working to change the world) Volunteer, work, intern, organize, hire, and connect.
Moving Worlds Experteering: Volunteer your real skills abroad, make an impact, and live for free. Apply your skills for social good. "Voluntourism can't solve real problems... That's where Experteers come in." See FAQs for Experteers
Omprakash (connecting volunteers with grassroots organizations around the world)
Volunteermatch Find a cause that lights you up. Get in touch with a nonprofit that needs you. (Advocacy and human rights. Animals. Arts & culture. Board development.)
Volunteer Vacations: How to Be Sure You’re Helping (Donna L. Hull, Next Avenue, 2-12-12) Due diligence is essential to ensure that your money — and hard work — truly benefit people
Voluntourism: Are You Up to the Challenges? (Bart Astor, Next Avenue, 3-12-14) Helping out in an exotic locale can be ideal if you ask key questions first
Where Older Workers are Valued and Honored (Kathryn Lance, Next Avenue, 5-28-15). Volunteering as a docent in retirement can deliver generous rewards. Excellent article. Who knew docents needed all that training -- and that learning was one of the chief benefits of volunteering? Google "docent training" and names of your favorite museums, research centers, parks, etc. and see what comes up!
Social Programs That Work, interventions identified by the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy (nonprofit, nonpartisan).
Let me know if anything important or useful is missing.
[Back to Top]

Top charity ratings

Charity Navigator rates 3,600 charities with one to four stars, providing free financial evaluations of America's charities, rating them on organizational efficiency and organizational capacity.
Give Well (a very short list of "evidence-backed, thoroughly vetted, underfunded organizations")
Charity Watch, a nonprofit charity watchdog, rates nonprofits with a letter grade (A to Z). Formerly American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP). For a $50 contribution, you can get its Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report, which among other things lists salaries paid to fundraisers.
GuideStar Charity Check (pre-grant due-diligence product that is compliant with all IRS requirements for verifying eligibility to receive grants and payouts)
GiveWell (evidence-backed short list of good charities, thoroughly vetted and underfunded--principally in developing, often African, countries)
Give.org, BBC Wise Giving Alliance (rates charities as accredited, not meeting standards, etc.) Some charities choose not to disclose financial info.
Top-Rated Charities (Charity Watch, with letter grade)
Charity Watch's links to other resources for evaluating charities, including the Washington Post's searchable database of nonprofits that have reported a diversion of assets
Forbes's list of America's 200 Largest Charities. Forbes lists American's largest charities (by donations) and provides data on their efficiency.
Evaluating Charities Not Currently Rated by Charity Navigator. One helpful tool is the Foundation Center's 990 Finder
America's Top 50 charities: How well do they rate? (Christian Science Monitor)
Red Cross Misstates How Donors' Dollars Are Spent (Laura Sullivan, NPR, for All Things Considered, and Jesse Eisinger and Justin Elliott, for ProPublica, 12-4-14). Same story as reported on ProPublica (and there you'll see links to other stories on the topic.
Charity Checker (searches the top charity watchdog and review sites and shows you their ratings)
• A Snopes.com article reports that six veterans-related charitable organizations don't receive very high marks for efficiency (as determined by Charity Navigator, the BBB, or Form 990 information):
American Legion: 55%
Veterans of Foreign Wars: 84%
Disabled American Veterans: 77%
Military Order of Purple Heart Service Foundation: 35%
Vietnam Veterans of America: 25%
Wounded Warrior Project: 58%
Read more at http:/​/​www.snopes.com/​politics/​business/​charities.asp#hgUMepk3opOuqGCy.99
[Back to Top]

Tips on charitable giving

Top 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors (Charity Navigator)
Charity Navigator's tip sheets on savvy donating to charity include Top 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors and 7 Questions To Ask Charities Before Donating.
Friday5. For $5 a week (charged to your credit card), you donate to charitable causes through Friday5. See How it picks its causes and an article about the good story: Friday5 makes you look virtuous while it does all the work – and for only a fiver (Michael Carney, PandoDaily, 3-22-13). Through this subscription-based donation model you outsource all the research and check-writing and mailing, while Friday5 does background checks and makes what appear to be good choices on charitable giving. Follow who gets weekly donation on Friday5's Facebook page
Three Questions To Ask Before Donating To A Charity (Anjali Sastry and Kara Penn, Cognoscenti, Thinking That Matters, 12-19-14). "Look for a clear story that connects what the organization does to the actual changes in the world that it seeks. The more transparency, the better." For example, Give Directly offers unconditional cash transfers to the poor (see pp. 35-35 of this evaluation of such transfers in a randomized controlled trial of such transfers in rural Kenya).
Charity Navigator's tip sheets on savvy donating to charity include Top 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors and 7 Questions To Ask Charities Before Donating.
What to do when a charity calls (Charity Navigator). Among other things: If you determine that the telemarketer is calling you on behalf of a charity that you wish to support, contact the charity and find out how to donate to it directly. That way you avoid having part of your donation taken by a for-profit company.
Guide to Donating Noncash Items (Charity Navigator)
Guide to donating your car (Charity Navigator)
Tax-Deductible Clothing Donations Are Great, Except Your Used Socks (Ron Lieber, NY Times, 5-15-15) Slideshow: The Good, Bad, and Ugly Guide to Donating Clothing
Eight Tips for Deducting Charitable Contributions (IRS)
Tax Benefits of Giving (Charity Navigator)
When Donating to Charity, Don’t Send A Money Transfer to An Individual (Shelley Bernhardt, Better Business Bureau, 12-3-13)
[Back to Top]

Rethinking charity

A Charity That Just Gives Money To Poor People (Jacob Goldstein, Planet Money, NPR, 8-2-11) Give Directly: Send money directly to the extreme poor. "A group of economists is launching a charity with a simple but radical plan: Give money to very poor people, and let them spend it however they want." Read what GiveWell says (pro and con) about this "charity to watch."
What Gives: Generosity in America (Backstory, public radio with the American History Guys), a whole hour, in these segments:
---Give it all away (Scholar Isiah Wilner talks about the tradition of Kwakwaka’wakw potlatches -gatherings where you might give not only the shirt off your back, but the roof over your head.)
--- To Give & Buy in the U.S.A. Expanding on the potlatch, the Guys talk about giving and philanthropy throughout American history, starting with the Big Master giving Christmas gifts to their slaves.
---Democratic Institutions. Historian Johann Neem and host Peter Onuf examine charity in the Early Republic – and why Thomas Jefferson would not have been a fan of large private charitable foundations.
--- Scientific Method. Historian Alice O’Conner and host Ed Ayers talk about the rise of ‘scientific’ giving and modern philanthropy (organized giving as a top-down way of shaping society--e.g., through intermediate institutions such as libraries, as opposed to giving charity to individuals.)
---For Whom the Bell Tolls. The Guys take a call from a listener curious about the tradition of Salvation Army Santas.
---Theater of Giving. Scholar Shelia Moeschen discusses the rise of philanthropy performances, decades before the modern telethon was born.
--Red Crossed the Line.
A Better Way to Encourage Charity (Ray D. Madoff, Opinion, NY Times, 10-5-14) "Reducing taxes for all private foundations does nothing to encourage greater payouts. Instead of abandoning the incentives, Congress should make them cleaner and easier to apply....Retain the current 2 percent excise tax for those private foundations that spend 6 percent or less; reduce the rate to 1 percent for those that spend between 6 and 8 percent; and eliminate the tax completely for those that spend 8 percent or more. Each year the foundation could choose its own payout and excise tax rates."
Focusing Philanthropy (identifying nonprofit organizations as candidates for personal philanthropy)
GiveDirectly Send money directly to the extreme poor. (But read: GiveDirectly? Not So Fast (Kevin Starr & Laura Hattendorf, Stanford Social Innovation Review, 3-11-14). Great idea, but does it provide lasting benefits?
Giving Tuesday: Where Would Your Children Give? ( KJ Dell'Antonia, NY Times, 12-2-14)
The Holidays: A Bit More Giving, a Bit Less Getting (Ron Lieber, NY Times Motherlode blog, 11-14-13) Wonderful tips for getting children and the whole family involved in charitable giving.
Donors Choose makes it easy to help classrooms in need. Public school teachers post classroom project requests which range from pencils for poetry to microscopes for mitochondria.
Duck Tape for Camille (one of several examples of imaginative giving, on Nate Goldman's radio program on KBUR, Kind World).
Kind World: A Minister's Challenge Church members were given envelopes containing from $5 to $20 and told to give it to someone who might need it, and come back and tell the story. "Somebody had folded up their $5 bill in their wallet, and they said they were walking through their life with a different kind of vision for the need that was around them. It was only $5, but the money helped them grow new antennae for the world around them. For five bucks, that’s a priceless thing."
Building a Bigger Tent for Effective Philanthropy (Paul Connolly, Stanford Social Innovation Review, 5-26-15) By embracing a more-inclusive outreach approach, effective philanthropy advocates can attract more funders.
Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant
The way we think about charity is dead wrong (Dan Pallotta's TED Talk, Mar 2013) Too many nonprofits, he says, are rewarded for how little they spend — not for what they get done. Instead of equating frugality with morality, he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments (even if that comes with big expenses). In this bold talk, he says: Let's change the way we think about changing the world. Transcript of talk and Dan Pallotta's reading list (articles about nonprofit finances — and why Pallotta argues we should fight capitalism with capitalism) and his book:Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up For Itself and Really Change the World
The Charitable-Industrial Complex (Peter Buffett, Op Ed, NY Times, 7-26-13) "Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine."
"For what it is worth, we think that there is a new story unfolding, one that has been under way for a few years. It is led, in some ways, by Mr Buffett’s father and his pal, Bill Gates. It stresses the importance of philanthropic money being used as risk capital, and of achieving systemic change. We call it "Philanthrocapitalism."
The Pros and Cons of Financial Efficiency Standards (Urban Institute). Since nonprofit organizations are not legally obligated to divulge audited financial statements to the public, Form 990 is the only publicly available document that reports on the finances of the majority of nonprofit organizations. These forms are useful but figures can be manipulated. "Watchdogs, regulators, and donors would do well to focus on the question of how well nonprofits deliver their services rather than dwell on the issue of how they choose to spend their money."
Philanthropic Equity ( George Overholser and Sean Stannard-Stockton, Tactical Philanthropy, 1-21-09)
Philanthropic Giving: To Be or Not to Be—Some Thoughts on the Life of Family Foundations (John Warnick, Purposeful Planning Institute, Aug-Sept 201) The two leading reasons for deciding to exist in perpetuity are a desire to have a long-term impact on the community and a desire for family engagement across generations. Why do some philanthropists and/​or foundation trustees and executives choose to spend down foundation assets?
Alicia Keys Asks: Why Are We Here? (Nicholas Kristof, NY Times, 9-20-14) The superstar singer "is now starting a We Are Here movement to channel her music and her fans to social justice causes, from stricter gun laws to criminal justice reform, from gay rights to global girls’ education."
Global Giving (Connecting donors with community-based projects that need support)
Nicholas Kristof: Transforming Lives Through Philanthropy (WAMU program, Kojo Nnamdi show, 9-29-14). Americans are among the most generous donors to charity in the world, yet we often know very little about the groups we support. Where does all their money go, and whom does it really help? New York Times columnist and author Nicholas Kristof talks about how to be a high-impact donor and why both journalists and charities often struggle to make people care about far-away hardships.
A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn ("a sweeping tap­estry of people who are making the world a better place and a guide to the ways that we can do the same—whether with a donation of $5 or $5 mil­lion, with our time, by capitalizing on our skills as individuals, or by using the resources of our businesses"). Read Paul Collier's piece about the book (NY Times, 10-16-14). By the same authors: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (showing how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad).
Philanthrocapitalism "For what it is worth, we think that there is a new story unfolding, one that has been under way for a few years. It is led, in some ways, by Mr Buffett’s father and his pal, Bill Gates. It stresses the importance of philanthropic money being used as risk capital, and of achieving systemic change. We call it "Philanthrocapitalism."
The Pros and Cons of Financial Efficiency Standards (Urban Institute). Since nonprofit organizations are not legally obligated to divulge audited financial statements to the public, Form 990 is the only publicly available document that reports on the finances of the majority of nonprofit organizations. These forms are useful but figures can be manipulated. "Watchdogs, regulators, and donors would do well to focus on the question of how well nonprofits deliver their services rather than dwell on the issue of how they choose to spend their money."
[Back to Top]

Donating your body or body parts

I’d rather be dissected (Brooke Borel, Aeon, 10-4-13)
In death, a promise for the future. As her world diminished, Elizabeth Uyehara signed her body over to researchers to help unravel the mystery of Lou Gehrig's disease. (Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times, 8-28-10, on the course of Uyehara's ALS and on what happens when organs are donated for science)
Anatomical gifts (Empowering Caregivers)
The Gift of Life 10 Frequently Asked Questions About Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation.
Organ Procurement Organizations (OPO). By federal law, all OPOs must be members of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). All OPOs are members of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations. Find links to state organizations here.
The Solvable Problem of Organ Shortages (Jane E. Brody, NY Times, Health, 8-28-07)
For Living Donors, Many Risks to Weigh (Jane E. Brody, NY Times, 9-4-07)
State laws facilitate organ and tissue donation commitment and make transplants happy
A Medical Dimension to a Religious Debate (Anthony Ramirez, NY Times, 11-18-06) "According to Jewish law, when can an observant Jew donate a loved one’s organs for life-saving transplant operations? More broadly, when does life end and death begin?"
Living Kidney Donors Network
Finding a Donor (for bone marrow transplants)
Organ Donation and Organ Transplant Stories (Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network)
Stories of organ, eye, and tissue donation (Colby Foundation -- stories of loss and of hope)
Frozen embryo 'open adoption' raises hopes, questions (TODAY Parents, 2-27-12) "Carmen Olalde really wanted children. She went through years of infertility treatment and IVF, then a difficult pregnancy, to have her twins. And as her twins turned four, she realized that two kids were enough. But she still had four frozen embryos from her last IVF cycle....Meet the modern “open adoption” family – at least two hopeful humans and one embryo, brought together by science, trust, complicated legalities and a goodly bit of luck."
The Frozen Children: The Rise—and Complications—of Embryo Adoption in the U.S. ( Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, Pacific-Standard, 5-5-14) efficient than in vitro fertilization and cheaper than traditional adoption, embryo adoption, which also provides parents with the experience of carrying a child, is becoming more popular. But our legislature is still struggling with serious legal issues surrounding the practice.
[Back to Top]

Worst practices in charity world

America's Worst Charities (Kris Hundley, Tampa Bay Times, and Kendall Taggart, Center for Investigative Reporting, June 2013, joined later by CNN)
---The 50 worst, ranked by money blown on soliciting costs (Matt McCleskey hosting, Kojo Nnamdi show, 5-26-15). Interviewed: Stacy Palmer Editor, "Chronicle of Philanthropy" and Jacob Harold President and CEO, GuideStar. "Last week the Federal Trade Commission announced that, along with all 50 states and the District of Columbia, it was taking legal action against four “sham” cancer charities. Allegations that the groups deceived donors to the tune of $187 million have rippled through the nonprofit world. We consider what red flags donors should be on the lookout for and how data can — and can’t — help us decide who’s a good actor." The four charities: Cancer Fund of America, Inc., Cancer Support Services Inc., Children’s Cancer Fund of America Inc., and The Breast Cancer Society Inc. Here's the NY Times story 4 Cancer Charities Are Accused of Fraud (Rebecca R. Ruiz, 5-19-15).
Bogus Cancer Charities Are Harmful To Patients: How To Give Wisely (Elaine Schattner, Forbes, 5-20-15)
Money Well Spent?: Navigating Charitable Giving
A printable list of CIR's 50 worst
--Part 1: Dirty secrets of the worst charities (6-6-13)
Part 2: A failure of regulation (6-7-13)
Part 3: How one family turned your goodwill into their livelihood (6-13-13)
Disabled workers paid just pennies an hour – and it's legal (Anna Schechter, NBC News Investigations, 6-25-13) One of the nation's best-known charities, Goodwill industries, is paying disabled workers as little as 22 cents an hour, thanks to a 75-year-old legal loophole that critics say needs to be closed. "If they really do pay the CEO of Goodwill three-quarters of a million dollars, they certainly can pay me more than they're paying," said Harold Leigland, who is legally blind and hangs clothes at a Goodwill in Great Falls, Montana for less than minimum wage.

The worst charities: Get information before you make a donation
America's 50 Worst Charities (Leslie Salzillo, Daily Kos, 8-20-13)
Professional Fundraiser Is Ring Leader of Triple Charity Scheme (from Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report, Charity Watch, Summer 2014)
MinistryWatch.com (consumer reporting website of faith based charities)
Perfectly legal: Charities kept most cash for themselves (Robert Anglen's excellent exposé, The Arizona Republic, 5-3-09). A yearlong investigation into a network of charities tied to the Don Stewart Association televangelism ministry in Phoenix revealed that 22 charities used legal but controversial accounting methods to take credit for donating supplies that they never physically collected, handled or warehoused.
[Back to Top]