The Best Places to Donate for Last-Minute Science Gifts

Maybe you’ve heard: Science has a funding problem. But if you’re looking for a last-minute gift for the science-lover on your list (or just a good place to send your spare change), that problem is now your solution.

Donations to science-related nonprofits and charities aren’t just a feel-good stocking stuffer. While President Trump’s science-slashing budget proposal never came to fruition, the skimpy status quo still means that science is going to be tightening belts and looking toward the private sector to for funding. Since not even Elon Musk can handle that all by himself, we tracked down some watchdog-vetted organizations that could use your help this holiday season.

Natural Resources Defense Council

2017 was not a good year for Mother Nature. The American West caught fire, hurricanes ravaged coasts, President Trump announced plans to shrink national parks, and Congress opened Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. The NRDC—a consortium of 500 scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates—is not only one of the most effective groups pushing eco-friendly policy (they were behind both the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts), it also conducts its own research on everything from climate change to America’s reliance on groundwater.

The Planetary Society

Carl Sagan was a cofounder. Bill Nye is the CEO. Their mandate is to “know the cosmos and our place within it.” If that doesn’t warm your favorite science geek’s heart, you should check for a pulse. But the Planetary Society also does good science in the very difficult and very expensive world of space exploration. Right now, they’re working on solar sailing technology for CubeSats, a high-tech regolith vacuum for sampling soil from other planets, defending Earth from asteroid impacts, and hunting for exoplanets and extraterrestrials alike.

Association for Women in Science

Gender equality in STEM fields is abysmal: Women in science are underfunded, underpromoted, subjected to sexual harassment, and repeatedly told that none of those things are actually happening. Which makes the 100,000-some members of AWIS all the more remarkable. They provide mentorship at all career levels, partner with employers to create more inclusive office environments, and conduct research to support their advocacy.

Science Friday Initiative

Ensuring the safety of your friend’s science supply line doesn’t just mean funding research. Without the people who report on science—synthesizing it into grok-able bites, bringing outside experts into the conversation, and, you know, getting research out of paywalled academic journals and into the real world—scientific discoveries and innovations would linger in obscurity. And if you ask us, the folks behind Science Friday, who have been connecting scientists with the public for a quarter of a century, have earned your support.

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Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

If you care about meaningful research into mental health issues—and we mean everything from addiction to anxiety to autism—you should give these guys a gander. As the US’s top non-governmental funder of mental health research grants, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation tackles mental health from every angle: psychology and neuroscience, treatments, and causes. Plus, they funnel 100 percent of your donation directly to research.

Innocence Project

One of the most frustrating things about being a science fan is watching knowledge go unused—or worse, misused. The Innocence Project helps alleviate some of that where it’s most egregious: the justice system. When someone is wrongfully convicted—either because DNA evidence wasn’t available, or a lab technician messed up while analyzing the evidence—the Innocence Project works to exonerate them with proper DNA analysis. They also educate policymakers so bad science doesn’t keep putting innocent people behind bars.

Local Charities

Chances are, there is a park or a nature conservancy or a nearby telescope (yep, places like Lowell Observatory are nonprofits) that could use a pick-me-up. Many are staffed by dedicated, hyper-competent volunteers, and a local focus should keep overhead costs low.

Bonus: Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind

Are guide dogs truly scientific? Maybe not. But this one is a holiday spirit-inducing no brainer: the Guide Dog Foundation provides free guide dogs to visually impaired people and veterans. Plus, your money goes toward food and heartworm medicine for some very, very good dogs.