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This is our 10th Annual Letter, and we’re marking the occasion by answering 10 tough questions that people ask us.

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Good Ways to Give

Making the most of your holiday giving

This holiday season, we decided to list several of the charity initiatives that have sparked our interest. Each of these projects takes a different approach, but they have three things in common: they’re innovative, committed to transparency and accountability, and they’re getting good results.

"Making the Most of you Holiday Giving"

When we talk with people about the work our foundation does, one question frequently comes up.

“How can I help?”

That’s getting easier and more fun with the exciting transformation happening in online giving. This holiday season, we decided to list several of the charity initiatives that have sparked our interest. Each of these projects takes a different approach, but they have three things in common: they’re innovative, committed to transparency and accountability, and they’re getting good results.

Our list is by no means exhaustive. There are lots of other great charities, and we hope you’ll also do some searching on your own for causes, organizations, or projects that speak to you. But here’s a starting point:

Catapult, launched just two months ago, is a crowdfunding site that helps organizations raise funds for projects to advance gender equality. Once a project has reached its fundraising goal, 100% of the funds are sent to the organization. Catapult expects partners to update donors at least twice on how their money is being put to work—90 days and one year after funding has been received.

Since 2006, charity: water has raised more than $75 million to build thousands of freshwater wells, rainwater catchments, and biosand filters in developing countries. One hundred percent of the funds they raise from the public go directly to water projects to help the 800 million people worldwide without access to clean water.

DonorsChoose.org was started in 2000 by a social studies teacher in the Bronx. Teachers from around the U.S. post classroom project requests on the site—everything from crayons for a kindergarten art class to seeds for starting a vegetable garden. Donors can give any amount they want, and for a limited time, every dollar donated to STEM projects on the site will be matched if you enter the code HOLIDAY at checkout.

Gifts that Give is a for-profit shopping website that contributes 20% of every merchandise sale to the charity of the purchaser’s choice. Shoppers can choose from more than 1.2 million nonprofits and over 5,000 products.

This year, CARE partnered with Threadless, an online t-shirt design community, to raise money to improve the health and education of women and children in developing countries. More than 100 artists submitted designs for a CARE-themed t-shirt. In an online vote, “Mother is a Daughter is a Mother” by Israeli artist Shahaf Gurevich, was chosen as the winning design. With support from our foundation, 100 percent of the net proceeds from the sale of each shirt benefit CARE.

To learn more about any of these organizations and many more, you can also visit Charity Navigator and GreatNonprofits. Both of these organizations focus on helping people make great giving decisions—Charity Navigator through professional ratings, and GreatNonprofits through socially sourced feedback and reviews. Increasing the amount and quality of information available to donors will ultimately make giving easier, more effective and rewarding.

 As this handful of examples shows, there are many ways to make the world a better place. We think people achieve the greatest impact (and have the most fun) finding an issue they’re passionate about and getting involved in a way that lines up with their interests and skills.

This philosophy was passed down to us from our parents, who all supported local charities and participated in community projects when we were growing up. At the Gates home, the work of the United Way was almost a daily topic of conversation. Our parents were fortunate enough to be able to give a little bit of money to these causes, but they also gave their enthusiasm, their ideas, their time, and their voices. For them, the non-financial contributions were the most rewarding and also the most effective.

When people ask, “How can I help?” our answer is, “Follow your passions.” When you find the cause that inspires you, and the way to get involved that engages your heart and your mind—you will make a big difference in the world.