Contact:  Jessica Ballenger, email:  [email protected]  phone: 1-619-717-7342


SAN DIEGO, California, December 2, 2020—Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, announced his 2020 “Holiday Impact Prize” awards in his column on November 21, 2020.  In addition to three impactful international nonprofits receiving contributions, for the first time he also added two U.S. nonprofit volunteer activities that he recommends to his readers.  Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) supports and promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy so every child who has experienced abuse or neglect can have the opportunity to thrive in a safe and loving home; Reading Partners matches elementary school students who are behind grade level in reading with trained volunteers who deliver personalized tutoring sessions twice a week for 45 minutes.

Since 2009, Kristof has written an annual “holiday gift guide” column in the New York Times, to highlight little-known organizations working to make the world a better place. He began writing the gift guide to bridge a philanthropic gap:  readers who wanted to help but didn’t know how, and heroic individuals and organizations who desperately needed resources but were off donors’ radar. The column has helped raise the profiles of organizations that work on the very issues he covers in his journalism—health, education, human rights, and women’s rights, both domestically and abroad. For the second year in a row, the 2020 guide comes with an exciting twist: a $150,000 Holiday Impact Prize that Kristof awards to the three nonprofits he showcases. Kristof’s 2020 column highlights the $100,000 grand prize winner and two runners-up receiving $25,000 each.  In addition, for the first time, he has recommended two volunteer opportunities with organizations that are changing their communities through service, Court Appointed Special Advocates and Reading Partners.

Nicholas Kristof worked with Focusing Philanthropy—a 501(c)3 nonprofit that finds and funds high-impact, scalable programs here and around the world—in providing the platform for this initiative by processing readers’ contributions, monitoring and reporting on results, and replenishing credit card transaction costs of donations made on  In this way, 100 cents on the dollar will support the winning organizations.  “We launched this initiative last year and were amazed by its success. Last year, my readers donated more than $3 million to support the winning organizations,” said Kristof, in describing the partnership with Focusing Philanthropy. “I have found that so many people want to make a difference but don’t always know where to look. Particularly as organizations face new challenges during the pandemic, I hope that this prize sheds light on five organizations working every day to create a better world.”

California CASA has had an association with Focusing Philanthropy for many years and Focusing Philanthropy has supported a number of major CASA organizations, including Voices for Children in San Diego and Riverside.  In highlighting the CASA opportunity in his 2020 Holiday Impact Prize column, Kristof encourages his readers to become a CASA volunteer with one of the 948 programs located nationwide. The goal is to help CASA programs recruit more volunteers to support the children in foster care who need a volunteer advocate.  Tara Perry, CEO of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem (CASA/GAL) Association for Children, said: “The value of a CASA/GAL volunteer cannot be overstated. We often hear from children that these highly trained volunteers are the only consistent adult in their lives. CASA/GAL volunteers make a life-changing difference for children who have experienced abuse or neglect.”

Sharon M. Lawrence, Esq., Chief Executive Officer, California CASA Association, acknowledged the importance of the inclusion of CASA this year.  “We are honored and humbled that the CASA volunteer opportunity is featured by Nicholas Kristof in his Holiday Impact Prize column. One of our greatest challenges is making the public aware of how hard it is for children in foster care to get the support and services they need and deserve. When a child is assigned a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA volunteer, they are more likely to gain access to important resources that benefit their health and well-being. In 2019, almost 700,000 children spent some time in foster care in the United States, with 83,000 of them in California alone. By sharing the CASA story with the world, Nicholas Kristof has raised the visibility of our important mission to promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so every child who has experienced abuse or neglect can be safe, have a permanent home, and the opportunity to thrive. We hope this will inspire the many caring members of our local communities to discover for themselves how rewarding it is to be a CASA volunteer.”

The three nonprofits that received the 2020 Holiday Impact awards are:

  • CAMFED’s pan-African movement is educating girls through a grassroots-led model that radically improves their prospects of becoming independent, influential women who in turn join CAMFED to keep even more girls in school and accelerate their path to livelihoods and leadership.
  • Himalayan Cataract Project cures unnecessary cataract blindness with high-quality, cost-effective eyecare in underserved areas of the world through a surgical procedure that takes as little as 10 minutes and $25 in materials.
  • OneGoal is working to create a world where all students can earn a college degree and define their future by partnering with high schools in low-income communities to bridge the postsecondary degree divide.

More information about Nicholas Kristof’s Holiday Impact Prize, this year’s winners, and Focusing Philanthropy can be found here:

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About California CASA

California CASA was founded in 1987 to serve the individual local CASA programs throughout the state.  The mission is to ensure that children in the foster care system have both a voice and the services they need for a stable future. There are currently over 80,000 children in California foster care—the largest foster population of any state in the nation.  California CASA strengthens the state network of 44 local CASA programs and advocates for child welfare policy and practices that will improve the lives of all foster children.  CASA volunteers are a crucial intervention to help ensure safety, speed up permanent placement, help children and youth thrive in school, and support positive health outcomes.  A CASA volunteer is often the only consistent adult in a child or youth’s life who is not paid to support and advocate for them. The CEO of California CASA since 2017 is Sharon M. Lawrence, Esq., who served for 20 years as CEO of Voices for Children (San Diego and Riverside Counties), one of the nation’s largest and most successful CASA programs.  Chair of the Board of Directors is Kevin Gardner; he leads a statewide Board of 18 individuals representing all regions of California.  California CASA is a private, nonprofit organization supported by individuals, foundations, corporations, and government agencies. It is a member of the National CASA/GAL Association for Children, and one of 49 state CASA associations in the United States.  Learn more at