If you're looking for the best charities to donate to or the types of charities that are the least wasteful, a look at the Top 100 charities can help you see who's fulfilling their mission to the fullest. These trusted organizations are recognized by charity watchdog groups and business experts alike.
Creating a List of the Best Charities
To be added to a top charities list, an organization must be rated a top charity by groups like CharityWatch or have a perfect score or three to four-star rating with a group such as Charity Navigator. The top 100 Charities should also:
- Have low overhead expenses, ensuring that at least 70% of the money donated goes to its mission rather than its operation
- Be financially transparent, making them trustworthy causes to give your money to
- Seek to reach a large group of people as determined by their budget or location
Top Education Charities
Of all charity types, Americans donate to colleges and other groups associated with education the most.
The Smithsonian Institution consists of nine research facilities, the National Zoological Park, 19 museums and galleries, and it houses 139 million artifacts and objects. It is administered by the United States Government and focuses on four challenges including understanding a biodiverse earth and how to sustain it, promoting the valuing of diverse cultures, and understanding the American experience. The organization spends about 76% of its income on programming, which is on the low end for top charities, but is justified by the many sites it runs.
Teach for America
Teach for America is an organization that seeks to bridge the achievement gap in education. The organization takes qualified individuals and provides training and support to help these committed individuals get certified to teach. In exchange, the teachers agree to teach for two years in low-performing, under-served schools. Approximately 80% of their annual revenue is spent on programming.
The goal of Scholarship America is to help every student get a college education by providing the needed finances to attend college. The nonprofit organization gives about $225 million annually to nearly 100,000 students. They also boast a rate of 97% of their funds spent on programs.
Donors Choose supports education directly in the classroom by allowing teachers to sign up and request funding for a specific project. In return, donors choose a project that they are most interested in supporting and when the teacher's funding goal is reached, the organization purchases the supplies for the teacher and ships it to her. The teacher is then required to post pictures of the project online, so everyone can see how the money was used. The concept is unique among charities and consequently become one of Oprah's Favorite Things in 2010. Donors Choose puts 95% of its revenue toward programming.
Top Medical Research Charities
Medical research charities focus in on one health concern and funnel all their resources into prevention, diagnosis, treatment and curing that disease or illness.
Breast Cancer Research Foundation
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation seeks to find a cure for breast cancer by providing funding for cancer research. Among the foundation's accomplishments are the breakthrough drug Herceptin, and finding the genetic link for breast cancer. Equally impressive, this is a charity that has held a 4-star rating by Charity Navigator for eight out of ten years up to 2019 and spends 88% percent of their revenue on programs.
Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation
The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation supports research on multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer using about 88% of their raised funds on research programs. The program is unique among medical research foundations in that it is set up with a business model, rather than an academic research or even nonprofit model. Their unique model has provided numerous results including 45 clinical trials on new drugs, help in getting six new drugs FDA-approved for the treatment of multiple myeloma (which has doubled the life-expectancy of some patients), and much more.
Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
Michael J. Fox, who was made famous by his starring role on Family Ties, started the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research in 1999 after he was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's disease in 1991. The organization focuses on researching Parkinson's disease and finding a cure. It has become a trusted resource in Parkinson's research, and since its inception, the organization has funded over $375 million in grants to focus on things like a vaccine for Parkinson's, finding new treatments, figuring out the role of genes, and other research efforts. This organization spends a responsible 88% of revenue on programming.
Brain and Behavior Research Foundation
Founded in 1987, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundations seek to award grants for ground-breaking scientific research on mental illness. They claim to give 100% of all donations for research to their grants and use separate foundation funds to cover operating costs. So far they have given over $400 million to nearly 5,000 scientists to further their research.
American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society spends about 75% of its revenue on programs related to cancer research. With the goal of eliminating cancer from the world, this group funds research and education about cancer all around the world. They have given over $300 million in cancer patient support programs and $150 million to cancer research.
The Guttmacher Institute is working to improve reproductive and sexual health care through research, education and policy analysis. It primarily produces a lot of resources for health care professionals, policy makers and women on the topics of reproduction, sexual health, abortion and contraception. The Institute received an A rating from Charity Watch and spends about 81% of revenue on programming.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure has made tremendous strides in educating the public about breast cancer using 77% of its revenue on programs. The organization seeks to fund research, provide support for patients, improve outcomes for breast cancer, and generally raise awareness to help prevent breast cancer or catch it early. Critical achievements include helping to reduce the incidence of breast cancer by 33% by encouraging mammograms, playing key roles in legislation that increase funding for breast cancer research, and increasing the survival rate if you are diagnosed with breast cancer.
Arthritis National Research Foundation
The Arthritis National Research Foundation serves to fund research to help find a cure for arthritis. They offer grants to various scientists to help promote the study of arthritis and how to stop it. They have been part of numerous breakthroughs in arthritis research and use 90% of revenue on programming.
Top Human Health Charities
With a focus on medical care, the top human health charities include hospitals and independent nonprofit organizations offering a variety of services and resources to people around the world.
The Jimmy Fund
Chosen as the official charity of the Boston Red Sox, Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, Pan-Mass Challenge, and Variety Children's Charity of New England, The Jimmy Fund is set up to support patient care and cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Farber was the first doctor to use drugs to treat cancer, and achieved the first documented case of remission of lymphatic leukemia remission. The Jimmy Fund supports the hospital by using 90% of its revenue for programming.
While most have heard of Planned Parenthood, many do not realize that it is a charity dedicated to providing for women's health and advocating for women's fertility rights around the world. They achieve their mission through providing low-cost healthcare for women, increasing access and information to family planning methods, and funding research on birth control. With nearly 600 affiliated health centers across the United States, Planned Parenthood has been instrumental in advocating for women's health rights. To achieve their goals, Planned Parenthood spends about 75% of their revenue on programs.
ALSAC St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
The hallmark of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is that no child is turned away, even if their family can't afford to pay. The hospital focuses on finding cures and preventative measures for pediatric catastrophic diseases. ALSAC is a group that solely raises money to support St. Jude's and they spend about 72% of their revenue on programming through the hospital. Any discoveries made by the research hospital are shared for free so every child, anywhere can benefit.
Catholic Medical Mission Board
The Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) helps make health care available to those most in need with a focus on women and children's health worldwide. Programs that help achieve this goal include a focus on providing health care services in areas where there is limited access to such services, and education on child nutrition, HIV and other health-related issues. CMMB uses approximately 98% of its revenue on programming.
Task Force for Global Health
With a focus on eliminating and controlling the worst diseases in the world, the Task Force for Global Health helps track diseases, find preventive measures and educates the public. The group attacks diseases from every angle including outbreak responses, providing medical supplies and promoting vaccinations. Approximately 87% of revenue goes directly to programming.
American Heart Association
The American Heart Association exists to help fight and prevent cardiovascular disease. Certified by the National Health Council as an excellent charity, the organization accomplishes this goal primarily through educating the public on preventing heart disease. They also are the largest provider of CPR education training, and have funded research that has led to innovations such as cholesterol-inhibiting drugs, the first artificial heart valve, and heart transplant capabilities. The group uses 80% of its funds to directly support programs.
Doctors Without Borders
With an A rating from Charity Watch and four stars from Charity Navigator, Doctors Without Borders is a great medical charity that uses about 90% of revenue on programming. Also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, this group has nearly 30 offices around the world and won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. They bring awareness and ethical medical treatment to humanitarian crises throughout the world.
Shriners Hospitals for Children
Shriners Hospitals for Children can be found throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada. Their goal is to provide the best healthcare possible to every child suffering from special healthcare needs. Shriners also invests heavily in research related to these pediatric healthcare needs and helps fund medical care and related costs for families in need. About 84% of revenue is used on programming.
Ronald McDonald House Charities
Ronald McDonald House Charities are best known for the Ronald McDonald house - houses where families with critically ill children can stay in order to be near their child for treatments. However, they also have family rooms in some hospitals that are near an intensive care unit or the pediatric ward, mobile care units to bring care to children who otherwise wouldn't have access and provides scholarships. The organization has been honored many times, including being named by the American Hospital Association as an exceptional partner and uses 87% of funds for programs.
The Alzheimer's Association hopes to eliminate Alzheimer's altogether through care and research. They also focus on promoting good brain health to help lower dementia rates. Around 75% of revenue is used for programs which include bringing awareness to this rising problem, advancing public policies and advancing research.
American Kidney Fund
The American Kidney Fund exists to provide support and give charitable assistance to patients who are on dialysis. The organization not only gives financial assistance to patients, but it also furthers its mission by providing educational health materials, supporting research on kidney disease, advocating on behalf of patients, and funding free kidney health screenings. A Forbes Magazine gold-star charity, the organization uses about 98% of funds for programs.
ORBIS International is dedicated to saving sight in developing countries. Working all over the world, ORBIS uses medical training, a flying eye hospital, and a variety of other programs to give sight to the blind and help prevent diseases that are associated with blindness. In places where there is little opportunity for someone with disabilities, ORBIS is restoring hope with their many success stories. Approximately 93% of revenue goes directly to programming.
Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) works to find a cure to pediatric AIDS as well as prevent the incidence of AIDS in pediatric patients using 90% of their revenue on programs. They do this through advocacy, research, and treatment programs, focusing especially on programs that work with pregnant, HIV-positive mothers. They're outreach is global, but they are currently focused on projects in Africa and the Middle East. One major accomplishment of the EGPAF is that through their programs, health care workers in Africa have been trained to ask mothers who come in for care if their children have been tested for HIV. As a result, 99% of the children coming in to receive care get tested.
Americares provides medical supplies and health programs to impoverished people or those affected by a disaster. The group uses 99% of revenue for programs which include running health clinics, providing healthcare resources and getting medicines to those who need them most.
Good Days, formerly known as the Chronic Disease Fund, offers support to patients who suffer from cancer (and other chronic diseases) to get life-saving medication by helping qualified patients pay for the medication they need. The patients must have some type of insurance, and the fund is designed to bridge the gap between what the insurance covers and what the medication costs. About 90% of revenue goes directly to programming.
Helen Keller International
Helen Keller International, which works in some 20 countries, strives to prevent blindness and eradicate malnutrition throughout the world. They do this through education and social programs, partnerships with governments and other health agencies in impoverished communities throughout the world, and striving towards sustainable solutions to these problems. The group uses 85% of income on programs and won the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in 2015 for their innovative work in combating eyesight problems.
MAP (Medical Assistance Programs) International is a Christian health organization that provides medicines to over 100 countries throughout the world. Their programs include providing medical supplies and health supplies to impoverished areas and sending critical relief supplies after disasters. About 99% of their expenses are used for programs and services.
Globus Relief seeks to improve health care internationally by improving the way that supplies are delivered. They partner with government and other health care agencies in developing countries, and rescue surplus supplies so that they can be used in health care clinics around the world. Globus Relief works in more than 140 countries throughout the world and puts 99% of funds toward programming.
Top Social Services Charities
From disaster relief to help with everyday life, social service, or human service, charities focus on helping people with different aspects of life.
United Way Worldwide
United Way Worldwide is the umbrella organization that supports approximately 1,800 local United Ways in an effort to support their communities through various programs in 40 countries. The programs of the United Way are far-reaching but span three major goals: to improve education and help young people reach their potential, to improve health and to promote financial stability. United Way Worldwide raised over $3 million in cash in 2016, the most of any charity and uses 94% of funds on programming.
The Salvation Army International
The Salvation Army consists of more than 14,000 locations including homes, daycare centers and rehabilitation centers. The group's mission is to provide education, poverty relief and help with charitable causes that benefit mankind. Approximately 73% of revenue goes directly to programs.
The Y (YMCA of the USA)
The Y, also known as YMCA of the USA, is a community outreach organization with programs ranging from after-school clubs to senior education. Started in 1844, the organization remains today as a pillar in the community for promoting healthy living. In 2010, Michelle Obama chose the YMCA as the venue for her 'Let's Move' campaign. Approximately 87% of funds go directly towards programming.
Using 99% of their funds for programming, Feeding America is a parent organization to more than 200 food banks nation-wide. Feeding America collects funds to support other food banks to provide meals for the one in six families who go hungry. Through its member food banks, Feeding America provides around four billion meals to hungry Americans every year
American Red Cross
Known for their work in disaster relief and crisis intervention, the American Red Cross uses about 90% of revenue towards programs. The group provides about half of the country's blood supply through blood donation drives, provides CPR and first aid training and responds to disasters resulting in human suffering as quickly as possible.
Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity has literally built a reputation for being a solid charity by providing housing for low-income and needy families. They do this by either building or repairing homes using donated supplies and labor. They are a unique Christian ministry in that they volunteer with and give homes to people from any background using about 75% of their funds for programs. The group works in all 50 U.S. states and 70 countries.
Direct Relief seeks to break the cycle of poverty and poor health by providing medical services to people in need and disaster relief. They focus on four key areas: maternal health, disease prevention, emergency responses and strengthening health care systems overall. This award-winning charity focuses their programs all over the United States and in 80 countries. They use about 99% of their revenue on programming.
The Rotary Foundation is the charitable arm of the Rotary International. As such, they use the Rotary to accomplish a variety of goals - everything from promoting world peace to eliminating polio. The majority of funds have been used to prevent diseases and provide clean water, but they have also funded education and peace projects. Approximately 91% of the funds raised through the foundation go directly to programs.
The Carter Center
The Carter Center, which bears the name of former President Jimmy Carter, is an organization dedicated to promoting peace and relieving suffering. Rated as one of the NonProfit Times Top 100 charities, they have been involved in causes all over the world, from eradicating Guinea worm disease to helping establish and oversee democratic elections in 37 countries. About 94% of funds are funneled straight to programming.
Food and Water Watch
Food and Water Watch is a public policy organization that attempts to work with policy makers to create legislation that promotes food and water that is safe for consumption and sustainable. They focus on a variety or programs including helping to stop fracking and providing educational materials to the public. The group uses 77% of funds for programs.
National Alliance to End Homelessness
As the name implies, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, seeks to address the root causes of homelessness in four focus areas: families, veterans youth and chronic homelessness. They do this through revising policies, and seeking to educate other organizations and groups on the best practices that will help provide both immediate relief for those who are homeless, and long term relief. Their 'housing first' approach to solving homelessness has led to a significant decrease in homelessness in various communities. Programs receive 92% of the group's funds.
National Urban League
The National Urban League seeks to empower those who are under-served in America through providing support, educational opportunities and economic empowerment. They do this through a variety of programs in urban centers that focus on housing, jobs, education and health care, and have an overarching goal of bridging the gap in these services for minority communities. The League serves over 300 communities in 37 states, reaching more than two million people, and puts 80% of revenue into services or programs.
All Hands and Hearts Smart Response
All Hands and Hearts Smart Response is a natural disaster response organization with a perfect score from Charity Navigator. The group funnels 95% of funds into programming which includes mobilizing volunteers to the affected area to rebuild homes and other important structures. Projects take place in countries around the world and volunteers live in the community they're serving until the job is done.
Top Faith-Based Social Services Charities
Many social services charities are run by specific religious groups because their beliefs suggest helping others should be a way of life. You don't have to belong to the specific church that runs the program to benefit from their services.
Catholic Charities USA
Catholic Charities USA is the umbrella agency for many Catholic Charities organizations both nationally and internationally. The core goals are to advocate for social justice and help those in need and they use about 88% of revenue to fund programs related to these goals. In addition to being the charitable arm of the Catholic church, it was noted by the National Leadership Roundtable as a 'Best Practices' winner in 2012.
Compassion International works to lift children out of poverty and provide the tools they need to develop well. This church-based group uses partnerships with local churches in 25 different countries to support their mission. Their model features a sponsorship option where donors have the chance to connect directly to a specific child and better their life. Fund help provide for the basic needs of the child and their development on all levels from social and emotional to physical with 82% of funding going directly into programming.
Lutheran Services in America
Serving about six million people each year, Lutheran Services in America leads a large health and human services network in the United States. They help provide services to the most vulnerable people in the country so they can live their best lives. The group was named on The Chronicle of Philanthropy's "America's Favorite Charities 2018" list. Data about the exact percentage of fund used for programs is limited.
Samaritan's Purse is a faith-based organization that seeks to provide tangible help to people around the world who need it using 88% of their revenue for programming. Their most well-know project is called Operation Christmas Child. Participants in Operation Christmas Child fill a shoebox with small gifts for children in other countries. Samaritan's Purse collect nearly nine million shoeboxes to donate in 2018 alone.
Matthew 25 Ministries
Matthew 25 Ministries is a faith-based initiative that provides food, clean water and clothing to the poor, as well as shelter to the homeless and humanitarian aid to prisoners. They do this by receiving overstock, slightly damaged, or obsolete materials from partnership agencies. They process the materials in a warehouse and then ship goods all over the world and throughout the United States. According to their website, 99 percent of all cash and in-kind donations goes toward their programs.
Unbound, formerly known as Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, is a Catholic group that helps marginalized people around the world become self-sufficient and overcome poverty. They work in 18 countries and use 93% of funds for services and programs. Donors have the option of sponsoring a single family who volunteers will help manage the money donated in a responsible way that's best for that family.
Christian Broadcasting Network
The Christian Broadcasting Network, or CBN, is dedicated to providing humanitarian aid and sharing the gospel in nearly 160 countries. The group has provided over four million pounds of food to American families in need, aided with disaster relief and helped with medical care for people around the world. CBN spends about 87% of funds on programming.
Top Animal and Environmental Welfare Charities
There are many groups around the world focusing on specific animal populations, habitats, and environmental factors as well as those that work on improving the global environment.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation provides grants to help preserve and protect wildlife. They have numerous projects including $100 million dollars going towards Hurricane Sandy relief efforts to help rebuild the shoreline, and another million dollars going to protect Long Island Sound. They are focused especially on protecting specific species, however, their work spans across the United States.
The purpose of American Humane is to promote the bond between animals and people and promote the welfare of animals. Their "No Animals Were Harmed" campaign focuses on the treatment of animals in movies and TV shows while other programs help rescue animals from natural disasters. The group uses 83% of their funds for programs.
The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy works around the globe with project impacting nearly 80 countries to protect land and bodies of water that are important for humans and/or animals. The group has protected nearly 120 million acres of land. While the organization has an unfavorable 67% of funds directed to programming, they still get a gold star rating from GuideStar.
World Wildlife Fund
The World Wildlife Fund works on a global scale to conserve life on Earth and contribute to diversity in plant and animal life. The group focuses their efforts on six main categories: forests, marine, freshwater, wildlife, food and climate. Their programs bring awareness and education as a means to motivate people to take action. Approximately 74% of funds are funneled straight to programs.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA, was started in 2006 as a network to support animal safety and independent animal welfare groups. Local SPCAs and animal shelters aren't always affiliated with a national organization, so this group aims to unite them all. Through grants, education and programs that directly support animal care, SPCA International works with other animal organizations in over 60 countries. Roughly 74% of revenue is used for programming.
Environmental Defense Fund
The Environmental Defense Fund has an arm that reaches far and wide to protect the earth's environment and promote sustainability. They pride themselves on working through a breadth of partnerships in order to achieve their goals: creating policies that can win bipartisan support, engaging companies to help create ecologically sound policies and using economic strategies to help create incentives for companies to implement good environmental practices. They use about 77% of revenue on programming.
The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund is responsible for protecting special places all across America. They use a variety of means to accomplish this, from acquiring land that is to be protected, to empowering rural communities to be both economically fiscal and environmentally responsible. This charity has saved over eight million acres of land and spends 96% of its profits on programming.
Earthworks is an environmental conservation organization that works with local communities and grassroots organizations to help change policies to protect the environment. Earthworks seeks to involve the public, as well as corporate and government decision makers, to protect the earth from the harmful effects of extraction. The organization encourages you to communicate with the government on environmental issues and uses 86% of funds for programs.
Animal Welfare Institute
The Animal Welfare Institute seeks to protect animals from cruel treatment. The goal of the organization is to promote animal welfare overall, but a significant portion of their work goes toward ending factory farms where animals are inhumanely slaughtered and treated cruelly, and passing legislation to protect animal rights. Other areas of focus include improving conditions for animals used in research, ending the use of steel jaw traps and preserving species that are close to extinction. The organization spends a whopping 91% on program expenses, and less than 2% of their total budget on fundraising.
Keep America Beautiful
Keep America Beautiful started when a group of civic leaders and corporate leaders got together to try to fight pollution. The organization focuses on keeping public spaces beautiful by promoting a variety of campaigns such as their recycling initiative. Roughly 81% of revenue goes directly to programming.
While it is affiliated with the store PetSmart, PetSmart Charities is a nonprofit group that supports the welfare of animals through adoption events that include local animal shelters and funding grants that will help pets. About 95% of the group's funds go directly to programs and they have a four-star rating from Charity Navigator.
Sierra Club Foundation
Using about 85% of funds for programs, the Sierra Club Foundation strives to fund programs and influence policy that will ultimately preserve the earth's environment. From horse camps to clean energy campaigns, their programming environmental law advocacy and growing the movement. The Sierra Club Foundation directly funds Sierra Clubs and other groups with similar goals.
The Rainforest Alliance is a conservation organization dedicated to protecting the rainforest by making sure that it is profitable for businesses and communities to do so. A large part of their mission is to help businesses improve standards so that they are practicing sustainable farming and harvesting and meet rainforest-friendly practices. Once the businesses meet these standards, they can get Rainforest Alliance Certified, and then consumers can buy the certified products knowing that they are helping save the rainforest. The group uses 82% of funds for programs and services.
Unlike many other wildlife conservation groups, WildAid focuses solely on illegal wildlife trade and illegal poaching or hunting on land and in the sea. Their main goals are to reduce wildlife consumption around the world and work with governments to protect the environment. WildAid has a perfect score from Charity Navigator and uses about 91% of revenue for programming.
Top Child and Youth Welfare Charities
Charity organizations often focus on supporting the most vulnerable populations, so it's no surprise there are tons of child welfare charities around the world. These groups focus on specific needs of children from education to a safe and happy home.
Boys and Girls Clubs of America
Boys and Girls Clubs of America is a well-known organization that branches out nationally to support and enable America's youth to reach their full potential. They do this through local chapters of clubs that offer a variety of programs including after school tutoring, classes or anything else that suits the local community. Through this charity, there are more than 4,600 clubs that have served more than four million youth and 81% of funds go to programming.
Save the Children
Save the Children seeks to ensure that the basic needs of every child in the world are met including having food and access to education. Due to their vast resources, they are able to effectively influence change on a global scale and use 87% of revenue on programs.
Step Up for Students
With a four-star Charity Navigator rating and 99% of funds allocated to programs, Step Up for Students is a great charity focusing on education for kids in Florida. The organization provides scholarships to family and kids in need due to financial circumstances, special needs and difficulty reading.
The Boys Town organization strives to rebuild families who have been torn apart by abuse and domestic violence, community violence and addiction. Their motto, that every child has the potential to succeed, helps drive programs that encourage to reunite kids with parents, give kids social and academic skills to succeed and provide for children in need of safe homes. It should be noted that despite the name, the organization helps boys and girls. The organization's history includes being started in 1917 and today serving more than 30,000 children and their families. Approximately 80% of funds are used for programming.
Young Life is a Christian mentoring based organization that seeks to provide mentors for youth. Their goal is to meet kids where they are and build a presence in the lives of the young people that they work with so that they can exert a positive influence. The group spends about 87% of its budget on programs.
Junior Achievement USA
With a focus on helping kids reach their potential to become globally successful adults, Junior Achievement (JA) USA works on work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy with young people. The program is present in all 50 U.S. states reaching nearly 5 million kids. JA Worldwide does the same for kids in more than 100 countries and puts about 75% of funds into programming.
Marine Toys for Tots Foundation
Marine Toys for Tots Foundation funds the Toys for Tots program that seeks to bring joy to less fortunate kids by providing them with Christmas gifts. Nearly 97% of funds are used to buy these gifts for children in America. Over 250 million kids have received toys through this program.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
Big Brothers Big Sisters is the largest donor and volunteer based mentoring group in the U.S. Kids ages five and up are matched with a mentor who helps the kids learn about positive relationships and reach their individual potential. The group allocates about 90% of its funds to program implementation.
Boy Scouts of America
Despite the name, Boy Scouts of America works with both boys and girls to help youth become responsible citizens. Their programs include educational programs that focus on the outdoors and career readiness. About 87% of funds go straight to programming for youth.
Girl Scouts is an organization dedicated to preparing young girls for a future in leadership. Individual troops work on different projects throughout their years of membership ranging from local civics projects to global environmental projects. Girl Scouts of the USA uses about 87% of its funding toward programs.
National 4-H Council
The National 4-H Council is the youth development branch of the United States Cooperative Extension System. Through mentorship programs, the organization seeks to help youth grow in responsibility, character and learn beneficial skills. Involvement in 4-H has been shown to improve scholastic achievement, increase students' participation in physical activities, and increase student volunteerism. The group puts about 86% of funds into programs.
UNICEF's work is far reaching and worldwide as they seek to improve the lives of children and defend the rights of children. Through their work, they provide medical information and care to help children survive, defend every child's right to learn and provide humanitarian aid among other programs. UNICEF works in nearly 200 countries and uses about 90% of its funds for programming.
International Children's Fund
The International Children's Fund is a Christian-based organization designed to meet the needs of impoverished children throughout Africa and other locations. They predominantly look to work with local churches and ministries and provide assistance and support to help move communities to self-sufficiency. Because of their work with local grassroots organizations, they are able to use 98 percent of their incoming funds directly for programs as opposed to administrative overhead.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children takes a multi-faceted approach to finding missing children by providing immediate assistance to families, working with law enforcement, disseminating photos, and providing safety education. The Center helped with over 25,000 cases in 2018 and used about 91% of revenue for programming.
Through mentoring and other girl-based programming, Girls, Inc. hopes to empower every young girl to become a strong, confident and capable young woman. They partner with schools and fund Girls, Inc. centers where young girls ages 6 to 18 in more than 350 U.S. and Canadian cities learn to live a healthy lifestyle for the body and mind. The group uses about 88% of funds for services and programs.
Prevent Child Abuse America
Through chapters around the U.S. Prevent Child Abuse America hopes to help prevent the neglect and abuse of children in America. They provide prevention education on topics from shaken baby syndrome to sexual abuse and have a home visit program. The group reaches about 100,000 families each year using 94% of funds for programming.
Top Arts and Culture Charities
Preserving different cultures and sharing their cultural creations like art is one way some charities contribute to society.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the United States and one of the ten largest art museums in the world. Its mission focuses on not only housing a significant art collection, but also promoting the appreciation of and education in the arts. The museum is home to a plethora of programs and classes and has three separate locations in New York City. About 84% of their revenue is spent on programming and services.
Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago seeks to promote the experience of art through the museum and its various programs. The museum houses more than 300,000 works of art and uses 87% of its funding for programming. The institute was named one of the best museums in the world in 2015 by TripAdvisor.
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art, or MOMA, hopes to share the most thought-provoking art of modern times and create a place that celebrates diversity. MOMA is located in New York City and boasts many interactive and learning experiences for people of all ages. They funnel about 78% of funds into programming and services.
Listed by Charity Navigator as the only arts charity with a perfect score, ProPublica is an independent newsroom focused on following a standard moral compass. They spend 85% of funds on programs to provide honest journalism about topics that matter.
Top Charities for Specific Groups of People
Whether its a specific cultural group or a group like veterans, some charities keep a narrow focus so they can best serve one specific population.
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee supports global hunger relief and causes close to the interests of the Jewish people in more than 70 countries worldwide. In addition to providing for the world's poorest Jews in a number of countries, the organization also seeks to promote Jewish culture and Jewish leaders. In 2007, the group won the prestigious Israel Prize, the Israeli equivalent to the Nobel Prize, for its work around the world. About 88% of revenue goes directly to programs and services.
Gary Sinise Foundation
The Gary Sinise Foundation was created by actor Gary Sinise after September 11. The foundation works to support veterans, first responders, and their families through entertainment, education and community building. Some of their signature programs include constructing adapted smart homes for those who were severely wounded in the line of duty and customizing vehicles for people with mobility issues related to their service. Charity Navigator gives this group a perfect score partly because a generous 90% of their funds go toward services and programming.
Wounded Warrior Project
Veterans and service members injured or wounded during military service after September 11 can benefit from the Wounded Warrior Project. This organization uses 71% of funds for programs and services including free resources related to mental wellness, physical wellness and career counseling.
Easterseals is an organization that helps people with all types of disabilities by providing services for the disabled and support to their families. They do this through a variety of programs that serve all ages in a variety of settings. From therapy to camp programs, Easterseals does it all when it comes to serving the disabled population and their families. Almost 90% of funding goes directly to programs and services.
Entertainment Industry Foundation
The Entertainment Industry Foundation, or EIF, is a unique charity that uses the entertainment industry to help promote social change. The group spends 83% of funds on programming and donates to a variety of social causes from disaster relief to voter registration.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
The ACLU describes itself as the "defender of the U.S. Constitution" who seeks to uphold the Bill of Rights for all people in the United States. Volunteers and attorneys help fight for individual freedoms around the country. They use about 84% of funds on programming and services to help defend individuals or specific groups in need.
International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee works with refugees to provide immediate assistance in times of crisis, as well as long term assistance to help refugees rebuild their lives. The organization works in over 40 countries and 22 cities across the United States, and are somewhat unique in their goal to provide not only immediate assistance to refugee populations but also long term support as refugee groups rebuild their lives. They use about 90% of revenue for programming.
The Special Olympics has engaged over five million athletes with disabilities from nearly 200 countries in an effort to create an inclusive world. They use about 83% of funding for programming which includes more than 30 Olympic-style events for teams and individuals.
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)
Leading the global effort to research, treat and prevent Type 1 diabetes in kids and adults, JDRF has funded over two million dollars in research. The group spends about half of their revenue on research and a quarter of their revenue on public education. JDRF claims to give 80 cents of every dollar directly to their programs and services.
National Council on Aging
As the voice for America's senior citizens, the National Council on Aging brings together a variety of groups from businesses to community organizations and government agencies to implement policies and practices that improve the lives of the aging. They generally focus on health care issues, economic security, and public policy while offering education and information to the aging population. The group uses 95% of funds for programming.
The American Refugee Committee International, now known as Alight, exists to help refugees survive an immediate crisis and rebuild their lives. Alight is notable, in particular, because in addition to offering disaster response to refugees, they offer a number of innovative and unique programs to refugees. Among these, there are the gender-based violence prevention and response program, reproductive health care programs and the micro-enterprise program which seeks to help refugees start micro-businesses. Ninety percent of revenue from Alight goes to services and programs.
Fisher House Foundation
The Fisher House provides a special place to stay for military families so that those families can be close to a loved one who is in the hospital. They have 60 houses across the U.S. and the U.K. and are located near a military or VA hospital. The organization is has an A+ rating from Charity Watch and spends about 93% of funds on programs and services.
Recognizing the life of sacrifice that American military families lead, Operation Homefront is an organization dedicated to supporting these unique families through a variety of projects and programs. They offer financial assistance to military families who are struggling, assistance to both recovering injured veterans and their caregivers and recognition and celebration to military families. One unique aspect of Operation Homefront is that you as an individual have the opportunity not only to give to the broader cause, but to choose a specific need and donate directly to that family. They use 92% of funds on programming.
Guide Dog Foundation
Also known as Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Guide Dog Foundation provides free guide dogs to people with visual impairments. The organization trains the dogs, matches up dogs with owners and helps the dog and owner bond. Their campus is located in NY state and the organization covers all the costs of a two-week on-campus training program for new owners. Roughly 85% of funds go directly to programming and services.
Concerns of Police Survivors
After a police officer loses their life in the line of duty, Concerns of Police Survivors, or C.O.P.S., helps their co-workers, friends and family members cope with the loss. The group provides free resources to any survivors in need through its fifty American chapters using 90% of funds for services. Programs include summer camps and counseling reimbursement for kids and an annual conference for adults.
Equal Justice Initiative
Equal Justice Initiative, or EJI, works with people suffering in the U.S. justice system such as those who were illegally convicted of crimes, unfairly sentenced or suffer abuse in state prisons. Their work focuses on four areas: criminal justice reform, racial justice, public education and a memorial for honest historical reflection. They have a perfect score on Charity Navigator and spend about 92% of revenue on programs and services.
Choose Wisely, Donate Generously
All of these 501(c)(3) organizations depend on the contributions of donors in order to make their work and programs happen. Before you give, you may want to ask questions about what kind of results the program you're donating to is getting. Most importantly, donate money to a cause you're passionate about and you can feel good about being generous.