list of charities

List of Charities

All of the charities on the following list met several criteria. First, they must have low overhead expenses, ensuring that most of the money donated goes to its mission rather than its operation. They are also financially transparent, making them trustworthy causes to give your money to.


Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger tackles the problem of world hunger by providing sustainable and long term solutions to hunger and malnourishment as well as meeting immediate needs among the world's poor. A top-rated charity by Great Nonprofits, AAH volunteers work alongside impoverished communities where they make a tangible difference. Last year, they saved 175,000 children from starvation.

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.

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 also was recognized by Wellsphere for its contributions toward health and healthy living.

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 94.5% on program expenses, and less than 1% of their total budget on fundraising.

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 are listed second on Charity Navigator's Top Ten Charities Worth Watching and have been part of numerous breakthroughs in arthritis research.

Breast Cancer Research Foundation

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation seeks to find a cure for breast cancer by providing funding for 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 more than a decade. (Note you will have to complete a free registration to see the charity's history.)

Carnegie Institution for Science

The Carnegie Institution for Science exists to support research in the life, earth and space sciences. The organization is world-renowned for science research have helped spur some of the most important scientific discoveries in the last century. Notable accomplishments include Edwin Hubble and his discovery that the universe is ever-expanding and Charles Richter who created an earthquake measurement scale. Charity Navigator has given the Carnegie Institute four starts for twelve consecutive years. (To see the history, you will have to complete a free registration.)

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 of the world, from eradicating Guinea worm disease to helping establish and oversee democratic elections in 37 countries.

Feeding America

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 feeds more than 37 million hungry Americans every year

First Book

First Book seeks to end illiteracy by providing books for needy children. Thus far, they have given out more than one million new books to schools and families who need them. They report they have distributed over 170 million books and other resources to 30 countries.

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. To date, the organization has built more than 600,000 and helped some three million people all over the world.

Jobs for the Future

Jobs for the Future seeks to help provide career pathways for young people who need help with career advancement. They work in over 100 communities across the United States. Their programs provide intervention for at-risk students and help with getting students on a pathway to college through student success centers.

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.

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 hep 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.


Oceana is the largest international organization that is devoted solely to protecting the world's oceans. Since their beginning in 2001, they have successfully spearheaded a variety of campaigns to improve ocean quality and protect marine habitat such as stopping ocean trawling in certain habitat areas and helping ensure that the EU bans shark finning.


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 to an intensive care unit or the pediatric ward, mobile care units to bring care to children who otherwise wouldn't have access, and the organization provides scholarships. The organization has been honored many times, including being named by the American Hospital Association as an exceptional partner.

Save the Children

Save the Children seeks to ensure that the basic needs of every child in the world are met. It's one of Charity Navigator's top charities, and due to their vast resources, they are able to effectively influence change on a global scale. According to their impact report, 11,000 women and children get milk through their milk voucher program, a total of 22 states are better prepared in case of disaster, and they treated over a million cases of malaria - just to name a few of their accomplishments.

Smithsonian Institute

The Smithsonian Institute is well-known throughout the world. It consists of nine research facilities, the National Zoological Park, and 19 museums and galleries, and it houses 139 million artifacts and objects. It is administered by the United States Government, and its primary goal is to share knowledge. It 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 goal is to move forward through understanding and learning.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure has made tremendous strides in educating the public about breast cancer. 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 percent 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.


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, underserved schools. 2012 marked a year of growth as the organization saw some 10,500 teachers in classrooms all across the United States.


The UNCF seeks to promote education among minority students. Every year the charity awards some 10,000 scholarships to financially needy minority students. In addition, they also support their mission and goals by providing financial support to 37 historically black colleges, and advocacy for college readiness and education.

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. 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. Given how big the United Way net spreads, they set impressive goals like reducing the the drop out rate by half over a ten year period which started in 2008.


There are few people who haven't heard of the YMCA. This community outreach organization does everything 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.

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