gift guide 2015

101 Charities You Could Donate to This Holiday Season

Give a little.
Give a little. Photo: William Gottlieb/Corbis

Those at a loss for where to give back this season may want to dive into this roundup of 101 charities by category — women’s rights and health, LGBT, hunger, homelessness, environment, and more — handy to keep around, even after all the sleep gadgets and toy Teslas from our complete gift guide have become obsolete.

Women’s Rights and Health

Focused on empowering women to succeed in business — and removing the obstacles that make such success difficult — the global organization sponsors industry research to identify areas in the business world where women are underutilized. It also hosts events around the world to encourage business leaders to place an emphasis on inclusion in the workplace.

Center for Reproductive Rights 
The only legal-advocacy organization solely dedicated to safeguarding reproductive rights around the world, the center maintains a coterie of attorneys who apply human-rights law to issues such as availability of safe and legal abortion, access to emergency contraception, and more.

Family Care International
The global charity works to prevent women from dying during pregnancy and childbirth — something that occurs roughly every two minutes. The organization has worked with rural hospitals, village chiefs, and local leaders in several African and Latin American nations, raising the standard of pre- and postnatal care and educating practitioners and midwives on how to advocate for improved maternal health care in their countries.

Global Fund for Women 
A grant-making institution that supports nonprofits around the world working to advance the rights of women and girls, the fund is particularly focused on organizations dedicated to bettering women’s sexual health, helping women escape violence, and fighting on behalf of women’s political and economic independence.

Planned Parenthood
Now more than ever: The essential services provided at this venerable and affordable institution include abortion, contraception, emergency contraception, STD and pregnancy testing, and general health care.

Stop Violence Against Women
Backed by the Advocates for Human Rights, the project aims to raise public awareness of domestic violence, sex trafficking, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender violence as an instrument of war, and also to advocate for victims.


The Ali Forney Center
Named after a homeless gender-nonconforming youth who was murdered in 1997, the center, founded in 2002, provides shelter for homeless LGBT kids and teenagers, as well as HIV prevention and life-skills training.

Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
The 38-year-old organization offers grants to those working to advance such causes as economic and racial justice for LGBT people, trans human rights, and anti-discrimination protections.

AVP (The Anti-Violence Project)
Dedicated to eradicating all violence directed at LGBT and HIV-affected New Yorkers, AVP offers counseling and police and social-services advocacy to those in need, and develops public policy that will more effectively protect these communities from harm.

In an effort to foster a sense of community and strength-in-numbers solidarity, ­CenterLink serves as a directory for LGBT centers around the world, guiding people to places in their area that “advance their safety, equality, and well-being.”

Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation
The foundation is a civil-rights and advocacy group helping to protect LGBT residents of New York State. It has fought against conversion programs, inadequate medical coverage for gender-transition-related health issues, and lack of services for runaway and homeless youth — 40 percent of whom are LGBT.

Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute
Founded expressly to increase the number of LGBT people in public office, the Victory Institute hosts professional-development programs, offers campaign training, and provides fellowships to those pursuing careers in politics.

Hetrick-Martin Institute
Dedicated to the protection and development of LGBT youth, HMI provides art classes, counseling services, health-and-wellness education, and meals and shower facilities.

Point Foundation
In addition to granting scholarships to help LGBT youth reach their potential in the years to come, the foundation offers mentoring services and internships and encourages and facilitates community-service projects.

The Trevor Project
Founded after the success of the Academy Award–winning 1994 short film, Trevor, about a boy who, having been shunned for being gay, attempts to take his own life, the organization provides suicide-prevention services to LGBT youth ages 13 to 24, including instant-message and text-based means of contact in addition to the traditional crisis hotline.

International Development and Infrastructure

The microfinance organization hopes to build a “financially inclusive world” — one where everyone on the planet has access to financial services they can afford. Through partnerships around the world, Accion has helped over 5 million people get the loans and financial tools they need to transform their lives.

Evidence Action
A solutions-oriented organization that tackles large-scale systems — like the on-site water chlorinator that’s now been replicated in three African nations, giving more than 4 million people access to fresh water, or the deworming pill that’s been distributed to more than 80 percent of at-risk children through the use of existing school infrastructure.

Grameen Foundation
By partnering with small banks, agricultural co-ops, and other local institutions worldwide, Grameen ensures that its investment funds reach the poorest of the poor, allowing them to build savings. ­

India Development and Relief Fund
This educational organization offers funds to small Indian NGOs, aiming to empower India, Nepal, and Bangladesh’s poor with job skills, education, and better health.

Mercy Corps
In the event of natural disaster, armed conflict, or economic collapse, Mercy Corps helps to address the needs of the populace, offering disaster-preparedness education, overseeing conflict management, and stimulating economic growth with loans and logistical planning (such as rebuilding a blocked road to a local market).

One Acre Fund
Helping farmers worldwide boost their yields and ensure their livelihood, the organization is projected to assist more than 305,000 agriculturally dependent families in raising their income by an average of 50 percent in 2015.

A cultivator of “business solutions to poverty,” TechnoServe provides would-be entrepreneurs in the developing world with the business acumen and strategy necessary to get their ideas off the ground. They’ve helped Kenyans launch dairy farms, Peruvians start cocoa concerns, and farmers around the world begin cultivating lucrative coffee beans.

Transportation Alternatives
Aimed at reforming overcrowding and ­preventing accidents in city streets, this Vision Zero–supporting nonprofit promotes bicycling, walking, and public ­transport.

Walkable and Livable Communities Institute
In hopes of creating towns and cities that encourage community and foster active lifestyles, the institute connects citizens with local resources to help them advocate for better walkability in their neighborhoods — and creates enticing depictions of the tremendous potential of abandoned alleys and featureless streets.

World Bicycle Relief
One of the major reasons many in the developing world don’t have access to education, health care, and employment is simple distance: Schools, clinics, and jobs are too far away. World Bicycle Relief aims to remedy this problem by distributing bikes specially made to traverse rugged, rural terrain — and has donated nearly 265,000 so far.


Feed My Starving Children
Working with nutrition experts to engineer an all-in-one food pouch that’s both filling and nutritious, the Christian charity has developed the MannaPack Rice, which is filled with rice, de.hydrated vegetables, soy nuggets, and flavoring; each costs less than $2 to make but can feed six children. Your donation goes toward creating more pouches and shipping them to malnourished children all over the world.

This Jewish agency provides funding to anti-hunger agencies, food banks, and other advocacy groups working to end hunger in the U.S. and Israel, and partners with synagogues around the country to help members address hunger in their own communities.

No Kid Hungry
This campaign from Share Our Strength works to feed the one in five American children who don’t have reliable access to food, by educating parents about ways to stretch their food budget, working to provide healthy breakfasts in public schools, and helping to get food to children over summer vacation.


Bowery Residents’ Committee
When struggling individuals arrive at this comprehensive shelter spread throughout the city, they undergo an intake conversation to determine what they need. Then the shelter uses a holistic approach to help them better their lives — housing them, feeding them, and finding them adequate health care.

Coalition for the Homeless
With boots-on-the-ground services — like daily hot-meal deliveries for those living on the streets — the charity seeks to empower the homeless, not to simply see to their immediate needs.

Habitat for Humanity International
The well-known organization, made famous by volunteers Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, makes houses available to those whose income is well below the area’s median figure, who are willing to put in work to help build the structure, and who can afford a modest mortgage. So far, the charity has built homes on six continents.

Homes for Our Troops
By providing mortgage-free homes specially outfitted to meet the needs of injured troops — some of whom have lost limbs or full mobility — the organization hopes to restore these vets’ sense of independence and purpose. Each home costs roughly $430,000 to build, and the charity is privately funded.

National Alliance to End Homelessness
This law-focused nonprofit analyzes legislation to ensure the most effective help for homeless Americans, seeking ways to boost municipal and state-level infrastructure to accommodate smarter and better services.

For New Yorkers

Abraham House
A South Bronx–based nondenominational charity founded by three nuns and a priest, Abraham House offers meals, temporary housing, and practical advice to the incarcerated and their families and maintains a progressive alternative-to-jail program for first-time offenders.

Art Start
This innovative program has been bringing art classes to partnering homeless shelters in New York for more than 20 years, encouraging the creativity of homeless and struggling kids ages 5 to 18.

Change for Kids
Believing that a child’s elementary-school experience influences the rest of her life, the founders of CFK coordinate with school leaders throughout four boroughs to establish creative writing and music programs; clothing, book, and school-supply drives; and school-beautification projects.

Chess in the Schools
In bringing the game to public schools throughout the city, this organization hopes to encourage vital skills in the children who participate: critical thinking, patience, self-discipline, and self-esteem.

Children’s Aid Society
From birth to burgeoning adulthood, this charity provides support, placing kids in foster or adoptive homes; creating after-school programs and summer camps; and offering pregnancy-prevention services, health care, and legal advocacy.

City Harvest
The organization “rescues” around 150,000 pounds of food each day — that is, prevents it from being tossed by restaurants, bakeries, or wholesalers — and delivers it to programs that serve those suffering from food insecurity. That supply chain ensures that your donation stretches far: $.93 of every dollar goes toward feeding the city’s hungry.

Citymeals on Wheels
Bringing approximately 2 million meals annually to homebound seniors in New York, the organization also focuses on providing companionship to those served. A donation goes a long way — $668 provides a year of weekend meals for one senior — but volunteers can deliver meals, help package food, or even make social visits to the elderly enrolled in the program.

Fund for the City of New York
Founded by the venerable Ford Foundation, FCNY has spent nearly 50 years assisting New York City nonprofits with bridge loans between grants, taking on administrative tasks, and other invaluable means of support.

Harlem Children’s Zone
The charity—which currently assists more than 13,000 underserved youth — is focused not only on each child’s academics but also their home lives, emotional well-being, and nutrition. It has earned accolades from President Obama and helped land 93 percent of its students in college in 2015.

Make the Road New York
Encouraging immigrant New Yorkers to unify and educate themselves, MRNY has also prevented thousands of deportations, led community rallies and reconciliations in response to hate crimes, made translation services mandatory in most New York public schools, and helped pass a law to prevent the use of lead paint in low-income housing.

New York Cares
A clearinghouse for volunteerism, the organization brings do-gooders to more than 1,300 nonprofits around the city, helping them work on everything from coat drives to academic tutoring to tax help for low-income New Yorkers.

Robin Hood Foundation
The organization says it has one objective: to end poverty in New York City. It pursues it by granting money to worthy nonprofits, social programs, and outreach services, including homeless shelters and job-training programs. All of your donation goes toward these services — last year, it invested some $132 million in New York–based poverty-fighting organizations.

Services for the Underserved
By providing housing, job training, and skill-building workshops — and more — to chronically marginalized New Yorkers, SUS seeks to lift them into “lives of purpose.” It provides housing for veterans, treatment for addicts, support for those with HIV/AIDS, and services for the homeless.

Tuesday’s Children
Formed shortly after Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the charity offers counseling, career guidance, and health services to people affected by 9/11 — including families of those who perished and first responders — as well as victims of international acts of terrorism and the shooting in Newtown.

United Way of New York City
The granddaddy of the city’s charities, the city’s outpost of the United Way foundation has been contributing funds, support, and strategies in the realms of education, health, and low-income concerns for more than 75 years. Through its vast network of resources, it has created short-term-housing services, literacy initiatives, solutions to food scarcity, and better nutrition options for New Yorkers.


ALS Association
In leading the charge on ALS research while providing care and support for its sufferers around the world, the association is shedding light on this disease and sparking important scientific discoveries toward its cure. Which means you’re off the hook for that ice-bucket challenge.

American Foundation for Children With AIDS
Many of the more than 25 million Africans infected with HIV are children, and in addition to providing them with anti-retroviral drugs, the foundation works to fight the epidemic in Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and offers volunteer vacations for those hoping to help in person.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Every 13 minutes, someone takes his or her own life. And the problem is only growing. Since 2005, the U.S. suicide rate has increased with every passing year. But by providing mental-health education and training teachers, parents, and health professionals to spot the warning signs, AFSP hopes to put an end to the epidemic.

Child’s Play
The charity asks hospital administrators around the country to create lists of toys and gaming devices to benefit the children in their care. Visit the Child’s Play site, find a hospital to which you’d like to donate, and you’ll be led to its Amazon wish list.

Compassion & Choices
The leading nonprofit focused on end-of-life issues, the organization offers advice on (and forms with which to file) advance directives and advocates for doctors to uphold them; it also lobbies at the state level for aid-in-dying legislation to be passed across the land.

Cure Alzheimer’s Fund
Since the fund’s overhead costs are paid by the organization’s board, 100 percent of your donation will go to critical research for a cure; to date, the total amount raised is more than $34 million.

Diabetes Research Institute Foundation
Focused specifically on finding a cure, the foundation has been instrumental in the development of the BioHub, a bio­engineered pancreaslike mechanism that, once implanted in a patient’s body, would deliver insulin in lieu of the human organ. ­

Direct Relief
The charity’s efforts focus specifically on health in underserved areas both foreign and domestic, including mother and child health services, treatment for those with HIV and AIDS, and emergency response during times of natural or sociopolitical crisis.

By strengthening family planning and sexual-health programs around the world, the organization hopes to improve the lives of parents and the health of their children and curb the spread of HIV.

Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
Started by the actor (who suffers from the disease), the foundation has raised a staggering $450 million — and helped in the formulation of a potentially groundbreaking possible Parkinson’s vaccine, which has begun clinical trials.

Movember Foundation
Perhaps you’ve noticed the gents in your life sporting mustaches during the month of November. If so, here’s your explanation: They’re participating in a cheeky challenge to raise awareness of the health challenges faced by men. But the organization accepts donations year round, which it uses to fund everything from an increased focus on testicular cancer to films designed to illuminate men’s particular mental-health challenges.


Acadia Center
Its multidimensional approach — legal strategy, public advocacy, and consumer education — is designed to generate practical methods for universalizing the use of sustainable-energy sources.

American Rivers
Since 1973, the Washington, D.C.–based organization has secured more than $1 billion to fortify the nation’s rivers, removing ecosystem-destroying dams. It has successfully blocked efforts to drain toxic materials into waterways and cleared more than 1,000 tons of trash from rivers around the country.

Center for Biological Diversity
In the belief that a wide array of species is intrinsically valuable to the planet — and humankind — the center works to preserve the natural habitats necessary for the survival of several threatened species, and pressures government agencies in charge of those lands to keep these creatures on the agenda.

Founded in 1971 during a long legal battle to spare a tract of Sierra Nevada land from becoming a Disney ski resort, the organization continues to use the law to fight climate change and preserve natural places.

A vocal opponent of landscape-obliterating — and health-compromising — gold mining, oil drilling, and fracking, Earthworks protects communities and the environment from the toxic effects of mineral and energy development.

Environmental Working Group
This clearinghouse for consumer information seeks to raise awareness of potentially ­damaging ingredients in beauty products (like ­suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals in nail polish), food, and cleaning products.

Global Green USA
Its “Green Urbanism” initiative is designed to be a replicable model for a more sustainable city — one that harnesses the joint power of public policy and urban design and helps to enable affordable-housing developers to pursue rigorous LEED certification.

The Honeybee Conservancy
If Colony Collapse Disorder continues unabated, further imperiling the global bee population, we risk the loss of such delights as strawberries, apples, oranges, almonds, peaches, and cucumbers. Sponsoring a hive can help bulk up bee numbers, offering hope for a specieswide resurgence.

National Audubon Society
The needless death of thousands of American birds can be prevented if oil companies cover their oil pits (to prevent birds from landing on them), builders use bird-safe window and building materials, and the U.S. government takes significant steps toward strengthening its wildlife-conservation laws. Your donation — or letter to your representative, templates of which can be found on the society’s site — helps the fight.

Natural Resources Defense Council
The fund-raising giant, one of the most effective environmental nonprofits in existence, throws its considerable resources toward protecting ours, in addition to fighting global warming, advocating for wildlife protection, and combating nuclear proliferation.

Civil and Human Rights

The Advocates for Human Rights
A wide-ranging organization that raises awareness of and addresses an array of issues, including sex trafficking (both abroad and on U.S. soil), asylum, and post-conflict rebuilding efforts, and also provides teachers with free curricula on the subject of human rights.

A.J. Muste Memorial Institute
The pacifist organization (Muste was an advocate of nonviolent resistance, and a leader in the labor, civil-rights, and antiwar movements) aims to expose war profiteering, stem nuclear proliferation, abolish the death penalty, and promote racial and sexual equality worldwide.

Alliance for a Just Society
A network of 15 social-justice organizations, which work in concert to assist immigrants, minorities, low-income workers, small-­business owners, and those seeking access to health care.

American Civil Liberties Union
The nearly century-old organization vehemently safeguards free speech, civil liberties, and tolerance, with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — and the privileges they guarantee — serving as its holy texts.

American Refugee Committee
When disasters occur, ARC helps victims put their lives back together. Serving people in 11 countries — including Sudan and Pakistan — the organization provides essentials such as health care and water as well as long-term services such as agricultural support and psychosocial counseling.

Amnesty International
With its time-tested approach and infrastructure, the charity advocates for people in the direst of circumstances worldwide, including refugees and asylum seekers; victims of human-rights violations like rape and torture during armed conflict; those awaiting execution; those punished for dissent; and those who lack the most basic of human rights, such as food and water.

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
The fund empowers Asian-Americans at risk of exploitation (such as recent immigrants or non-English speakers) and apprises them of their legal rights.

Beyond Borders
The Haitian system of restavèk, in which poor families send children to become domestic servants in distant households, often has an unintended result: The children are sold into slavery. This organization fights that system by addressing the poverty that allows it to continue, working closely with local Haitian leaders.

Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence
Those much-discussed mandatory background checks meant to prevent the easy sale of a firearm? Those were the brainchild of this foundation, which hopes to reduce the number of American gun deaths — currently, it stands at more than 32,000 each year.

Center for Community Change
Created by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial foundation shortly after RFK’s assassination in 1968, the organization’s broad goal is to ease poverty in the U.S. — an effort that has, over the past 47 years, helped create the food-stamp program, fought to prevent banks from discriminating against people of color, and helped to block cuts to essential social-service programs.

Center for Constitutional Rights
Among the center’s areas of interest: opposition to drone killings, the prevention of LGBT discrimination, Palestinian ­solidarity, the closure of the detention center at Guantánamo. Using creative legal strategies, it has undertaken precedent-setting litigation to address these issues and more.

Government Accountability Project
The preeminent truth-teller-protection organization has defended more than 6,000 whistle-blowers to date; their revelations have concerned everything from public health to corporate accountability. ­

Innocence Project
In the roughly 23 years since its founding in 1992, this group of lawyers has used DNA evidence to free more than 300 wrongfully convicted prisoners — many of whom had been sentenced to death — across the U.S., while simultaneously advocating for better policies to avoid future miscarriages of justice.

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
The organization has won landmark legal battles protecting the rights of Latinos, opposing racist redistricting laws designed to disenfranchise Mexican-American voters, and litigating on behalf of those victimized by border police, overreaching laws against day laborers, and discrimination.

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence
Following the shooting death of a teacher in Prospect Park, a group of Brooklyn mothers founded this organization in 1993. The statewide advocacy group, which informs the public about gun violence, also works to preserve and bolster the NY SAFE Act, enacted in 2013 after Newtown.

Southern Poverty Law Center
With its double mission of tracking hate groups and teaching tolerance, SPLC has monitored and reported on the actions of the KKK and neo-Nazi movements, among others, for decades, while providing incisive tools to help teachers encourage racial and gender equality among students.

Oxfam America
The U.S. branch of the worldwide charity — it boasts 17 member nations — Oxfam America holds to its parent organization’s belief that poverty is a result of injustice: “Eliminate injustice and you can eliminate poverty.” How to do so? By focusing, as the organization does, on addressing hunger; lack of water; limited access to work; political corruption; and climate change, which will disproportionately hurt the poorest communities.

Prevent Child Abuse America
By strengthening public policy, the organization hopes to translate staggering research — experts estimate that 20 percent of women and more than 5 percent of men were sexually abused as children — into effective action.

Samaritan’s Purse
Specializing in partnering with local ministries to address post-disaster needs (providing medical attention and donating food and necessary supplies for daily living), the Christian charity has helped restore balance during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, after the Nepal earthquake, and, most recently, in the European refugee crisis.

The far-reaching charity, which combats poverty, inadequate health care, hunger, and human-rights violations around the world, steps in when emergencies devastate a community or nation—and has saved more children’s lives worldwide than any other humanitarian organization.
The charity partners with boots-on-the-ground organizations around the world, collaborating on tailored solutions to bring potable water to areas where it’s scarce. Use the site to create a fund-raiser among your friends and family or donate a flat amount.

The Brooklyn-based organization empowers victimized people to capture what’s happening to them on film, developing apps and platforms to safely and effectively share videos of human-rights

World Concern
The Christian charity takes a holistic approach to bettering imperiled communities abroad, creating a multipronged plan of attack: protecting children from exploitation, strengthening access to education, implementing job training, and seeing to basic needs such as food, water, and health care.

World Vision
Log on to the World Vision site and see the faces of children in need: 1-year-old Nicolle from Mexico, 12-year-old Carlos from Mozambique, 10-year-old Mercy from Ghana. Choose to sponsor a child, and your $39 monthly donation will go toward fresh water, nutritious food, education services, bed nets to shield against malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and job training for his or her parents.


African Wildlife Foundation
To curb the slaughter of elephants, lions, rhinos, and gorillas on the African continent, the foundation takes a multipronged approach: discouraging poachers, aiding in the prosecution of traffickers, and ­raising awareness among would-be consumers of products derived from these animals.

Animal Welfare Institute
However humans harm animals — from illegal whaling to factory farming — the institute aims to remedy the situation by supporting animal-friendly laws, advocating for the abolition of steel-jaw traps, preserving endangered species, and protecting lab animals.

Bat Conservation International
If the fearsome flappers — threatened by habitat loss — disappear, so too will the essential services they provide the agricultural industry, including eating plant-destroying insects, pollinating flowers, dispersing fruit seeds, and providing nutrient-rich guano for fertilization.

4 Paws for Ability
Service dogs help children who suffer from autism, seizures, and mobility limitations as well as returned vets recovering from combat injuries. A service dog is ready to lend a paw in 12 to 18 months; your donation goes toward their room and board and placement services.

Marine Mammal Center
The Bay Area–based facility collects seals, sea lions, and otters who are beached, malnourished, weaned too early, struck by boats, shark-bitten, or sick, then nurses them back to health before returning them to the ocean. Of course, a 600-pound sea lion requires a lot of fish: Your donations will go toward the care and keeping of these injured creatures.

Performing Animal Welfare Society
When an exotic animal is abandoned by a roadside zoo, abused by a shady breeder, or released by a pet owner no longer capable of (or interested in) caring for it, the society takes them in, providing sanctuary and care.

PetSmart Charities
The pet-supply chain’s network of local organizations encourages — and subsidizes — spaying and neutering services to reduce pet overpopulation (there are more than 7 million cats and dogs in shelters each year, and nearly 3 million of these animals are euthanized). In addition to offering monetary support, you can adopt a pet in need of a home; the site will help you connect with animals in your area.

Red Rover
An organization designed to help pets in crisis, it rescues animals displaced by natural disasters, animal-hoarding cases, and other traumatic circumstances, and helps domestic-­violence victims keep their pets when they leave their abusers.

*This article appears in the November 23, 2015 issue of New York Magazine.

101 Charities to Donate to This Holiday Season