10 Charities to Donate to If You Want Your Money to Actually Make a Difference

Your donated dollars might go further when you give to these organizations.

volunteers working in community donation center
Updated May 28, 2024
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Many of us worry that the hard-earned dollars we give to charity might end up in a board member’s pocket, or in some organization’s marketing budget. That is why it is important to choose carefully when deciding who should get your charitable dollars.

Since 1992, CharityWatch — formerly known as the American Institute of Philanthropy — has monitored charities in the U.S. by combing through financial documents and rigorously assessing how effectively charities use donations.

Following are some organizations that get high marks from CharityWatch. Knowing that you are giving to a worthy organization can eliminate some money stress and give you confidence that your donation will have a real impact.

Friends of Animals

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe veterinarian examining beagle dog

Grade: A+

Amount spent on programs relative to overhead: 94%

Cost to raise $100: $3

Since its founding in 1957, Friends of Animals has successfully funded 2.8 million neuter and spay procedures.

In the decades since its founding, the organization has expanded its focus to include climate initiatives, sanctuaries for exotic pets, and legislative campaigns.

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CancerCare

VadimGuzhva/Adobe woman with cancer is sitting in a wheelchair

Grade: A+

Amount spent on programs relative to overhead: 94%

Cost to raise $100: $4

CancerCare is committed to providing support to those diagnosed with cancer.

The organization connects people to support groups and social workers, has a free resource library, and offers financial assistance to those who have cancer.

Conservation Fund

Romolo Tavani/Adobe crystal globe on moss in a forest

Grade: A+

Amount spent on programs relative to overhead: 95%

Cost to raise $100: $4

The Conservation Fund focuses on protecting land and water in the U.S. to ensure people across the country can access nature.

Along with protecting land, the Conservation Fund works to strengthen communities and combat climate change.

American Kidney Fund

Tyler Olson/Adobe nurse assisting patient undergoing renal dialysis

Grade: A+

Amount spent on programs relative to overhead: 98%

Cost to raise $100: $2

The American Kidney Fund zeroes in on kidney disease, a condition that impacts 37 million Americans.

Donations help the nonprofit fund more than 150 kidney transplants each month. The foundation also focuses on making resources about kidney health more accessible to the American public and works to fund dialysis and kidney care for patients across the country.

Pro tip: If your heart is especially close to a cause, consider starting a side hustle or finding another way to earn more cash. Then, give a portion of your profits to the charity.

Action Against Hunger — USA

New Africa/Adobe volunteers giving food to poor people indoors

Grade: A+

Amount spent on programs relative to overhead: 90%

Cost to raise $100: $3

For more than four decades, Action Against Hunger has worked to eliminate global hunger and malnutrition, specifically among children and their families.

Every year, the foundation’s hunger program reaches 24.5 million people around the globe.

National Council on Aging

Seventyfour/Adobe female caregiver bringing groceries to senior woman

Grade: A

Amount spent on programs relative to overhead: 93%

Cost to raise $100: $18

The National Council on Aging fights to improve the quality of life for aging Americans. Specifically, it dedicates its resources toward helping American individuals stay healthy and financially secure as they age, especially people from historically disadvantaged communities.

The council provides resource guides for seniors and their caregivers while advocating for institutional change on a policy level.

Tunnel to Towers Foundation

ryanking999/Adobe smart home control by phone

Grade: A+

Amount spent on programs relative to overhead: 93%

Cost to raise $100: $4

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was founded in the memory of Stephen Siller, a firefighter who died in the World Trade Center attacks in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.

The foundation raises money to build mortgage-free smart homes that it then gifts to catastrophically injured first responders and members of the U.S. armed forces. These homes are equipped with automated features and things like wider hallways to accommodate the needs of those who live there.

Scholarship America

peopleimages.com/Adobe student with laptop in park for elearning

Grade: A+

Amount spent on programs relative to overhead: 94%

Cost to raise $100: $2

For more than six decades, Scholarship America has raised $5.1 billion to fund scholarships for 3 million students. The group’s main goal is to ensure all students can afford college regardless of personal circumstance and financial hardship.

Along with directly financing students’ educations, the Scholarship America team agitates for change on a national level by promoting policies such as ending taxation of scholarships and grants.

National Women's Law Center

Miquel/Adobe celebrating International Women's day with diversity

Grade: A

Amount spent on programs relative to overhead: 84%

Cost to raise $100: $8

The National Women’s Law Center was created in the 1970s to fight for women’s rights in the workplace, including the right to a more equitable wage.

Since its founding, the nonprofit has expanded to focus on other policy issues that disproportionately impact women, such as child care, health care access, and sexual harassment.

Along with fighting for women generally, the National Women’s Law Center advocates for equal rights for LGBTQ individuals on both a state and national level.

Unbound

poco_bw/Adobe African family in the village

Grade: A+

Amount spent on programs relative to overhead: 93%

Cost to raise $100: $4

Unbound’s main goal is to help families in Asia, Africa, and Latin America escape from poverty.

The foundation puts funds directly into impoverished individuals’ bank accounts, empowering families to create their own financial plans, build highly individualized budgets, and meet goals.

Donors can sponsor families while volunteers on the ground help families, especially mothers, learn leadership and business skills in a community setting.

Bottom line

Rawpixel.com/Adobe giving help offering concept

Donating to a charity can be a great way to support causes you care about, but only as long as you know the charity you choose is spending your money wisely.

Before you donate, take some extra time to research your charity of choice on an independent review site like CharityWatch. That way, you can avoid wasting money.

It shouldn’t be too hard to find a charity you trust to be as careful with your funds as you are.

Author Details

Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.