Favorite Charity

What’s Your Favorite Charity and Why?

Derek Everything Else 53 Comments

Favorite Charity

I need your help.

In the coming months, I’ll be starting work on a couple of new projects (as always!) and these projects have the potential to raise a good amount of money that I will want to give to charity. And while I have a few charities in my mind that do some excellent work out there, I wanted to hear your thoughts as well, knowing that many of you would have a favorite charity somewhere in the world that I probably have never heard of.

And since I’d like to do as much research as possible before choosing a charity or two or three to work with, I’d love for you to share your recommendations below. I know that some of you already listed your favorite organizations when I asked a similar question on my Facebook page earlier this week, and I absolutely thank you all for your quick responses. I’ve already started looking more closely at many of the charities you listed.

Right now, I’m just interested in getting even more ideas and learning about as many organizations as possible before actually making a decision.

I’m of course looking for organizations that not only claim to make a positive difference in the world but that are truly working hard to achieve their goals, organizations that use all, or the overwhelming majority, of money they receive to fund actual projects.

I’m open to anything, big or small, local or international, well-known or lesser-known causes, in any part of the world, as the projects I’m working on will hopefully have a global reach.

And while we’re at it, in order to make this post even more useful for anyone who happens to find it, please feel free to list any organizations that you have volunteered with overseas as well, organizations that offer opportunities to lend a hand without requiring you to spend a ton of money on administrative and other fees.

I’m constantly receiving emails from readers looking to volunteer with small, well-run, honest, local organizations in all corners of the planet, the kind of organizations that aren’t mentioned all over the internet. So any suggestions you may have for this as well would be greatly appreciated, not only by myself, but by your fellow readers of this blog.

And on that note, I shall look forward to reading your feedback and I thank you all very much in advance for your assistance!

So, what is your favorite charity? What is their aim? Why are they reputable? Where have you volunteered?


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Comments 53

  1. Laura

    Weird. I was trying to reply to the post about “In Search of Sanuk” but it bumped me to the bottom. Oh well.

  2. Mia

    Hi Earl!

    I am a member of the Zambia Community Education Initiative – an organization constructing high schools in rural Zambia. 100% of proceeds go directly to construction of the school. Since ZCEI is a student-run fund (from Cornell University), none of its members are paid and money is used solely to pay local villagers to construct schools and for construction materials.

    We are currently building a secondary school in Chisekesi, a village in the southern region of the country. Check out our Facebook page for more info – I hope we can work together in the future!

    https://www.facebook.com/ZCEICornell

  3. Mzuri

    I hadn’t given overmuch thought before about how one defines statements such as “administrative costs” and “all funds go to projects,” but in light of so many comments of that nature on this post, my current (volunteer) involvement with a school for poor kids in Ethiopia (English Alive Academy), and in my past experience working with an adoption agency, it warrants examination.

    The only way that an organization can be *entirely* volunteer-run is if the volunteers have other means of financial support at their disposal. They also need to have disposable time to devote to the volunteer activities. If one only donates to an organization of such a nature, that excludes organizations that are just as worthy, but which might be operated by people who do *not* have such resources, thus need (and deserve) compensation for their skill, experience, and time.

    Also, many worthy organizations must work within a framework of regulations, licenses, proper accounting practices, legal counsel, etc. Money is required for such boring but essential collateral activities.

    Now, to go to the school I support. The administrators have devoted their lives to this school, sacrificing much, sometimes living hand to mouth or with the assistance of extended family members. For years, one worked full time elsewhere to support both the family and the school. I’ve been hammering at them to build in a minimum-wage salary (UK) for themselves in their budget so they can devote 100% to the school’s sustainability without constantly worrying how they’ll support their own kids. (Do you know how high the unemployment rate is in Ethiopia?! and yet they employ 20 local staff – and who sweats how to pay these folks, who have their own families to support, if they don’t get enough tuition or donations? Steph and Dawit do.)

    Finally, “projects” are great – they’ve usually got tangible outcomes that donors can point to and say, “I helped do that.” But projects don’t keep the lights on and the water running. It’s not as much fun to say, “Woohoo! My donation helped pay for the soap to clean the latrines!”

    If I sound like I’m saying any one of the organizations listed in this post is less than or more than another, I apologize. That is NOT my intent – ALL of the organizations recommended here are worth every penny or any hour that one can invest. In fact, I’ve been a long-time lender with Kiva, an organization mentioned several times here (and I also contribute to Kiva’s admin costs).

    I’m only saying this: that an organization is not *intrinsically* better because it has no paid staff or that it has “no” administrative costs.

  4. Victoria

    Awesome post, awesome idea and awesome comments! I have just started working with Tabitha http://www.tabitha.org.au/cms/ who are based in Australia and Singapore. Totally volunteer run so all funds go straight to projects. We are building houses for locals in Cambodia in August. Locals save and contribute small amounts to become eligible for a house building project. There are smaller projects as well like locals saving a certain amount to buy a bike and the charity pitching in with the remainder. The bike then helps them get to market to sell farm goods etc. It sounds like you know what you’re doing but I always like to check the amount that is actually going to the cause, if admin costs are gobbling up too much money then you should put your money elsewhere. Well done!

  5. Lydia G.

    Hi Earl!

    Have you heard about a group called “Pack for a Purpose?” http://www.packforapurpose.org/ It’s so perfectly dialed-in for travelers. The premise is this: they ask travelers to pack 5 lbs of supplies (school or medical) in their bags, and upon arrival at their accommodations, the participating hotel distributes them to the appropriate local schools or clinics. They have partnered with lodgings around the world and more are coming on board all the time. Grass roots, one spot at a time 🙂

    Safe travels!

  6. Brian

    Hi Earl,

    I work with an education charity called GambiaRising. In the States we are former Peace Corps volunteers, and a former Peace Corps Country Director who all served together in West Africa and are now trying to continue giving back. In The Gambia we are current local Peace Corps staff, and a network of development-minded Gambians.

    100% of all donations to GambiaRising go to furthering the education of underprivileged children, mostly girls, in rural Gambia. We are a very small operation, but we have a growing number of students looking for help.

    Let me know if I can answer any other questions!

    http://www.gambiarising.org/
    https://www.facebook.com/gambiarising

  7. Stacy

    Oh, and I would LOVE to do some sort of a new book project if I could get people to work on it with me. One of the projects I worked on in 2010 was organizing a library at a different school in rural Nakuru with donated books from the US and Canada. Unfortunately, the books were in utter disrepair, and most subjects were completely unsuitable for the students there. Good-hearted people had spend a lot of money on a shipping crate to send these awful books that could have been used to purchase new books in Kenya instead. I would love to help the students publish their own stories for their libraries, as well as raise funds to purchase brand new books and stock many school libraries. I believe that this could really change students’ lives for the better.

  8. Stacy

    I have done several mini projects for SOAR Kenya. I have met the director James Yegon in person in 2010 while planting a garden there, and he is a very hard-working, conscientious man. With his leadership, a school now exists that feeds and teaches the children of rural Nakuru who would have little access to an education otherwise.

    Their Facebook page is here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/128280693916150/

  9. Josh

    Hi Earl

    Great to see you intend to raise money for charity. There aren’t a lot of bloggers out there who would do that.

    A friend of mine recently started Support International, a non-profit organisation based in Indonesia but aims to work with third world countries around the world, developing communities and protecting species and their natural habitat. They achieve these aims principally through their newly introduced volunteer programmes but they could achieve so much more via opportunities such as this.

    http://www.supportinternational.org.uk/

    Hope you like what you see!

  10. Adamazing

    Just want to pass on a note of gratitude to everyone who posted here, not only for doing their parts to improve the world, but also because you’ve given me tons of volunteering ideas as I prepare to set off on a round the world trip similar to Earl’s.

    For what it’s worth: roomtoread.org.

    🙂

  11. Valerie

    My favorite charity is Horzon International. They are a charity that gets sponsorers for AIDS orphans in Africa. With a sponsorer an orphan gets food for the month, they get to go to school (it isn’t free), and they get some medical attention. The sponsorship for one child feeds everyone in the home for the month. Most of these kids live in homes of 5-18 children with one elderly caretaker. I have gone on two mission trips with Horizon and on time I met this caretaker who was in her eighties taking care of 15 children. She said the kids get one meal a day: 5 get breakfast, 5 get lunch, and 5 get supper. Their meal is only a palm size amount of rice and if they are lucky some small vegetable. There are many kids like this, I know because I have met them. The sponsored children get to go to school which later gives them a chance to get a job in the future. Did you know there is a 80-90% unemployment rate in Zimbabwe? Most of this is due to not being able to got to school. I’m really young, only 19, but my heart goes out to all those kids and Horizon does a really good job of getting sponsors. They are a small charity so it is kinda hard to expand but they are working at it with the help of God. http://www.horizoninternationalinc.com/

  12. Liz | Two Weeks to Travel

    I always try to give to charities that give as much money to those who need it as possible, I hate donating and seeing that 42% of the funds are for “administrative costs.” I like Kiva.org, Charity Water and Virgin Unite (Richard Branson’s).

  13. Liz

    Direct Relief International: http://www.directrelief.org

    Based in Santa Barbara, California, it provides medical supplies and emergency assistance to communities all over the world affected by natural and humanitarian disasters. 100% of donated funds go to projects. I’ve volunteered with them in the past and they are a fantastic group of people who are able to accomplish so much worldwide through partnerships with local organizations that know where aid is needed most and how it can be directed most effectively.

  14. Aimee

    Hi Earl! I volunteered for 3 months in a refuge in Tapachula, Mexico which is in the state of the Chiapas. I was very impressed with the refuge while I was there and I recommend looking into it for anyone. The refuge is run by an Australian couple in their 60s. They are responsible for 55+ kids between the ages of 1 and 17. The thing I loved most about this refuge is the heavy emphasis that is put on the kids to get a good education. The refuge owners try very hard to get as many of the kids in their care to get higher education as possible. As of right now, 3 of their kids are studying at the university level. However, it is very expensive for them to try to manage a house, buy food, and pay for education expenses so they are always looking for any help they can get whether it be financial help or volunteers coming to stay. They provide a place to stay and several meals for volunteers at no charge. There website is http://www.lovelifehope.com. I hope you or anyone else interested checks them out!

  15. Wandering Earl

    Thank you everyone! All of these suggestions are wonderful and I will spend a lot of time researching each and every one of them!

  16. Amber

    I have two orgs to recommend. First is Global Community Service Foundation (GCSF), which has been working in Vietnam for over 20 years, and in Myanmar just as long. Their projects have changed over time depending on the changing needs of the communities they work with. Their focus has been on clean water, preschools, income generation, building homes on Inle Lake, and women’s and babies’ health programs in Myanmar. In Vietnam, they focus on healthcare and income generation for persons with disabilities in central Vietnam, where many of the current health problems result from Agent Orange and landmines. Check them out at http://www.gcsfngo.org. The second is the Mine Action Group, or MAG, which works on landmine removal and risk education throughout the world. They do not just clear the mines, but ensure they clear land that will be used by the local populations, for income generation, schools, farming, etc. Definitely check them out. They also have a really cool logo and awesome t-shirts and MAG swag for donors! http://www.magamerica.org/

  17. mmz

    Partners in Health. It’s pretty well-known, as a result of Tracy Kidder’s book Mountains Beyond Mountains, but I know several people who have been involved with them, including a friend who spent a while in Rwanda. For most of the time she was there, she was the only pediatrician in the entire country.

  18. Stephanie C Mills

    English Alive Academy – a school dedicated to educating the poor – set up by my Ethiopian husband and myself. (www.englishaliveacademy.org / englishaliveacademy.blogspot)
    We believe that education is one route out of poverty and through providing our pupils with a free or subsidized education we provide our pupils a chance of a decent future.
    The quality of education is the lynch pin in our organisation, with a teacher training programme and provision for those pupils with mild learning disabilities making our school truly unique. With an overseas volunteer programme ( with no administration fees ) the education offered is lifted further , volunteers sharing and inspiring with their new creative techniques and ideas.

  19. Helen

    Hi Earl,

    I’ve spent quite a lot of time volunteering with a number of charities round the world. One of the charities that will forever hold a special in my heart is the Baobab Home in Bagamoyo, Tanzania.

    http://www.tzkids.org/home/

    The Baobab Home is run by Terri Place and her husband Caito. She’s American, he’s Tanzanian. They do all kinds of great work. They’re not big or flashy, they’re a little family. They have founded a small orphanage for abandoned children to provide interim care, in the hope that foster or adoptive care can be found. They accept sick and healthy children, regardless of HIV status.

    They also run a breakfast program that serves all HIV positive people currently receiving medication in Bagamoyo. They serve over 1000 breakfasts per month and provide outreach care for families in need and they fully sponsor 9 (former) street boys in secondary school and provide school fees to 7 orphaned teens in secondary.

    Terri is also known as Mama Terri. She cares for all the children (and the ones who are now in their twenties and thirties) like they are her own. They built a farm and now Terri, her family and all the kids live together in a lovely haven!

    If you want to know more about them, or would like me to introduce you, let me know!

    Helen x

  20. Adam - Tropical Nomad

    Hi Derek,
    Great to see you getting involved with some charities and raising money to help people. Personally I have used Kiva to help out entrepreneurs all over the world. You give $25 donations which help people reach targets and set up businesses.

    So far I have payed towards setting up a soap business in Uganda, Building a house in Honduras and buying a taxi in Iraq. The money is payed back in instalments and then you re-invest it towards another good cause.

  21. Chris

    Hey Earl!
    I love your question… I am the Director of Hearts & Hands for Cambodia. We sponsor Sobbhana Day Care Center Preschool in Battambang Cambodia. We have 75 children ages 3-6 and offer a preschool program, 2 meals a day, personal hygiene (bath,brushing teeth, hand washing), a playground and great facility. This is a safe environment where children can play, learn, and be kids. We are working with Heifer International to provide a literacy program for our parents and in the future we will start a beekeeping project with the villagers to add income for them. Every penny donated goes directly to our Center. Our kids come from the 8 villages surrounding the Center from the poorest families. Our hope is to affect change by starting young and encouraging education. We welcome volunteers especially those who have a talent for engaging our young children. We are also teaching English to our “childminder” teachers. Please visit the website and read our latest blog- look at pictures of our “kids”
    Our staff is all Khmer and we are a family! Come visit us Earl!

  22. Fro

    Share in Africa (http://www.shareinafrica.org/) is a wonderful organisation, started by an American girl when she was only 15. The primary focus is to provide education to girls in Tanzania, as the education of girls has extremely positive ripple effects.

  23. Paul Farrugia (globalhelpswap)

    Hi Earl!

    Great post and a subject we are very passionate about. When we did our 18 month trip we got so frustrated trying to find free or low cost volunteering opportunities. Most of the agencies dominate google. We did find some in the end with a lot of digging. So when we got back to London we launched http://www.globalhelpswap.com to help travellers find great low cost opportunities. I am sure your readers would be interested. It’s donation only so anybody can join.

    My recommendation would have to be watsi.org. It’s a site after our own hearts where you see direct action quickly.

    Keep up the great work mate!

    Take care,
    Paul

  24. Matthew Cheyne

    I’m a keen fan of Kiva. As others have said it above, they have loan programs – microfinance loans whereby you can lend as little as $25 and they pool your money with the money of others throughout the world and lend to individuals and groups throughout the world for projects that help enable people to lift themselves, their families and communities out of poverty. I’m a big believer that a hand up is more important and more compassionate to somebody than a handout. Handouts make people dependent on charities for an extended period whereas handups enable people to have meaning in their lives, a sense of accomplishment, self esteem and purpose. Their website is http://www.kiva.org .

    By the way, I really admire you for wanting to give to help others. We need more people like you in the world.

  25. Kay @ Travel Bug Diary blog

    The Peace Corps. Individual volunteers initiate programs and fundraise among family, friends and the general public via peacecorps.gov. These are often very small fundraising goals – a few hundred to a few thousand dollars – for manageable projects – a girls’ empowerment camp, a teacher training. You can choose a specific project to donate to. Whenever I’ve donated, I’ve looked for a project I thought had a good chance of eventual success and being an incremental, but real, improvement for the host community. Since the fundraising goals are small, I’ve always felt that my modest donation made a difference. Go to the Peace Corps website and click on “donate to volunteer projects” or go to http://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate

  26. Gigi

    Hi Earl,

    There are two charities I consistently donate to through my own business:

    Charity: Water (which I’m sure you’ve heard of), which is all about providing clean water to people all over the world.

    And Somaly Mam Foundation (http://www.somaly.org/), which is dedicated to eradicating slavery and empowering survivors. I’m guessing you’ve heard of Somaly as well, but just in case you haven’t: she was actually a sex trafficking survivor herself and now she’s rescuing others. I find her super inspiring (and if you haven’t read her book, I recommend it).

    Another charity I’ve been looking into is Panthera. They work to preserve wildlife (specifically, the big cats).

    Finally, some food for thought about the whole most-money-goes-into-the-field preference that so many of us have: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta_the_way_we_think_about_charity_is_dead_wrong.html

  27. Petra

    Hi Earl! Great post. I have been supporting Children International for 7 years now and recently started visiting a few of their projects (in India, Ecuador and The Philippines). I really love them and if I had the money I would build a new community center for the children (probably in New Delhi). I had the best experience in Manila where I have been the first foreigner in one of their sub-projects. Everybody wanted to talk to me and touch my hair. 🙂 I will never forget that day…
    Take care, Petra

  28. cindy singer

    My favorite charity is The Nature Conservancy. They work worldwide in partnership with local organizations to protect land that has endangered species, both flora and fauna.
    I also have to put in a plug for Doctors without Borders. I think they do wonderful work. good luck choosing one or two, there are so many good ones out there.

  29. Julia

    I have to agree with Rand regarding ChildFund. I’ve been a sponsor of several children for the past few years and have found it to be a great experience! The work they do in the communities around the world (including the US) is really wonderful.

  30. Maria

    I’ve volunteered as a classroom coach with local middle-school kids to help them gain English reading skills and prefer Kiva as a recipient of my $ because of their loan programs. I get to select whom I want to loan to, how much and when repaid I can instantly turn that cash around to loan to someone else… anywhere in the world. Priceless experiences.

    I haven’t tried it but I hear great things of HelpX.

    Hoping to get a raise this year that’ll enable me to do more.

  31. choose watsi!

    Watsi is absolutely amazing:

    https://watsi.org/

    Crowdfunded third-world medical care. I gave $5 and a girl was flown from Africa to India and got life-saving heart surgery. Zero, that’s right, zero overhead. Can’t say enough good things. They are changing the world.

  32. George

    I really like the work the Donna’s Dream House does in Blackpool, England. It’s not a big charity but it’s a charity that offers free holidays to families who have children with life threatening or terminal illness. I’m sure whatever charity you help the money will go to changing peoples lives for the better!

  33. tiffanized

    I love Kiva.org, which lets you loan money to business owners in developing countries (and I think they recently started offering loans to underprivileged folks in the US as well).

    I also give to Nothing but Nets, which allows smaller contributions and provides mosquito nets to places where malaria is a major health concern.

  34. Kerry

    Giving What We Can.

    It focuses on cost-effectiveness and encouraging people to get the most ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of saving lives and helping people. For example, a donation of $5 could buy 20 malaria nets (saving 20 lives), or 50 doses of TB treatment (saving 50 lives) or deworming 10 schoolchildren (saving 10 lives and allowing them to get an education) – while that same $5 wouldn’t do as much if you donated it to somewhere where your money goes less far.

    If you believe we should try to do as much good as we possibly can, Giving What We Can is about helping as many people possible in the most effective way.

  35. Patricia

    Favorite charity. I have a wonderful one that I know will resonate with you! Heifer International. They have been around since the forties, have a top rating (google, they are too legit to quit…) and their motive was based on this: Give a man a fish, and you feed him. Teach him to fish and he feeds himself. (close enough). These wonderful people give animals to poor people around the world, teach them how to raise them and then ask they pass on some of the animals to neighbors, who are then also taught to raise them. For instance, they will give a bunch of chicks: now the family has chickens to raise, to eat, eggs—protein! They pass along a chicken or two to a neighbor, who now can raise them and have the same benefits. Also the eggs can be sold, as can chicks, so they have a business. How absolutely amazing is that? They give goats, cows, alpacas, rabbits, the list is long. The recent donation I made was for I think Peruvians and my $50 was matched by a corporation, so actually my donation was double. Get on their mailing list. I love them so much—I don’t think there is a better organization. They are not only feeding the planet, but giving a business to poor people the world over and teaching them to share their good luck. Look them up. They are your peeps for sure. Peace & love, Patricia I would love to know your response after you google them.

  36. mzuri

    Thanks for the opportunity to share about our favorite charities. I have volunteered at and donated to the English Alive Academy (englishaliveacademy.blogspot) in Nazret, Ethiopia, for more than two years. Somehow, the founders – Ethiopian Dawit and British Stephanie – have, through personal sacrifice, a clear vision, and perseverance, not only kept the school open for eight years, but now serve close to 200 poor children. The school employs almost 20 Ethiopian teachers and staff. Dawit and Stephanie persevere despite regular power outages, water shortages, flooding, surprise changes to government regulations (which always end up costing more money) … and always, scarce financial resources. For much of the school’s history, Stephanie worked full time at exclusive private schools in Addis Ababa to support the family and the school, while Dawit volunteered all of his time to EAA.

  37. Erin Wilson

    I volunteer with The ONE-SHOT Project. We teach photography to kids on the margins in Kurdistan (and currently in Santiago, Chile). Along the way we have the chance to build our students up, show them that many of them are artists even if they didn’t know it yet, make some beautiful art, have a lot of fun, change the way they see the world and themselves… as well as breaking down stereotypes. It’s been life-changing for all of us!

    We’re not a registered charity, so I know you’re not what you’re looking for. But I’m so proud of our students’ work that I couldn’t help but brag about the. Hope you don’t mind 🙂
    http://www.theoneshotproject.com/

  38. Rand

    Childfund International (formerly Christing Children’s Fund). I’ve always been happy with them, and I ‘ve donated to them for over a decade. Typically, they set up one-to-one sponsorships of children, but, as with all charities, they accept donations of money.

    Good idea.

  39. Louise

    Hey! Can’t wait to hear more about your projects.

    I went to the cafe/salon of Daughters of Cambodia in PP many times. They help people leave sex industry and provide them with jobs and training. http://daughtersofcambodia.org/

    The COPE centre in Laos is also amazing, it helps the victims of unexploded ordinance in Laos get prosthetics and rehabilitation. Not many people know about the extent of UXO in Laos but it’s truly an inspirational centre. http://www.copelaos.org/

    Those would be the two I’d like to throw into your consideration pile!

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