Charities are abundant in the US. It can be said that no one cause is superior to any other cause, as long as these organizations are aimed at helping and aiding a legitimate problem. These charities range from mental health aid, homelessness prevention, social services, environmental issues, cancer research, animal abuse prevention and rehabilitation, and dozens of other causes. These are all important issues, but not all charity is created equal. Some spend more than others on programs specific to their cause, and generally raise more money on an annual basis. Others do not hold reserve assets and are transparent in their basic financial disclosure, which helps charity rating sites like CharityWatch and Charity Navigator openly rate and judge these organizations favorably.
Most charities are rigorously analyzed on a number of specifics by rating organizations so that people can get an idea of which charities are doing a great job, and which ones could use some work (usually either by spending more of their total income on programs, and general fundraising). CharityWatch rates nearly 600 charities. All that an organization needs to be recognized by the company is “open-book” status, which is a basic disclosure of their financial information. Groups on their top-rated list generally spend at least 75% of their budgets on programs, and they typically spend only $25 in order to raise $100 in public support. The 10 charities listed here go above and beyond those numbers.
The following list is not biased towards specific causes, because it would be nearly impossible to choose one charity over another in terms of services. Rather, the list of Top 10 charities in the US is based on total annual fundraising and income, the percentage of expenses that is spent on programs, how much public support they receive, and how transparent their financial records are.
10 International Rescue Committee (IRC)
The IRC was founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, assisting Germans who were suffering under Hitler’s rule. They offer emergency and humanitarian aid assistance to refugees displaced by war, natural disaster, or persecution. They operate in over 40 countries, but were founded in New York. Humanitarian relief workers currently work in Haiti, the congo, and Iraq, providing health programs, gender-based anti-violence relief, resettling refugees, programs for children, and post-conflict development.
The IRC has an A+ rating on CharityWatch, and they devote 92.3% of their total income on relief programs.
9 Direct Relief International
Direct Relief is a nonprofit organization for international humanitarian medical aid. They are based in Goleta, California and were founded in 1948, focusing on bringing supplies and medicine to healthcare providers worldwide. They were one of two charities that Forbes rated a perfect fundraising efficiency score for five consecutive years.
Direct Relief provided $50,000 of emergency funds during the most recent flare-up of violence in Kenya in 2007-2008. They provide direct disaster relief, with notable inclusions being the California wildfires, for the 2007 Peru earthquake, and for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Each dollar spent by the organization generates between $21 to $35 of wholesale medical material. They spend 98.8% of their total budget on programs, making them the highest donors, percentage-wise, on this list.
8 Catholic Relief Servies (CRS)
CRS is a humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the US. They were founded in 1943 in Baltimore, Maryland, and they provide assistance to over 130 million people in 90 countries, making them one of the farthest reaching aid charities on this list. CRS provides aid in emergency situations, and help people in third-world countries break away from poverty through sustainable initiatives. They help territories in Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. They respond to natural disasters such as the Haiti Earthquake, and have gained numerous awards and recognition for their services.
They are one of the few A+ charities on CharityWatch, and they bring in a whopping $800 to $900 million in annual income, 94.4% of which is spent on relief programs.
7 Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE)
CARE is one of the oldest humanitarian relief agencies in the world, founded in 1945 by 22 American organizations that banded together to rush relief and life-saving care to survivors of World War II. CARE is non-partisan, non-governmental, and non-sectarian. Their focus is fighting worldwide poverty, reaching over 122 million people. Most of their programs deal with the developing world, and their services include emergency response, water and sanitation, agricultural and economic development, health, education, and many more topics. They also advocate for policy chance and equal rights for poor people, promoting empowerment for women and gender equality. CARE international is a confederation of 12 national and two affiliate members, each as its own autonomous non-profit organization in their respective country.
CARE has an A+ rating from CharityWatch and they spend 89.5% of their total $582 million annual budget on relief support.
6 Food For The Poor, Inc. (FFP)
FFP is a Christian nonprofit corporation based out of Coconut Creek, Florida. They focus on providing food, shelter and medicinal services to the poor in the Caribbean and in Latin America. They were founded in 1982, and clergy-members of many Christian denominations (including Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Episcopalian) make up the core of the organization. They travel abroad to preach and seek donations. Since their inception in 1982, FFP has distributed approximately $9 billion worth of medicine, food, water, and housing materials to Latin American and Caribbean poor. They annually bring in nearly a billion dollars, 96.8% of which is spent on programs.
5 The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army began in London in 1865, but it has four territories within the USA. The Salvation Army is a Christian denominational charitable organization structured in a somewhat military fashion. They have a huge worldwide membership of 1.5 million people, consisting of officers, soldiers, and theologians. They provide salvation to the hungry and poor, shelters for the homeless, and disaster relief and humanitarian aid for countries in development. They are focused on Methodist theologies, but mainly towards relieving poverty from the world. The Salvation Army brings in over $3 billion a year, and 84% of their total expenses are used on relief programs.
4 Feeding America
Feeding America is a non-profit charity based out of Chicago, Illinois. They are a nationwide food bank that feeds over 37 million people through shelters, soup kitchens and communities across America. They are America’s leader in the fight against hunger. Until 2008 they were known as America’s Second Harvest. They aim to educate and keep the public informed about hunger in the US. Their headquarters provides research papers spotlighting aspects of hunger and poverty. They bring in almost $1.2 billion a year and spend a huge percentage of 97.2% on research and programs.
3 Goodwill Industries International Inc.
Goodwill is a nonprofit organization based out of Maryland., founded in 1902. They are the nation’s leader in providing job training and employment services for disabled people. They hire veterans who may lack job experience or education, and help train them to enter the public workforce. They operate a huge network of nonprofit retail thrift stores around the country. They have a network of 165 community-based organizations in 15 countries. In 2011, the charity made over $4 billion, making them the second highest earning nonprofit organization in the country, just behind the YMCA. They are a BBB accredited organization and between 85% to 89% of their earnings go towards funding programs for 4.2 million disabled individuals.
2 Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA)
The YMCA and its sister counterpart (YWCA) was founded to help rural young men and women find low-cost housing in cities. It was associated with industrialization and the movement of people to cities to work as early as 1844. Formed in London, it quickly grew to North America and other countries to provide the Christian principle of developing sound “body, mind and spirit.” They offer parent and child programs, youth and teen after-school development, low-cost residency, and athletic, academic and religious activities for young people. They raise the most money annually out of any charitable organization, bringing in about $6 billion, 87% of that going to programs.
1 The American Red Cross (ARC)
The Red Cross is possibly the most famed or well-known humanitarian organization in America. They provide emergency aid, disaster relief, and education inside the US. They are technologically relevant, allowing people to send money via text or phone whenever a natural disaster occurs in the country. Besides disaster relief, they offer services in five other areas: community services to help the needy, services and comforts for military members and their families, processing of blood and blood products, educational programs on health and safety, and international relief and development. They were founded in 1881, and 92% of their annual $3.5 billion income is spent towards in-country relief. They provide much-needed assistance, are transparent in their budget, fundraise and spend a huge amount towards relief annually, and for those reasons they are our #1 pick for top charity in the country.