The Great and Good: The Top 10 Global Charities

In a world where bad news abounds and a decent quality of life - taken for granted by many - is barely attained by so many others, there's at least a heartening number of people contributing to charitable organisations. Some charitable organisations, and the people behind them, strive to improve the lives of other on huge scale. Problems that plague humanity - violence, hunger, war, poverty and disease - are targeted by well-organised and well-financed international groups of charitable workers willing and able to help improve the world we live in. Which groups of good Samaritans are the most powerful, most influential and most enduring?

The Global Journal recently released a ranking of the 100 Top NGOs - or Non-Governmental Organisations - as of 2013, and we've collated information on the top 10 from that ranking. The Journal’s study included the ten key NGO sectors; areas like education, peacebuilding and the environment. Which of the charitable sectors are people most willing to contribute to? A look at who received the most and/or has the widest reach may tell us this. As well as being assessed on the extent of their reach, the NGOs have been ranked in terms of 'impact, innovation and sustainability.' For the benefit of TheRichest readers, we've collected information on these NGOs' (typically enormous) net worth, too - where available. But no need for green-eyed envy here; these NGOs are non-profit, and their millions go directly towards their charitable work.

What are the motivations for founding - and sustaining - a typical NGO? As will become clear after reading the profiles of the world's leading NGOs, most are born out of dire need, and the people who are inspired to help do not stop helping when one cause is improved. They must get bitten by a do-good bug, and thank heavens they do, because the success stories of these organisations are really the successes of all the millions of people they have helped. For a boost of feelgood faith in humanity, read on to find out about the 10 top global charities in the world today.

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10 Mercy Corps – Development

Originally founded as Save the Refugees Fund in 1979 by Dan O’Neill, this charity began as a response to Cambodia’s post-civil war “killing fields”. Although their focus has since diversified into helping more than genocide victims, this NGO headquartered in Portland, Oregon still concentrates on areas in difficult transition, such as the Congo, Syria, Afghanistan, Haiti, etc. A large part of their success is likely due to the fact that 93% of their staff is resident in the 46 countries they assist. After an initial emergency response, Mercy Corps builds an infrastructure to maintain their organization locally, while fostering the community’s ability to be independent. In their latest annual report, from 2012, the Mercy Corps reported an enormous over $268 million in total support and revenue, of which just under $42 million was used on administration and development; the rest of their huge volume of charitable donations went directly into on-the-ground work.

9 Cure Violence – Peacebuilding


In 1995, Chicago epidemiologist Dr. Gary Slutkin formed Cure based on the principle that violence, in particular gun violence, is an epidemic just like an infectious disease such as tuberculosis or SARS. Workers here are trained in the same methods of disease control as are epidemiologists, and the workers for Cure now include reformed gang members and drug dealers. Launched in a troubled area of Chicago, and showing an enormous 67% reduction in gun violence in its first year, Cure Violence is now present in eight countries and fifteen cities, and has over fifty sites. Statistical studies illustrating this organisation's unquestionable positive impact are undertaken by The U.S. Department of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. TheRichest has contacted Cure Violence to query their annual assets, as this information hasn't been made publically available.

8 Medecins sans Frontieres – Health

A group of French doctors who had worked in Biafra started this well-known NGO in 1971. Their aim was to be able to respond quickly and effectively to public global health emergencies without the influence of the various possible religious, economic and political groups that might slow response times via bureaucracy. Today, MSF is present in 80 countries, with operational centres and offices in 19 countries. About 50% of this organisation's work takes place on the continent of Africa, where it's arguably most needed. In addition to providing medicine and surgery, MSF has mass vaccination campaigns, works on water systems as well as sanitation, gives training and health education, reorganizes existing health structures, and more. In their latest annual report, MSF USA cited their total revenue for 2012 at almost $191 million.

7 CARE International – Humanitarian

Striving to end global poverty, this organization founded in 1945 now reaches more than 83 million people per year in up to eighty-four countries and almost 1,000 separate ventures. CARE has a long history, beginning shortly after the end of World War II when it was formed as an organization to get care packages to war-torn Europe. After the success of this venture, CARE redefined itself and has been doing so ever since. They work most closely with the world’s impoverished women, as they believe women have the greatest community reach and therefore impact. In 2012, CARE International reported that their total net assets, combining donations from all the countries in which they are active, came to over 301 million euro - that's the equivalent of over $412 million USD.

6 Ceres – Environment

Ceres’ mission is: “Mobilizing investor and business leadership to build a thriving, sustainable global economy.” The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was the impetus for the formation of this group that uses its knowledge and influence to change the very fabric companies are made of. Their focus is on putting forward viable environmental strategies that large businesses will implement and maintain and that financial backers will appreciate, too. The savvy folk at Ceres know that if a practice will not be cost-effective (or at least competitive), it is unlikely to be adopted, so they search out and “sell” better environmental ideas, on a large scale. Financially, Ceres is one of the poorer organisations on our list - they cited total revenue, gains and other support of $5,972,607 in their most recent annual report - which perhaps makes their influence and status, as evidenced by inclusion on the Global Journal's list, that much more impressive.

5 Partners in Health – Health

Health and rights advocate Ophelia Dahl cofounded PIH with Dr. Paul Farmer, who she met while volunteering in Haiti. Also included is founding board-member Todd McCormack, as well as head of the World Bank Group, Dr. Jim Yong Kim. This list ends in a tribute to the late Tom White, who over decades made major monetary contributions, eventually selling all he had for this cause he championed. PIH is in Haiti and nine other countries now, and also serves the Navajo Nation. Focus includes women’s, child, and mental health; combatting drug-resistant TB; cholera; HIV/AIDS; cancer; and community health workers. No wonder people give so generously - the organisation's total revnue was $101 million in 2012.

4 Danish Refugee Council – Humanitarian

Founded in 1956, the DRC is present in more than 30 countries, giving aid not only to refugees, but also to internally displaced people and the host communities that receive them. In addition to immediate aid, the DRC also does advocacy, attempting to find permanent solutions for the groups they assist. This umbrella organisation is comprised of 30 organisation members and voluntary groups, and funding comes from many sources: grants from the Danish government and other joint governmental benefactors, the Danish public, the EU and the U.N., as well as through related advisory and consultancy services. In 2012, DRC reported an astounding $313 million USD in total income including donated funds, collected funds, their own funds and government grants.

3 Acumen Fund – Development

Instead of giving directly to the poor, Acumen invests in companies whose mandate includes fighting poverty. Acumen Fund is a venture capital fund formed when three individual philanthropists incorporated in 2001 with Cisco Systems Foundation and seed capital from the Rockefeller Foundation. There were twenty founding “partners” or donors who shared in Acumen’s vision and helped make it a reality. Global offices are now located in New York, Accra, Nairobi, Mumbai and Karachi, where the group’s ideas are put into practice through investments in complementary companies and their leaders. Acumen reports that their global portfolio is valued at $81 million.

2 Wikimedia Foundation – Education

Originally founded in Florida, this group headquartered in San Francisco is funded mostly through small, individual donations, as well as some grants and server or hosting gifts. Wikimedia’s philosophy includes the belief that knowledge may be compromised if there are conflicting interests, so they do not use ads for funding. Wikimedia operates Wikipedia and other “free knowledge projects.” A compilation of information from around the globe is made easily available to anyone by volunteer collection and entry. Their sites, when grouped together, make up the world’s fifth most-visited Web property. This is not hard to imagine! Wiki, wiki, everywhere – and the quenching of the thirst for knowledge. Appeals for contributions have clearly been successful for the Wikimedia foundation; in their 2012-13 annual report, the Foundation cited total revenue of $48.6 million USD.

1 BRAC – Development

Fazle Hasan Abed was born in 1936 in what is now Bangladesh, and was educated in Dhaka and Glasgow. A professional accountant and then Shell executive, Abed left his job in 1971 and stayed in the U.K. to fundraise for Bangladesh’s fight for independence. BRAC was born when Abed returned home after the war and found financial ruins and millions of refugees. The organization is loyal to Sir Fazle’s original vision: to “empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice.” BRAC now does this in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Haiti. At one time, BRAC stood for Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee but it's no longer an acronym. Although... Best Refugee Aid Charity? It would seem so! And although this organisation's assets are comparatively low - in their latest 2013 annual report they had net assets totalling just over $11 million at the end of the year - they're still listed as the top charity of 2013 by the Global Journal.

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