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The Gift of Giving: 21 Charities to Donate to That Help Children and Families

A child's hands holding a paper heart.
Igor Bukhlin/Shutterstock

You’re (almost) done buying Christmas gifts, but something’s still missing. If you want to really feel the spirit of giving, then you should put your money toward children and families that are in need. Here are 21 charities and non-profits that’ll use your money to improve or save people’s lives.

Update, 12/16/22: Checked content for accuracy, product availability, and dead links.

Spread the Cheer Year-Round With Recurring Donations

The holidays are a time for giving, but you can only give so much at once. If you want to maximize your contribution to a charity, then consider signing up for recurring donations. Over time, a few bucks a month can make a bigger difference than a one-time payment.

Of course, recurring donations aren’t possible for everyone. Here are a few alternative ways to make quick contributions throughout the year:

  • Through Alexa or Google Assistant: Want to donate to a charity on the fly? Just tell Alexa or Google Assistant that you want to make a donation. If you already have a credit card linked to your Amazon or Google account, then the process will take less than a minute.
  • AmazonSmile: AmazonSmile allows you to raise money for charities every time you shop. Just choose which charity you want to support through the AmazonSmile web page.
  • Donate Your Credit Card Rewards: Most banks give you the option to donate your credit card rewards to charity. This is a good option if you have a pile of unused rewards or soon-to-expire airline miles on your account.
  • Volunteer: Charities always rely on volunteers. If you want to help a charity with your actions (and not just your cash), then check their website for volunteer opportunities. (If you have kids, then consider pushing them to volunteer. It’s a priceless experience that looks good on a resume or college application).

Now let’s get to the goods. Here are 20 great charities to donate to during the holidays.

Toys and School Supplies

A Toys for Tots table that's overflowing with toys.

Trying to spread some holiday cheer the old-fashioned way? Here are four charities that provide toys and school supplies to children in need. All of these charities work year-round, so consider signing up for recurring donations.

  • Operation Backpack: Operation Backpack ensures the educational success of low-income children. The charity provides kids with grade-specific school supplies, from binders to backpacks.
  • Reading Is Fundamental: The Reading Is Fundamental charity ensures that children get the books and reading-resources that they need. And if you donate before December 31st, your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar.
  • Shoes That Fit: Sometimes a new pair of shoes is all that a kid needs to improve their self-esteem, comfort, and safety. Shoes That Fit makes sure kids in need have the comfortable shoes that they deserve.
  • Toys for Tots: You know Toys for Tots! It’s a trusted charity that gives toys to children in need. If that’s your priority, then Toys for Tots is a great option.

Some of these programs (certainly Toys for Tots) run local volunteer programs during the holidays. If you’re wondering what to do with your time off, then check one of these websites for volunteer opportunities. It may be worth spending a few hours sorting through children’s school supplies or toys.

For Struggling Families

A family holds boxes for charity.
Dragon Images/Shutterstock

It feels good to know that your money is going toward the needs of families. Here are six charities that focus on helping the basic needs of families, like food, shelter, and pet care.

  • ASPCA: The ASPCA helps to rescue, vaccinate, and find shelter for homeless or abused pets. The organization also makes it possible for low-income families to afford expensive pet medical care.
  • Give Kids the World: Give Kids the World owns an 84-acre resort near Disney World in Florida. The organization provides week-long, cost-free vacations to children with critical illnesses (and their families, of course). The experiences that families have at this resort are often priceless, and they wouldn’t be possible without your help.
  • Meals on Wheels: Meals on Wheels delivers warm meals and to people in need. For many older people living in poverty, Meals on Wheels deliveries create a sense of routine and healthy social interactions. (You can also volunteer for Meals on Wheels through the charity’s website.)
  • No Kid Hungry: The No Kid Hungry program provides free meals to children, usually through the school system, churches, and community centers. For many kids, the No Kid Hungry program is the only thing that ensures consistent meals throughout the year.
  • One Simple Wish: One Simple Wish is a charity that’s focused on improving the foster care system. It gives children who have been abused, abandoned, or traumatized the opportunity to feel like kids.
  • Ronald McDonald House: The Ronald McDonald House does a lot. It provides homes and hospital rooms for families, and ensures that some low-income families can afford basic medical and dental care.

Some of these non-profits help families with their health care needs, but they’re not necessarily made to fund healthcare or medical research. Read on for a few charities that do.

Healthcare and Medical Research

A child and an adult hold a heart in their hands.

People are often left to suffer through critical diseases on their own. A few dollars a month can help fund the research, care, and prevention of life-changing illnesses. Here are nine great charities and non-profits that focus on healthcare and medical research.

  • American Cancer Society: The American Cancer Society is a leader in cancer care and research. The organization uses donations to fund cancer research and to spread cancer awareness.
  • American Diabetes Association: Diabetes is a growing world epidemic, yet diabetes care costs more than ever. The American Diabetes Association uses donates to fund research, awareness programs, and treatment options for low-income families.
  • Children’s Medical Center: Pediatric centers rely on donations to care for children and their families. You can donate money, food, toiletries, and toys to make life better for kids in hospitals.
  • Children’s Miracle Network: The Children’s Miracle Network is a non-profit that supports pediatric programs across America. Aside from purchasing medical equipment for hospitals, this organization ensures that children in hospitals stay entertained, engaged, and optimistic.
  • Give Hope for Pancreatic Cancer: GIVEHOPE is a charitable organization that funds pancreatic research and hosts educational fundraising events. Pancreatic cancer research is crucially underfunded, despite the fact that it has a 5-year survival rate of less than 5%.
  • Make-a-Wish: The Make-a-Wish foundation tries to grant a wish for every child with a critical illness. Every donation helps ensure that kids have a life-changing and inspiring experience.
  • Nephcure: NephCure Kidney International funnels money into kidney disease research, especially ones that are currently underfunded and misunderstood. The organization also provides education and support for families affected by kidney disease.
  • PanCAN: PanCAN (the Pancreative Cancer Action Network) is committed to funding pancreatic cancer research, clinical and education initiatives, and services for patients suffering from pancreatic cancer. The organization even hosts a Pancreatic Center Hotline for patients in need of cancer resources. Again pancreatic cancer research is crucially underfunded, and the condition has a 5-year survival rate of less than 5%.
  • Shriner’s Children’s Hospitals: Shriner’s non-profit pediatric facilities provide care for children with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal injuries, and cleft lip. They guarantee service to low-income families, and they need donations to cover medical costs and basic necessities.
  • St. Jude: The St Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a leader in caring for critical diseases in children. Its focus on leukemia and other cancers has saved lives and led to serious medical advances.
  • UNICEF: UNICEF provides health care for children and adults in poorer countries. The organization saves thousands of lives every year through vaccinations, immediate medical care, and education programs.

Again, consider signing up for recurring donations through a non-profit’s website. It takes some of the strain off of your wallet and guarantees that your favorite causes will receive a stable stream of income.

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »