How far do your donations really go? Worth teamed up with nonprofit watchdog Charity Navigator to find the groups that do the most with your money. Based on stakeholder accountability, financial transparency and outperformance of industry standards for consecutive years, here are the 10 organizations that make the best use of your gifts.
01. HABITAT FOR HUMANITY OF THE LEHIGH VALLEY
Like all branches of Habitat for Humanity, this group works with volunteers to build or renovate affordable housing for families in need. Its families’ incomes are less than 60 percent of the area’s median income. CEO Christopher Bennick thinks of the families—who must be willing to work on their projects—as business partners, and Habitat of Lehigh has had zero foreclosures.
02. PATIENT ADVOCATE FOUNDATION
PAF provides mediation and arbitration services to chronically ill patients dealing with medical debt, insurance problems and job retention issues. Philanthropist Nancy Davenport-Ennis founded PAF in 1996 when a friend died of breast cancer after being denied specific coverage from her insurer. The foundation works to get coverage for the latest cancer therapies through state and federal legislative reform.
03. AFRICAN WILDLIFE FOUNDATION
With 80 percent of its leadership African, this group aims to preserve the continent’s rarest species, including the mountain gorilla and rhinoceros. AWF invests in conservation enterprises, which provide communities with financial incentives to conserve their lands and wildlife. Since 1961, the group, which has six international offices, has worked to protect eight regions of Africa. In the Kilimanjaro Heartland, the group has fitted several elephants with GPS collars to identify areas most in need of preservation.
04. AARON DIAMOND AIDS RESEARCH CENTER
ADARC is the world’s largest independent research center devoted solely to HIV and AIDS. Founded in 1988, the group originally joined forces with the New York City Department of Health. Today, it works with The Rockefeller University to sponsor clinical care for people living with HIV.
05. SCHOLARSHIP AMERICA
As the nation’s largest nonprofit private scholarship and education organization, Scholarship America has given some 2 million students more than $2 billion in scholarship funds. The organization was founded in 1958 as Dollars for Scholars when optometrist Irving A. Fradkin asked residents of Fall Rivers, Mass., to donate at least $1 each to fund college education for the town’s youth. Over the last 50-plus years Scholarship America has developed initiatives such as a scholarship fund for those who lost family members on 9/11.
06. KENTUCKY HUMANE SOCIETY
Founded in 1884, this group is one of the oldest animal organizations in America. Like all branches of the Humane Society, the organization works toward better treatment of domesticated animals. In addition to working with homeless pets, KHS offers behavior training, boarding, grooming, petsitters, humane education for children and neutering.
Founded in Palm Beach, Fla., in 1983, this organization was born when a family moving from Texas to Florida had to hospitalize a sick child, and had no resources left to find a home. The First National Bank in Palm Beach “adopted” the family and helped find them an apartment and employment. After more than 25 years of service, Adopt-A-Family has helped more than 28,000 families find homes and become self-sufficient.
08. RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE CHARITIES OF DENVER
The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Denver provides shelter for families of children being treated at local hospitals. The Aurora House in downtown Denver can house 45 families at a time and has been a home to more than 17,000 families during its tenure. The group also offers scholarships to students with limited access to education and provides grants to nonprofit organizations that aid children and families. The RMHCD hosts a mountain camp for children with cancer and their siblings every summer with volunteers from Sky High Hope Camp.
09. YOUNG WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP NETWORK
The YWLN works with low-income minority girls to provide college readiness and education to students from 6th to 12th grade. The YWLN School of East Harlem in New York was the first single-sex public school in the U.S. to provide education for low-income students of color. The YWLN serves more than 2,000 girls in five schools, four in New York and one in Philadelphia. Eighty percent of the group’s alumnae are college students or graduates, compared to only 24 percent of low-income students nationwide.
10. ARMY EMERGENCY RELIEF
Founded in 1942, AER helps soldiers and their families overcome financial emergencies. The group donates money to active and retired soldiers as well as Army widows and widowers for everything from children’s education costs to housing. For 68 years, AER has provided nearly $1.2 billion to Army families in need. The group collaborates with the Coast Guard, Navy and Marine Corps and 720 chapters of the American Red Cross on fundraising efforts.
This article originally appeared in the December/January 2011 issue of Worth.