What Charities Should Atheists Support? May 16, 2009

What Charities Should Atheists Support?

I could use your help to answer this question: What charities/non-profits are worth sponsoring?

A few caveats:

  • I’m not interested in atheist groups. They’re wonderful, but I already know about many of them. I’m looking for something new.
  • I would like the names of groups that don’t already have huge budgets — a place where smaller donations could really make a big difference.
  • The charity should be for something that Humanists would support — but we aren’t generally “known” for supporting it.

If that’s not clear enough, here’s what I’m getting at: The National Center for Science Education, for example, is a great group, but many atheists know about them. I want the names of charities/non-profits that do important work, could really use our support, and atheists may not typically give to them.

Any ideas?

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  • Stephen


  • Donate money or time to a local educational program. I used to volunteer with an afterschool art program that was a lot of fun.

  • Jonas

    Not sure of their budgets, but

    National Alliance on Mentally Illness

    Rape Crisis centers

    Missing and Exploited Children

  • Jonas

    Heifer International

  • Child’s Play, which gives video games, toys and books to sick kids in children’s hospitals.


  • Donate to the Freethought Books Project – that way you can give money/books so that atheist inmates can read good non-theist books.

    BTW, I second the NAMI idea.


  • MH

    We like Smile Train which performs clef palate repair surgery in the developing world for $250 per patient. They have a competitor called Operation Smile which does roughly the same thing.

  • Brian Westley

    For kiva, specifically the atheist team:

  • bigjohn756

    Another criteria for a charity is the percentage of donations used for overhead. Some squander as much as 75% and some can get along on around 5% or 10%. It’s an important variable to check out when choosing a charity.

  • Marissa

    iloveschools.com is really great, and I feel like it makes a big difference.

  • The Beagle Project:
    doesn’t involve puppies, but it is well worth a buck or 15.

  • Check out http://charitynavigator.org

    A great organization that rates the health of various charities, including how much of what you give goes to overhead and how much to actual charity!

  • mvanstav

    I love Care. They focus on helping poor women world wide.
    Also The Nature Conservancy, NWF, or other nature focused charities.
    Those are pretty big names though. Dunno if that fits your criteria for small donations being that big a part of the charity.

  • Ian

    Check into local/state/national organizations for various conditions. Cerebral palsy, autism, Down’s syndrome, etc. could all use more cash to help people living with different disabilities.

    Or there’s groups like the Make a Wish foundation or various poverty reduction groups (again look on a local level).

  • medussa

    In the Bay Area I always donate to La Casa de las Madres, one of the very few Battered Women’s Shelters in the area that accept both women and their children, and that are not religiously motivated or administered.

  • Jeannette

    I support the Southern Poverty Law Center, which started in Montgomery, AL during the civil rights movement in the 60s. Now they do work for immigration, education about tolerance, and representing those who don’t have a voice. splcenter.org and tolerance.org

  • I’m a big fan of both Kiva and Heifer International, because their programs are sustainable, a small donation makes a big difference, and their efforts are completely secular.

  • A local literacy organization? It supports learning, which is something most atheists are in favor of, and is something not well known amongst atheists.

  • Claudia

    http://www.donorschoose.org allows you to give to small educational projects directly. Instead of a massive fund that gets used in more obscure ways, projects with modest needs are posted and can be freely given to according to what interests you most.

    Stephen Colbert has promoted them once or twice. He conducted his own Pennsylvania “primary” between Obama and Clinton, asking his viewers to “vote” by giving to classroom projects in PA in honor of one or another candidate. They ended up raising about $190,000 for PA schools.

  • Jane

    The Shriner’s Hospitals are a great charity. All of the children who go to the hopsitals receive free care. They do have a large budget though.

    I have to second Kiva, Heifer Int’l, and Child’s Play. They all depend on smaller donations.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    The Reginald Selkirk Improvement Fund. Just send your donation in small, unmarked bills and I’ll take care of the rest.

  • There are often frontline community centres that often need help. I donate food, money clothes, school supplies and baby supplies to a local group that helps homeless parents look after their children.

    If you go to a local child and family services centre you can usually get a pamphlet of local outreach centres that help people. Oddly enough, in my area at least, most of the front line centres that actually HELP people are secular rather than faith based. The faith based ones are considered second string as they aren’t (sometimes) as willing to get their hands dirty.

  • Sarah Langford

    I’m a field partner for Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) which means I donate a small amount each month. Having lots of people give a little at a time seems to be effective for them.

  • Paul

    The Canary Foundation.


  • Carlie

    Modest Needs.
    Founded by a former college professor who wanted to create small grants for people on the edge with emergency needs who don’t qualify for other funding sources.

  • Kat

    The Union of concerned scientists

  • FirstBook has always been a favourite of mine.

  • Bekka

    Flying Kites – http://www.flyingkitesglobal.org – is an organization that runs orphanages in Kenya and focuses on extremely high quality education (first orphanages in the world to offer GCSE and IB) in order to provide these kids with the skills to lead later on, and continue fighting poverty without resorting to paternalistic, colonialist models.

  • JimboB

    It depends on your priorities. Are you looking for local charities, state charities, national charities, global charities???

    These probably aren’t all charities per se, but here are a few ideas:

    Planned Parenthood, UNICEF, Red Cross, AIDS research groups, Habitat For Humanity, Assisted Living Programs, animal protection/rehabilitation groups (barring dumb-ass groups like PETA), secular alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous)

  • Julia

    I support and volunteer for the Small Animal Rescue Society of BC (www.smallanimalrescue.org). I also like to support the local food bank especially the Grow-A-Row and Fruit Tree projects as well as women’s shelters and crisis centres. Engineers without borders does a lot of great work.

  • darren
  • mkb

    Children of the Border to help Haitian children in the Dominican Republic: http://childrenoftheborder.wordpress.com/

  • Josha

    PCPP: Peace Corps Partnership Program.

    100% of your donation will go towards the project which you choose.

    I think that Peace Corps Volunteers understand, more than most, the needs and resources of their communities’ since they live and work in a place for two years. It is often hard for PCVs to find funding, especially for small but needed projects, and PCPP allows them to fundraise and for others to support the work of PCVs around the world.

    There’s my pitch 🙂

  • Solar energy for the developing world (see here).

    Many poor people worldwide could simplify their lives by using solar powered devices for cooking, heating, etc. instead of buying (and burning) fossil fuels. But (even if these devices save them money in the long run) they don’t have the initial capital to purchase them.

    Even a fairly simple device (using a metallic dish to cook food through concentrating the sun’s rays) can mean that a family won’t need to burn kerosene — so it’s not only healthier for the atmosphere in general, but also locally for the kids who won’t have to breathe the fumes.

  • Care Australia (or one of the others from Care International).

  • Almond

    I really like charitynavigator.org, too. I looked for organizations that work on women’s issues around the world and found Equality Now and Women’s Learning Partnership, which I now support.

  • I’m partial to the Make Yourself Foundation: http://www.makeyourselffoundation.org/

  • Guffey

    Local animal shelters and animal rescue groups. As always, check them out for how they spend the money.

    I give to the Humane Farming Association… (hfa.org). In theory, they seem to be middle ground – not against eating meat totally (sorry Hemant, I understand you’re a vegetarian but some of us eat meat) but against factory farming and abusive meat industry practices. I’ve never seen anything religious in their literature (and if I’m wrong, please!, somebody inform me).

    I’m glad to see all these ideas. I haven’t heard of some the charities listed but I will definitely check them out. Thanks everyone.

  • Doctors Without Borders.


  • Tina

    I 3rd (maybe it’s 4th) KIVA. I really like drawing attention that the Kiva atheist team is the largest and biggest donor on the site!

    Micro-financing empowers the poor and changes communities. Its not a fish, its giving a a fishing rod to a guy who has been fishing with his hands. When he catches more fish and sells them, he pays you back for the rod and you can keep giving rods out!

  • frank

    The Central Asia Institute works to educate children, especially girls, and build schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Greg Mortensen is the man behind it, and you can read all about it in his book “Three Cups of Tea.”

  • Matt

    Personally, I like Doctors without Borders. I’ve also started donating to http://gorilla.cd/, though – a charity that strives to support endangered species seems to be very much in line with humanist ideals.

  • To Write Love on Her Arms

    Tom’s Shoes

    I like the premise of Heifer International, too.

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