9 Best Charities That Combat Brain Disorders (Complete 2024 List)

9 Best Charities That Combat Brain Disorders (Complete 2024 List)

By
Alycia O'Dell

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Impacting 1 in 3 people, neurological conditions are the leading cause of illness and disability worldwide, with 80% of neurological deaths and health loss occurring in low- and middle-income countries. And, while some brain disorders, like migraines and brain aneurysms, can be prevented and even treated, others like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis have no clear cause or effective treatment, with devastating implications for those affected. Fortunately, organizations around the world are working to investigate, treat, and eradicate brain disorders. So we had to ask: What are the best charities that combat brain disorders?

The best charities that combat brain disorders are the American Brain Foundation and the Barrow Neurological Foundation. Charities such as the Brain Research Foundation and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation seek to combat brain disorders through targeted research.

Whether you want to educate at-risk adults on how to prevent a ruptured brain aneurysm, ensure that those with brain disorders in developing countries have access to quality care, or help a family approach their loved one about memory care, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities that combat brain disorders are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to contribute.

Here’s What All the Best Charities That Combat Brain Disorders Have in Common

The charities on this list were chosen based on their mission, impact, transparency ratings, and achievements.

They operate primarily throughout the US and Canada, but some combat brain disorders internationally.

Many of these charities focus on funding research to better understand and treat brain disorders, while others work to improve the current quality of patient care. Some cater to specific brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and brain tumors. Others take a more holistic approach, focusing on the entire brain to cure a variety of disorders.

Some of the charities below focus on providing support to those living with a brain disorder and their family as they navigate the healthcare system, while others focus on advocacy and policy change.

Yet, they all share the same goal of combating brain disorders.

These Are the 9 Best Charities That Combat Brain Disorders in 2024

Below are our favorite charities that combat brain disorders (you can click on their link to directly jump to their section in this article):

(At the end of this article we’ll also share our six-step approach on how you can select the best charity to support.)

1

American Brain Foundation: A Whole-Brain Approach

Logo for American Brain Foundation
About The American Brain Foundation

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Their transparency & ratings:

The American Brain Foundation holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

Cure one, cure many.

American Brain Foundation

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What they do:

The American Brain Foundation combats brain diseases and disorders by investing in research on the entire brain, enabling them to bridge gaps between diseases and pioneer groundbreaking applications. For example, their Next Generation Research Grants fund innovative investigations by early-career researchers to support the next generation of neuroscience researchers. As another example, their Cure One, Cure Many Program, awarded once every 3 years, supports breakthrough research in brain disease by providing large-scale catalyst funding to the world’s top researchers. Moreover, the organization provides comprehensive resources on a variety of brain diseases and disorders, including autism, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the American Brain Foundation has funded innovative research in all areas of the brain, brain diseases, and disorders. For example, their Next Generation Research Fund has awarded approximately $42 million to nearly 300 researchers, over 85% of whom have gone on to secure funding from NIH and other national funders. As another example, in 2023, their Cure One, Cure Many Award granted $10 million to researchers investigating neuroinflammation to better understand the role it plays in nearly all brain diseases, even those as apparently different as Alzheimer’s disease and long COVID-19.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the American Brain Foundation via their website. You can also support the organization’s mission by becoming a brain donor or attending an event.

2

Barrow Neurological Foundation: Advancing the Field of Neuroscience for a Brighter Future

Logo for Barrow Neurological Foundation
To Infinity and Barrow Beyond

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Their transparency & ratings:

The Barrow Neurological Foundation holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

With Barrow, there is reason to believe.

American Brain Foundation

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What they do:

As the philanthropic arm of the Barrow Neurological Institute, the Barrow Foundation combats brain disorders by funding research programs, improving patient care, and educating the next generation of neurologists. For example, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center supports research and care to enhance the quality of life for those living with Parkinson’s, while their Alzheimer’s and Memory Disorders Program works to transform the disease from a devastating diagnosis into a manageable, chronic condition. Furthermore, the Franke Global Neuroscience Education Center improves access to brain healthcare in developing countries by educating, training, and supporting physicians and nurses at partnering sites. And, their Thurston Innovation Center equips the next generation of neuroscientists with the skills, knowledge, and opportunity to revolutionize the field.

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the Barrow Neurological Foundation has changed the lives of millions of people living with brain disorders through direct treatment, research, and education. For example, in 2023 alone, they treated over 58,000 individual patients and performed more than 5,800 spine and brain surgeries. In the same year, they elevated the field of neuroscience through 724 clinical trials and research studies and published more than 200 articles in scientific journals.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the Barrow Neurological Foundation via their website. You can also support the organization’s mission by launching your own fundraiser or attending an event.

3

Brain Research Foundation: Funding Hope through Research

Brain Research Foundation logo
BRF 60th Anniversary Highlight Video

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Their transparency & ratings:

The Brain Research Foundation holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

Innovate, explore, discover.”

Brain Research Foundation

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What they do:

The Brain Research Foundation combats brain disorders by funding a broad scope of projects that explore a wide range of neurological diseases. For example, they award innovative researchers who are new to the field with the “seed money”, or startup money, they need to fund their boldest ideas. For example, in 2011, they awarded a seed grant to better understand the link between circadian rhythms and various clinical disorders, including depression and neurodegenerative diseases. As another example, their annual Scientific Innovations Award supports creative, cutting-edge research in well-established laboratories, led by distinguished investigators.

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their inception, the Brain Research Foundation has awarded over $47 million in grants across 691 projects, including $14 million in seed grants since the program’s launch in 1981. And, for every dollar awarded, grantees secure an average of $25 in future funding from other grant programs to continue their research.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the Brain Research Foundation via their website. You can also support the organization’s mission by participating in Neuroscience Day or by joining their Brain Donor Project.

4

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation: Brain Disorders and Mental Health

Logo for Brain and Behavior Research Foundation
Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Overview

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Their transparency & ratings:

The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

Funding cutting-edge research to find cures for mental illness.

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

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What they do:

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation combats brain and behavior disorders by funding innovative research to better understand the underlying causes and develop new treatments. The organization awards grants in three categories: the Young Investigator Grant, which supports the most promising young scientists conducting neurobiological research; the Independent Investigator Grant, which helps investigators during the period between initial research and sustained funding; and the Distinguished Investigator Grant, which funds experienced investigators conducting neurobiological and behavioral research. Furthermore, the organization produces the Emmy-Nominated series Healthy Minds with Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, which features experts sharing cutting-edge information, including new approaches and next-generation therapies in the field of Brain and Behavior disorders.

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation has awarded more than $450 million to fund more than 6,500 grants to over 5,400 scientists around the world. Their funding has directly contributed to some of the biggest breakthroughs in brain and behavioral health, including the first fast-acting antidepressants, non-invasive brain stimulation, and computer-guided early diagnosis of mental illness.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation via their website. You can support the organization’s mission by creating your own Team Up for Research fundraiser or attending an event.

5

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: Advancing Research to Advance Cures

Logo for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Because of St. Jude

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Their transparency & ratings:

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

No child should die in the dawn of life.”

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

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What they do:

St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital combats pediatric brain disorders through research initiatives and direct treatment. For example, they created the Pediatric Translational Neuroscience Initiative in 2020 to accelerate the development of novel therapies for pediatric brain disorders, particularly those with no existing effective treatment. Furthermore, their Center for Pediatric Neurological Disease Research, a program of the Pediatric Translational Neuroscience Initiative, investigates the role of genetics in childhood brain disorders. Moreover, they have one of the world’s leading brain tumor programs devoted exclusively to children.

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has contributed to improved outcomes for millions of children, including those suffering from brain disorders. For example, as the only pediatric brain tumor program that works in direct collaboration with a research department in developmental neurobiology, they have created more clinical trials for their patients than any other children’s hospital in the US. Moreover, their investment in research has contributed to some of the most significant developments in the treatment of pediatric diseases. For example, in 1996, St. Jude doctor Peter Doherty was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for his research on viral infections and organ transplants.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital via their website. You can also participate in a fundraiser or volunteer at a chapter in your community.

6

Alzheimer’s Association: Fighting Alzheimer’s and All Other Dementia

Logo for Alzheimer's Association
About the Alzheimer’s Association (English)

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Their transparency & ratings:

The Alzheimer’s Association holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

A world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.”

Alzheimer’s Association

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What they do:

The Alzheimer’s Association combats Alzheimer’s and all other dementia by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. For example, they are committed to advancing vital research toward improving treatment outcomes, enhancing prevention, and ultimately finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Furthermore, they offer comprehensive resources on the disease, including tips for prevention and early detection, types of treatments available, and approaching memory care in others. And, they offer localized support services across America, including face-to-face support, community education programs, and a free 24/7 support helpline.

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the Alzheimer’s Association has become the leading voluntary health organization in the care, support, and research for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. For example, by 2023, the organization had more than $405 million invested in 1,100 active projects in 56 countries across 6 continents. Moreover, in 2023, they provided care and support more than 6.5 million times via their website, care consultations, support groups, and more, and also answered over 200,000 calls and online chats to their 24/7 helpline.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the Alzheimer’s Association via their website. You can also support the organization’s mission by volunteering, attending an event, or joining their advocacy efforts.

7

Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research: A High-Risk, High-Reward Approach to Parkinson’s Research

Logo for Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
Introduction to Clinical Research in PD

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Their transparency & ratings:

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

We aspire to go out of business.

Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

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What they do:

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research combats Parkinson’s disease by funding research projects aimed at improving treatments and ultimately finding a cure for the brain disorder. Their primary objective is getting results to alleviate patient suffering as quickly as possible, typically distributing funds within a few months of donation thanks to their in-house team of formally trained PhDs and business-trained project managers. They also partner with like-minded organizations to ensure the entire community is on the same page. For example, they are the implementation partner of the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) initiative, which fosters collaboration and resources to better understand the underlying causes of the brain disorder.

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has raised over $1.75 billion toward research to identify and accelerate ideas with the greatest potential for impact, leading to some of the most significant developments in the field. For example, in 2010 they launched the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative, the most robust dataset and biosample library in Parkinson’s history. This initiative played a pivotal role in the biggest breakthrough to date; the development of a biomarker test that can detect Parkinson’s pathology in spinal fluid to aid in early detection and prevention of the disease. 

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research via their website. You can also support the organization’s mission by creating your own Team Fox fundraiser or joining their advocacy efforts.

8

Brain Aneurysm Foundation: Raising Awareness, Preventing Fatalities

Logo for Brain Aneurysm Foundation
Stop the Pop! Spreading Brain Aneurysm Awareness

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Their transparency & ratings:

The Brain Aneurysm Foundation holds a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator.

The Brain Aneurysm Foundation aspires towards a life without death or disabilities caused by brain aneurysm ruptures.”

Brain Aneurysm Foundation

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What they do:

The Brain Aneurysm Foundation combats brain aneurysms, one of the most common brain disorders, through research, education, social support, and advocacy. For example, their website provides comprehensive information and guidance on brain aneurysms from basic brain aneurysm facts to choosing a rehabilitation facility. They also provide resources and social support for anyone impacted by a brain aneurysm, including survivors and their caretakers, as well as those mourning the loss of a loved one. Furthermore, the charity raises awareness of brain aneurysm detection and prevention through campaigns like Stop the Pop, and funds research to better understand and prevent fatal brain aneurysms.

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the Brain Aneurysm Foundation has become the largest private funder of brain aneurysm research, funding more than $5 million in grants since 1997. In 2023 alone, they funded 17 research projects aimed at developing a better understanding of the underlying biology of aneurysms, as well as improving treatment methods. They are also a leader in brain aneurysm advocacy, fighting for legislation like Ellie’s Law, which secures funding for ongoing research.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation via their website. You can also support the organization’s mission by joining their advocacy efforts or volunteering at an event.

9

United Brain Association: A Legacy of Hope

Logo for United Brain Association
We are United Brain Association

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Their transparency & ratings:

The United Brain Association holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

No mind left behind.

United Brain Association

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What they do:

The United Brain Association combats brain disorders through education, support, and research. For example, they empower those facing brain disorders and their loved ones by providing Brain Resources on over 600 neurological and psychological issues and disorders through their website and social media platforms. Furthermore, they unite those living with neurological issues by encouraging them to share their Brain Stories, creating a sense of community and hope. They also raise money to fund innovative research into improving prevention, early detection, and treatment at top institutions across the US.

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the United Brain Association has become a vital support resource for thousands of people living with brain disorders and their families. For example, their community has grown to more than 7,500 people and they have published over 20 Brain Stories. Additionally, they have funded research at major institutions across the US, including research on Parkinson’s disease at Johns Hopkins Medical, Tourette’s syndrome at the University of Arizona, and PTSD at Yale School of Medicine.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the United Brain Association via their website. You can also support the organization’s mission by participating in their annual Toy Drive or purchasing branded merchandise.

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities that combat brain disorders. However, you may have a particular charity you want to support. Let’s look at what you can do to ensure your contribution has the most significant impact.

  • Check out the charity website. Charities that are worthy of your donations are transparent in their mission and their figures. Familiarise yourself with their history, mission, and values. Their website usually is the best place to start.
  • Identify the charity’s mission. Without a goal, the charity is likely to fail. If the charity’s mission isn’t clear, it’s probably worth looking for a charity that does have a clear mission. 
  • Check if the charity has measurable goals. An effective charity has clear goals. You want to know your donation will help the charity reach its goals. But if it doesn’t have targets, it’s likely to fail or squander your gift. The charity should be able to account for its spending and supply evidence of the work they do.
  • Assess the successes or goals the charity has achieved. You wouldn’t invest in a business if it kept missing its targets. In the same way, charities are like this too. If no one is assessing a charity’s progress in reaching its targets, the chances are they’re not making a substantial positive change.
  • Check the charity’s financials and stats. Trustworthy organizations will publish financial statements and reports each year. Some might be exempt from having to do so, but they should be able to provide them to public members who are interested in donating.
  • Locate sources who work with or benefit from the charity. Word of mouth and first-hand experience of a charity’s work lets you know the charity’s quality. If you’re able to do so, check out the charity for yourself or speak to someone familiar with it. This way, your donation will go to the right place. 

How Can You Best Support These Charities?

After you’ve made your decision, it’s time for you to decide on how you’d like to help the charities you’ve chosen. Check how you can help – each charity runs specific programs that have unique aims. Find out what the aim of such programs is and whether they are right for you. 

Here are a few ways you can help your chosen charity:

  • Donate money. You can find donation pages on the website of most charities. Your donation can be a one-time payment, or you can set it to be deducted regularly at different intervals. You can mostly pay via credit card, but some charities also take PayPal or Bitcoin payments.
  • Buy their official merchandise. Charities can also raise money by selling merchandise. So, you can support them by buying the mugs, shirts, caps, pens, pencils, and any other such items they may be selling. Ideally, you should buy as much as you can to share and spread the word about the charity’s activities.
  • Engage in volunteer work. As you’ve seen from our descriptions above, some charities engage in a lot of local and grassroots programs. You can help by taking on and organizing the program in your local area.
  • Help their fundraising efforts. You can spread the word about the charity in your workplace, school, church, etc., and hold creative fundraising drives on social media or offline within your small circles.
  • Share their stories. Most charities have compelling stories that you can share with your audience to attract more people to the cause.

Final Thoughts

Now it is up to you to select the charity that resonates most with you. And whichever charity you end up choosing and contributing to, we are sure that they will immensely appreciate your support. Hopefully, the information within this article has made this selection process a bit easier for you to support charities dedicated to combatting brain disorders—based on the causes that matter most to you.

Stay impactful,

Illustration of a signature for Alycia

PS: Finally, I want to leave you with a thought-provoking TED talk from Dan Pallotta, a leading philanthropic activist and fundraiser, about what is wrong with the way we think about charities – and what we can do about it:

The way we think about charity is dead wrong | Dan Pallotta

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