9 Best Charities for First Responders (Complete 2022 List)

9 Best Charities for First Responders (Complete 2022 List)

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Olivia Lopez

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First responders play an integral part in defending the public’s health and wellbeing. First responders undergo rigorous training and many sacrifice their safety to protect others. And with so many charities providing support to first responders, we had to ask: What are the best charities for first responders?

The best charities for first responders are the Gary Sinise Foundation, Operation Gratitude, and Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. These charities provide mental and physical support services to first responders. They also honor fallen first responders and offer aid to their families.

Whether you want to say ‘thanks’ to your local first responders, fundraise for a first responders agency, or offer support to those on the frontlines, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities for first responders are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to make a contribution.

Related: Did you know that you can make Amazon donate 0.5% of your purchases to a charitable organization of your choice. Sign up at smile.amazon.com, select the charity you want your donations to go to, and make Amazon donate a part of your purchases to your chosen charity at no extra cost to you.

Here’s What All the Best Charities for First Responders Have in Common

The charities on this list were chosen based on their mission and transparency ratings. They all carry out programs and services that are designed to show appreciation to first responders, and directly benefit them. They also support first responders’ families. 

These charities operate across the US and honor both active, veteran, and volunteer first responders. They raise awareness of the many sacrifices that first responders make in order to keep others safe, and advocate for the mental and physical wellbeing of frontline workers. 

These Are the 9 Best Charities for First Responders

Below are our favorite charities for first responders:

  • Gary Sinise Foundation
  • Operation Gratitude
  • Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation 
  • Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation
  • Concerns of Police Survivors
  • National Fallen Firefighters Foundation
  • First Responders Support Network
  • First Responders Children’s Foundation
  • All Clear Foundation

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

Gary Sinise Foundation: Empowering All First Responders 

The Gary Sinise Foundation was founded in 2011 by American actor, Gary Sinise to uplift service members and first responders through tailored programs. Sinise is best known for his role in the movie, Forrest Gump, as Lieutenant Dan Taylor, and after playing the role, he developed a profound connection to the country’s service members and first responders. He wanted to give back to them and their families through specialized programs and public advocacy, leading to the creation of the Gary Sinise Foundation.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Gary Sinise Foundation has an impressive 4-star rating and an Accountability and Transparency score of 100 out of 100, both from Charity Navigator. They also hold a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, showcasing their commitment to the wellbeing of the country’s first responders. For example, in 2019, they spent nearly 89% of their income on unique programming for first responders, members of the military, and veterans.

To serve and honor America’s defenders, veterans, first responders, Gold Star families and those in need.

Gary Sinise Foundation

What they do: The Gary Sinise Foundation offers educational, entertaining, and wellness programs that empower first responders, members of the military, veterans, and their families. They deliver one-of-a-kind services to meet the individual needs of the country’s defenders, including developing smart homes for wounded service members, and providing mental health retreats and counseling for those struggling after their service. 

What they’ve achieved: Since their inception, the Gary Sinise Foundation has reached thousands of heroes with their specialized programs. For example, they have provided 74 specially adapted smart homes to wounded defenders. They have modified more than 60 homes and donated 43 mobility devices for the country’s defenders in the most need. In conjunction with their home and mobility programs, they have also delivered more than 500,000 meals to the nation’s defenders, including first responders. 

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to the Gary Sinise Foundation by making a donation through their website. You can also start a local fundraiser to promote their causes and raise funds for their programs. 

Operation Gratitude: Giving Thanks To First Responders

Operation Gratitude was founded in 2003 by Carolyn Blashek to show gratitude towards military personnel and first responders protecting the country. Blashek was inspired to create the organization after an encounter with a soldier, and started a program that would remind those serving that they’re appreciated. In their founding year, Operation Gratitude sent four care packages to military personnel in Iraq, and now serves heroes across the country with their care packages. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: Operation Gratitude holds a 4-star rating and an Accountability and Transparency score of 100 out of 100, both from Charity Navigator. They also have a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. For example, in 2020, approximately 93% of their income was spent on their programs.

To honor our military, veterans, and first responders through hands-on volunteerism.

Operation Gratitude

What they do: Operation Gratitude aims to uplift and honor first responders by providing thoughtful care packages to those serving on the frontlines. They also strive to bring awareness to the work first responders take on.

What they’ve achieved: Operation Gratitude has reached more than 700 first responder departments across the US with hundreds of thousands of care packages successfully delivered. For example, in 2020, they impacted more than 16,000 first responders with their care services. In the same year, they also supported over 164,000 first responders attending to health crises in the US.

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to Operation Gratitude by donating through their website. You can also show your support by volunteering to write letters to first responders, or by making homemade gifts and paracord bracelets.

Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation: Supporting the Nation’s First Responders

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation was founded by Frank Siller in 2001, after the September 11, 2001 attacks, to honor his brother, Stephen Siller. Stephen had heroically responded to the attacks in New York City, and Frank wanted to use his brother’s story as inspiration to uplift other first responders and their families, especially those affected by the 9/11 attacks. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation maintains an impressive 4-star rating, and an Accountability and Transparency score of 100 out of 100 from Charity Navigator. They have a high Financial score of 97 out of 100, also from Charity Navigator. For example, in 2019, approximately 93% of their income was spent on their programming and services. 

To honor our military and first responders who continue to make the supreme sacrifice of life and limb for our country.

Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers

What they do: The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation honors first responders who have died during their service. They also provide substantial support to the victims’ families by giving them mortgage-free homes, and by paying off any existing mortgages that could cause them insecurity or instability.

What they’ve achieved: Since their inception, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation has provided hundreds of mortgage-free homes to the families of fallen first responders. They have successfully delivered homes across more than 15 US states. For example, in 2020, they provided nearly 250 mortgage-free homes to victims’ families. They have also reached more than 500,000 people with their mobile 9/11 exhibit

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation by donating directly through their website. You can show your support in other ways too, including hosting an event to fundraise for them, or by purchasing some branded merchandise via their online shop

Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation: Aiding First Responder Agencies

Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation was founded in 2005 by Chris Sorenson and Robin Sorenson, to provide relief to survivors and first responders in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Their first mission was carried out in Mississippi, but they later established the organization in Florida. Today, they provide tools and funding support to first responder agencies across the US.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has a 4-star rating and a Financial score of 100 out of 100 from Charity Navigator. They also have a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar

To impact the lifesaving capabilities, and the lives, of local heroes and their communities.

Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation

What they do: Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation Inc. delivers innovative tools and resources to first responder agencies in the US. They supply financial support and equipment that help agencies respond to disasters and emergencies quicker and more efficiently. They also offer tools that empower first responders, and keep them safe while on the job. 

What they’ve achieved: Since their founding, Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has expanded to serve first responders in 49 US states, including Puerto Rico. For example, in 2020, they provided 13 rescue boats, 75 thermal imaging cameras, and 433 sets of bunker gear to first responder agencies across the country. 

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation by donating directly through their website.

Concerns of Police Survivors: Uplifting the Survivors of Fallen Officers

Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) was founded in 1984, in Maryland, by Suzanne Sawyer, to support the families of first responders, particularly law enforcement members, who lost their lives while serving their communities. Sawyer, along with more than 100 advocates, established C.O.P.S. and helped grow it into the organization it is today.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Concerns of Police Survivors maintains a 4-star rating and an Accountability and Transparency score of 100 out of 100 from Charity Navigator. They have also earned a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. For example, in 2020, they spent over 75% of their income on peer support, benefits assistance, and their programs. 

Rebuilding shattered lives of survivors and co-workers affected by line-of-duty deaths.

Concerns of Police Survivors

What they do: Concerns of Police Survivors provides support and resources to surviving children, spouses, and other family members of fallen first responders, especially law enforcement members, who died in the line of duty. They aim to help survivors rebuild their lives by offering financial and emotional assistance through their hands-on program, counseling program, and scholarship program.

What they’ve achieved: Since their founding, Concerns of Police Survivors have reached more than 50,000 survivors of fallen law enforcement members. They have also hosted more than 170 training sessions across 9 US states educating first responder agencies on police trauma and wellbeing. In 2020, they awarded scholarships to 55 family members of law enforcement officers who passed away while in the line of duty. 

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to Concerns of Police Survivors by donating through their website. They also welcome in-kind donations and vehicle donations to support their programs and services.

National Fallen Firefighters Foundation: Remembering Fallen Firefighters 

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation was established in 1992 by the US Congress to honor and remember firefighters that had sacrificed themselves in the line of service. By 2004, they expanded to provide support to the families of fallen first responders, as well as their co-workers and relevant departments. Today, their headquarters is based in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Their impact and transparency ratings: National Fallen Firefighters Foundation holds an impressive 4-star rating, and an Accountability and Transparency score of 100 out of 100 from Charity Navigator. They also hold a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.  

To honor and remember America’s fallen fire heroes.

National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

What they do: The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation honors fallen firefighters through remembrance programs and dedicated services to their families. They uplift and empower the families impacted by firefighter fatalities through scholarship programs and community outreach. They also provide direct assistance to agencies across the country that have experienced the impacts of losing first responders.

What they’ve achieved: Since their founding, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has reached hundreds of families of firefighters with their programs and services. For example, in 2020, they enlisted support to send over 4,000 remembrance cards to the families of fallen firefighters. In the same year, their volunteers helped file more than 490 applications for the Justice’s Public Safety Officers’ Benefit, which helps families in the aftermath of a firefighter’s fatality. Their assistance benefited agencies that had over 120 first responder fatalities in total.

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation by downloading a donation form from their website, and mailing it to the address listed. You can also show your support by starting a fundraiser on their behalf, or by purchasing some branded gear from their online shop.

First Responders Support Network: Providing Critical Support for First Responders

The First Responders Support Network was founded in 1999 by a group of first responders in California, to address the trauma and stress many first responders encounter on the job. They soon expanded their work across the West Coast, providing trauma support to first responders in Oregon and Washington. Today, their headquarters remains based in California.

Their impact and transparency ratings: First Responders Support Network holds a Finance and Accountability score of 80 out of 100 from Charity Navigator. They also have a Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. For example, in 2019, they spent nearly 81% of their income on their programs and services.

To provide first responders and their families tools to reduce the effects of traumatic stress and develop resiliency.

First Responders Support Network

What they do: The First Responders Support Network offers trauma and stress relief resources to first responders and their families. They deliver these resources through tailored retreats and programs that target unique trauma first responders may encounter through their line of work. 

What they’ve achieved: Since 2001, the First Responders Support Network has reached more than 1,500 first responders with their trauma treatment programs. They rely heavily on the support from first responder peers and volunteers who have delivered more than 54,000 hours of work annually. They’ve also expanded their reach to serve communities in more than 6 US states, including Arizona and Indiana.

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to the First Responders Support Network by donating through their website. You can also show your support by volunteering with them as a chaplain, SOS peer, and much more.

First Responders Children’s Foundation: Delivering Financial Aid to First Responders’ Families

The First Responders Children’s Foundation was founded in 2002 by Alfred R. Kahn to bring together the families of first responders who had lost loved ones during the tragic 9/11 events. He began the organization by hosting a Thanksgiving Day Parade Breakfast in November 2001, shortly after the September 11th attacks, and the gathering would eventually become an annual tradition. Today, their headquarters is based in New York City.

Their impact and transparency ratings: First Responders Children’s Foundation holds a Finance and Accountability score of 100 out of 100 from Charity Navigator. They also have a Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.  

To provide financial support to children who have lost a parent in the line of duty.

First Responders Children’s Foundation

What they do: The First Responders Children’s Foundation provides financial support and education funding to the surviving children of first responders who have lost their lives during the line of duty. They provide bereavement assistance to the first responders’ families, and raises awareness of their sacrifices through programs, fundraisers, and community events.

What they’ve achieved: Since their inception, the First Responders Children’s Foundation has reached nearly 530,000 surviving children with their services. They have also delivered financial aid to another 232,000 families of first responders. For example, in 2019, they provided 44 college scholarships to children of first responders, and in 2020, they paid for 174 funerals of fallen emergency response providers.

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to the First Responders Children’s Foundation by donating through their website. You can also attend some of their many events held throughout the year. They also have an online shop, where you can purchase attire to show your support for first responders.

All Clear Foundation: Improving the Lives of First Responders

All Clear Foundation was founded in 2019 by Global Medical Response, to improve first responders’ mental and physical wellness. They serve both career and volunteer first responders, including EMTs, firefighters, law enforcement, dispatch, and many more. Today, their headquarters is based in Denver, Colorado. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: All Clear Foundation holds a Gold Seal of Transparency from Guidestar. They also receive funding support from Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to help develop their programs.

To improve the overall wellbeing and longevity of those who serve our communities in times of need.

All Clear Foundation

What they do: All Clear Foundation strives to prolong the life expectancy and mental wellbeing of first responders. They provide a range of support services to eliminate the stress and isolation that many first responders encounter while on the job. They also empower first responders to create healthy work-life balances.

What they’ve achieved: Since their founding, All Clear Foundation has trained more than 330 first responders with their Responder Strong mental wellness program. They have helped improve the mental health of 130 students from the program. They also work with more than 15 facilities across their target states that offer treatment and support for first responders. 

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to the All Clear Foundation by donating directly through their website. 

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities for first responders. 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. Familiarize 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 the progress a charity makes in reaching its targets, the chances are not making 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. The 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.
  • Donate a percentage of your online purchases. If you bought anything on sites like Amazon lately, you’d find a prompt asking you to donate to your favorite charities through their Amazon Smile program. You can set this up so that your chosen charities will get a fraction of your online purchases.
  • 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 first responders – based on the causes that matter most to you.

Stay impactful,

Illustration of a signature for Brittany



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:

Sources

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Olivia Lopez

Olivia loves to research and write about all things related to social justice. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Rights and has worked and interned with a number of NGOs, including the UN. When she’s not writing, she likes to take her dog for walks, cook Mexican food, and learn new languages.

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