9 Best Charities for International Aid (Complete 2021 List)

9 Best Charities for International Aid (Complete 2021 List)

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Dennis Kamprad

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At its core, international aid is a voluntary transfer of resources from one country to another. And as diverse as the contributions are – from education to health to poverty to disaster relief – are the charities helping to combat these. So we had to ask: Which are the best charities for international aid?

The best charities for international aid include Doctors Without Borders, Direct Relief, CARE, Americare, and the International Rescue Committee. These have helped millions of people around the world, contributing billions of dollars in goods and as direct payments – all with high impact ratings.

Whether you want to support an existing program, a specific vision, or even give directly, there is a charity for you. But, choosing a charity with impactful and lasting goals and missions that are aligned with what you want to achieve is essential. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities for international aid are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to make a contribution.

Here’s What All the Best Charities for International Aid Have in Common

The charities on this list were chosen based on their mission, impact and transparency ratings, and achievements. They operate all over the world, from North America to Asia. And they all share the same goal of providing international aid. 

Following are those charities that are globally acclaimed and widely commended for their outstanding services and constant support for communities in need. They provide regular, innovative, and effective programs and solutions to the most pressing issues – from health to education to poverty to disaster relief.

These Are the 9 Best Charities for International Aid

Below are our favorite charities for international aid (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.)

Doctors Without Borders: A Game Changer When It Comes to International Aid

Doctors Without Borders is a group founded in May of 1968 by a group of doctors with the intent of helping war victims and disaster-stricken areas. It has 28 offices worldwide and 30,000 employees stationed in different countries. They focus on directly and effectively providing assistance to those who need it the most. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: Doctors Without Borders has an overall Charity Navigator rating of 92.25. It also holds the Platinum Seal from GuideStar which signifies their openness to disclosing their results and progress. 

“Our mission is to provide lifesaving medical care to those most in need.”

Doctors Without Borders

What they do: Doctors Without Borders aims to administer health care to those most in need, disseminate information about medical emergencies, and help communities establish long-term facilities and resources for medical treatment. With logistic centers, access to health care, research and development, and advocacies beyond medical care, Doctors Without Borders is indeed a game-changer when it comes to international aid. 

What they’ve achieved: Doctors Without Borders has treated more than 100 million patients as well as more than 8 million out-patient consultations. They have been prompt in responding to emergencies and calamities in different parts of the world. Oh yes, and one of the most notable achievements of Doctors Without Borders is winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 for introducing humanitarian work to several continents.

Ways to contribute: There are numerous ways of contributing to Doctors Without Borders and the most common method is through one-time or monthly online or mail donations. The organization is also open for donations in the form of stocks and mutual funds, corporate giving, or legacy giving. Moreover, you can take part in their fundraisers, events, and other engagements.

Direct Relief: Giving Is Good Medicine

Direct Relief was founded in 1948 by William Zimdin, an Estonian immigrant to the United States, who sent thousands of relief packages to family and friends in Europe after World War II. In the 1960s, Direct Relief expanded its programs to include serving people from medically neglected areas of the world. The organization also extends assistance to emergencies and refugees in different nations. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: Direct Relief has an impressive rating of 100% from Charity Navigator. Fast Company has also named it as one of the “10 Most Innovative Nonprofits” in 2015 for its mapping technology during the Ebola outbreak. Forbes has also recognized Direct Relief as one of the most efficient fundraising charities in the United States. 

“Improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay.”

Direct Relief

What they do: The organization’s programs focus on emergency readiness, disaster awareness, and the prevention and treatment of diseases. Their beneficiaries are the most vulnerable populations in the world. Direct Relief also supplies medical personnel in impoverished communities with the challenges of caring for the children and families. 

What they’ve achieved: In 2020 alone, Direct Relief shipped $1 billion in medical aid to more than 90 countries – all with 100% of all donations for specific emergencies devoted entirely to those responses, 0% of donations spent on fundraising, and 0% government funding. In 2015, Esri has awarded Direct Relief the Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) Award with its contributions to the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Ways to contribute: Direct Relief openly accepts one-time, monthly, and tribute donations. They are also open for fundraising events on Facebook, GoFundMe, and even on gaming platforms. The organization is also in partnership with several companies and businesses to lobby for humanitarian purposes. 

CARE: Defending Dignity, Fighting Poverty

CARE was established in 1945 by Arthur Cuming Ringland, Wallace Campbell, and Lincoln Clark as a humanitarian relief and development support organization. It is one of the oldest organizations for international aid and the first CARE Packages were distributed after World War II. CARE stands for Cooperative Assistance and Relief Everywhere and caters to numerous causes, including fighting poverty, improving education, and combatting climate change. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: CARE has an overall rating of 88.50% from Charity Navigator with 97% for their accountability and transparency. 90% of all their expenses are allocated for their program services. 

“CARE works around the globe to save lives, defeat poverty, and achieve social justice.”

CARE

What they do: CARE advocates for social justice and for the rights of the poor through supporting local and national policy changes. They also concentrate on empowering women and promoting gender equality. Their programs are committed to their core values: transformation, integrity, diversity, excellence, and equality. 

What they’ve achieved: In 2019, CARE has reported working in more than 100 countries and more than 1,000 projects for alleviating poverty and international aid projects. They have also reached more than 90 million people directly and up to 433 million people indirectly

Ways to contribute: CARE is accepting one-time and monthly donations through phone, mail, or electronic bank transfers. They are also open for stocks and mutual funds, donor-advised funds, planned giving, and corporate gifts. Donors can also donate to send care packages as well as donate their cars through CARE’s vehicle donation program. Additionally, they are open for Facebook fundraisers too. 

Americares: Health Is Fundamental

Americares is a global non-profit organization that addresses the needs of those affected by crisis and poverty. It gives emphasis to development and health programs to help the people with medical supplies and medicines. It was founded in 1979 by Robert Macauley and the organization now serves 164 countries around the world. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The organization has a rating of 95.31% from Charity Navigator with 97% for its transparency. It also has a Platinum Seal from GuideStar.

“Americares saves lives and improves health for people affected by poverty or disaster so they can reach their full potential.”

Americares

What they do: Americares responds to crises through its emergency and health programs to provide people with access to medicine and medical supplies. It also has clinical services that dispatch quality health care to different areas. At least 98% of their resources are used for supporting health projects. 

What they’ve achieved: With more than 40 years of service, Americares has given more than $17 billion in aid to 164 countries. Each year, it responds to at least 30 crises worldwide with lasting recovery projects and disaster preparedness. It currently supports more than 4,000 health centers in different countries. 

Ways to contribute: Americares welcomes one-time or monthly donations as well as gift planning, securities, and donor-advised funds. It is also open for partnerships with corporations, foundations, and medical professionals. Furthermore, donors can host fundraisers for Americares. The organization accepts people who are interested to be interns, volunteers, and employees. 

International Rescue Committee: Survive, Recover, and Reclaim Control of the Future

The International Rescue Committee is a global organization for humanitarian and development aid and relief. It was founded in 1931 by Albert Einstein as International Relief Association but in 1942, the organization’s name was changed after uniting with a similar organization called Emergency Rescue Committee to what they are not called – the International Rescue Committee. Their programs mainly focus on safety, education, economic well-being, and health.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The organization has an overall rating of 86.92% from Charity Navigator, which translates to a four-star rating. They also received a grade of A from Charity Watch for their transparency. 

“To help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.”

International Rescue Committee

What they do: The International Rescue Committee focuses on finding long-term and high-impact solutions for people affected by crises. They aim to help people have sustainable income, to educate children for them to become valuable members of the community, to inform people about their rights, to provide health aid in cases of conflict and natural disasters, to ensure people’s safety, and to support women in their pursuit for equal opportunities. Their employees are also working towards lobbying for humanitarian policies that can improve the lives of people around the world.

What they’ve achieved: The IRC has helped more than 19,000,000 children with their education and nutrition. They have also contributed business grants and loans for more than 9,000 households for livelihood purposes. The organization has also hosted information dissemination campaigns for political participation, child protection, gender-based violence, and more which educated up to 200,000 people. 

Ways to contribute: The International Rescue Committee is open for one-time and monthly donations as well as rescue gifts for refugees. They are also accepting volunteers for their programs located in the United States. Tribute gifts, donor-advised funds, and planned giving are also great ways to help the IRC. Fundraising events are also acceptable methods of donating. 

MAP International: Medicine for the World

MAP International is a nonprofit organization that serves people of all ages, religions, races, and nationalities. It focuses on health concerns such as prevention and treatment of diseases, launching medical missions, and offering disaster relief. It was founded in 1954 by J. Raymond Knighton.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Charity Navigator gives a rating of 95.58% for MAP International with 100% for accountability and transparency. 

“Providing medicines and health supplies to those in need around the world so they might experience life to the fullest. MAP serves all people regardless of religion, gender, race, nationality or ethnic background.”

MAP International

What they do: MAP International obtains medicines and health supplies through its generous pharmaceutical partners. They also purchase such medical needs to supplement their donations, work with international and local non-government organizations to come up with the products that the communities need the most, and ship out medical supplies to their global partners. 

What they’ve achieved: The charity has been providing crucial medical care and supplies to other countries for 67 years now. It has served more than 20 million people in numerous parts of the globe. So far, they have imparted medical aid to a total of 86 countries. 

Ways to contribute: MAP International has one-time or monthly donations available for interested donors. They also offer a gift catalog with lifesaving products, medicines, and equipment for children and families in need. You can also donate stocks and mutual funds to help with the organization’s missions.

Give Directly: Sending Money Directly to the Extremely Poor

Give Directly was founded in 2008 with the purpose of uplifting families living in extreme poverty through mobile cash transfers. Their operations usually take place in Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda, and other areas in East Africa.

Their impact and transparency ratings: According to Charity Navigator, Give Directly is a four-star organization with an overall rating of 98.23% and a 100% transparency rating.

“We believe people living in poverty deserve the dignity to choose for themselves how best to improve their lives, and cash enables that choice.”

Give Directly

What they do: Give Directly is a direct donation organization from donors to the world’s poorest families. And they conduct research and reports about how families spend their donations. The organization has also helped long-term refugees through unconditional cash transfers.

What they’ve achieved: Give Directly has provided more than $300 million to 500,000 families suffering from poverty. For example, in 2016, Give Directly allocated $30 million to examine the possibility of universal basic income to eradicate poverty in the poorest regions. More recently, they have raised $160 million for the emergency cash relief program for the COVID-19 response to help families cope with the crisis. 

Ways to contribute: Give Directly has flexible donation plans for those who want to donate, once, monthly, or annually. Donors can also select the program that they want to donate to. 

Children International: Bringing People Together to End Poverty for Good

Children International started in 1936 with the Holy Land Christian Mission which provided food baskets to families and treatment for minor infections and illnesses in Jerusalem, and Bethlehem. They have also opened agencies in provinces of different countries such as the Philippines and the Dominican Republic.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Children International has been named as one of the top humanitarian organizations in the United States. It has a Platinum Seal from GuideStar as well as a rating of 89.39 on Charity Navigator. In 2020, the organization used 85% of its operating expenses to support programs for the youth. 

“We connect people around the world in the fight to end poverty.”

Children International

What they do: One of the main goals of Children International is to uplift children from the effects of poverty. The members of the organization also take it upon themselves to support the children in their education and to prepare them to become responsible members of society. Additionally, Children International offers medical, dental, educational, mental, and employment assistance to its beneficiaries. 

What they’ve achieved: Children International have helped more than 200,000 children around the world. Through their health programs, 97% of the sponsored children have been provided with the necessary primary health care needs. For their educational programs, they have guided 97% of the population to graduate from fifth grade and 90% of the children were able to finish lower secondary school. 

Ways to contribute: Donations for Children International are called family gifts that can help parents and children conquer poverty. They also have numerous funds that people can donate to more specific causes. Moreover, they have a Sponsor or Visit a Child Program to give children a better and brighter future. 

International Aid Transparency Initiative: Strengthening Transparency and Humanitarian Resources

The International Aid Transparency Initiative was founded in 2008 as a global organization working towards transparency with regard to how organizations spend money. They ensure that the money from organizations will go to the rightful beneficiaries. With the overarching goal of alleviating poverty and helping families achieve a better standard of living.

Their impact and transparency ratings: More than 1000 organizations and charities have entrusted the International Aid Transparency Initiative to track their aid information. 

“A data standard for sharing information on humanitarian and development resources and the results that are achieved.”

International Aid Transparency Initiative

What they do: The organization releases information required to improve the effectiveness and transparency of charities in order to maximize the latter’s potential to help the poorest families. The registered institutions will be requested to submit their organizational background, specified activities, and finances. Stands set by the IATA allow the charities to become more efficient in accountability and decision-making.

What they’ve achieved: Some key achievements include that  47% of the European Union’s aid flows were recorded by the International Aid Transparency Initiative. James Coe, an officer of Publish What You Want, stated that there are more than 30,000 agricultural activities in the organization’s registry. And the IATI launched the Make Aid Transparent campaign that was successfully supported by 60 major organizations. 

Ways to contribute: The International Aid Transparency Initiative encourages new members to join their community and to help them in their dedication to improving transparency. Members will have access to presentation materials, videos, and resources to raise awareness about the IATI standards.

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities for international aid. 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 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

Through these international charities, you are not only informed about what their advocacy is about but you are also given a remarkable opportunity to help other people. It reminds you that no matter where you are in the world, you can make a difference in simple yet giving ways. 

Think of the child who can now attend school, the parents who can now provide for their children, and the community that can now rise from poverty. Luckily, with most of the information available online and this article’s help, selecting a charity for international will be simple for you and everyone.

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:

Stay impactful,



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