9 Best Charities That Advance Medical Research (Complete 2024 List)

9 Best Charities That Advance Medical Research (Complete 2024 List)

By
Alycia O'Dell

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Around the world, advances in medical research are saving lives by introducing healthcare providers to the newest and most innovative techniques in the prevention, treatment, and cure of disease. For example, in 2022, 426,709 clinical studies were conducted across all 50 states and 221 countries to find treatments for fatal diseases. To investigate their game-changing ideas, researchers rely on funding from various institutions, including grants from nonprofit organizations. So, we had to ask: What are the best charities that advance medical research?

The best charities that advance medical research are the American Heart Association and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Charities like the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the American Foundation for AIDS Research fund research into new approaches to eradicate potentially fatal diseases.

Whether you want to fund research to cure childhood cancer, ensure that the field of heart health continues to make strides against heart disease, or investigate new and improved ways to treat depression, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities that advance medical research are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to contribute.

Here’s What All the Best Charities That Advance Medical Research Have in Common

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

The majority of these charities operate primarily throughout the US and Canada, but some work to advance medical research internationally.

Many of these charities focus on advancing research to find the best treatments to end diseases affecting specific populations, like women or children. Others focus on finding new ways to treat issues affecting broader populations, such as mental illness or hearing loss.

Some work to finally eradicate potentially fatal diseases, like HIV and AIDS, while others tackle the health of vital organs, such as the heart or the kidney.

Yet, they all share a common goal; to save as many lives as possible by advancing medical research.

These Are the 9 Best Charities That Advance Medical Research in 2024

Below are our favorite charities for advancing medical research (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 Heart Association: Research for Healthier Hearts

Logo for American Heart Association
American Heart Association, Life is Why

🔎

Their transparency & ratings:

Charity Navigator gives the American Heart Association a 4-star rating. GuideStar gives the charity a Platinum Seal of Transparency. 

Life is why.

American Heart Association

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What they do:

The American Heart Association advances medical research by funding various grants and projects to support the work of some of the brightest researchers in the country. For example, their Strategically Focused Research Networks bring together researchers from top institutions to collaborate on specific topics, like the cardiovascular effects of Long COVID. As another example, their Merit Awards provide funding for creative approaches with the potential to move a field of science forward. And, their One Brave Idea initiative awards $75 million to a single research team aiming to cure coronary heart disease.

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the American Heart Association has invested more than $4.8 billion across over 47,000 research projects to improve the heart health of millions of people around the world. For example, they have funded the work of 14 Nobel Prize-winning scientists, and their efforts have contributed to a 15.1% reduction in deaths from heart disease and a 13.6% reduction in deaths from stroke since 2018.

Ways to contribute:

You can make a one-time donation to the American Heart Association via their website, or you can register to give monthly. You can also support the charity by volunteering or participating in an event in your local community.

2

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

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

🔎

Their transparency & ratings:

Charity Navigator gives St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital a 4-star rating. GuideStar gives the charity a Silver Seal of Transparency. 

No child should die in the dawn of life.”

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

⚒️

What they do:

St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital advances cures and prevention for pediatric diseases through research and treatment. They do this by providing direct treatment to children with life-threatening diseases, including experimental or specialized treatment for children who have not responded to standard care. They also provide resources and support services free of charge to families at all stages of treatment. In addition, they fund research to better understand diseases, including childhood cancer, and to develop breakthrough treatments. Furthermore, they offer training to future clinicians and biomedical researchers.

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital has become known as one of the world’s premier pediatric cancer research centers. Their investment in research has helped to push the overall survival rate for childhood cancer from 20% to over 80%, and they are responsible for some of the most significant developments in the treatment of pediatric diseases in the field’s history. 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.

3

Breast Cancer Research Foundation: Investing in the Cure

Logo for Breast Cancer Research Foundation
Research Is the Reason 2021

🔎

Their transparency & ratings:

Charity Navigator gives the Breast Cancer Research Foundation a 3-star rating. GuideStar gives the charity a Gold rating for transparency. 

“Research is the reason.”

Breast Cancer Research Foundation

⚒️

What they do:

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation advances medical research by providing critical funding in the fight against breast cancer. Recognizing the complexity of the disease, they support different areas of focus to ensure they are investigating it from all angles. For example, their tumor biology research analyzes the anatomy of cancerous tumors to better understand how they react to different treatments. In addition, their heredity and genetics research focuses on how family history, race, and ethnicity impact one’s breast cancer risk. 

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation has raised over $1 billion to end breast cancer, making them the world’s largest private funder of breast cancer research. Investigators supported by the charity have been involved in every major breakthrough in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, metastasis, and survivorship during that time. For example, a study conducted by Dr. Nancy Lin led to the approval of Tukysa (tucatinib), as the first-ever drug to treat HER2-positive breast cancer that has spread to the brain. 

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation via their website. You can also contribute by fundraising, shopping pink, or attending an event.

4

American Foundation for AIDS Research: Ending the AIDS Epidemic Through Research]

Logo for American Foundation for AIDS Research
amfAR: Innovation, Collaboration, Inspiration

🔎

Their transparency & ratings:

Charity Navigator gives the American Foundation for AIDS Research a 3-star rating. 

Making AIDS history.”

American Foundation for AIDS Research

⚒️

What they do:

The American Foundation for AIDS Research advances medical research by awarding grants to researchers working to eradicate AIDS. For example, their Mathilde Krim Fellowships in Biomedical Research program helps new researchers investigate novel ideas by helping them transition from their doctoral program to an independent research career. As another example, their Target Grants fund teams of researchers working to cure AIDS by eliminating infected cells left behind by existing treatments. Furthermore, they fight HIV and AIDS on a global scale through their TREAT Asia program, a network connecting clinics, research institutions, hospitals, and civil society to ensure the safe and effective delivery of HIV treatment across Asia and the South Pacific.

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the American Foundation for AIDS Research has invested nearly $617 million in their programs and awarded 3,500 grants to advance AIDS research. For example, in 2021 alone, they supported 30 research teams and funded $600,000 toward research on gene therapy to cure HIV. In the same year, their TREAT Asia program was awarded a $15 million renewal grant by the National Institutes of Health to continue its research and treatment efforts across Asia and the South Pacific. Their network currently consists of 21 pediatric and 21 adult sites across the region. 

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the American Foundation for AIDS Research via their website. You can also host a fundraiser or purchase merchandise from their online store.

5

KidneyCure: Eradicating Kidney Disease Through Research

Logo for KidneyCure
United 4 Kidney Health 2022 – Campaign Overview

🔎

Their transparency & ratings:

Charity Navigator gives KidneyCure a 4-star rating. GuideStar gives the charity a Gold Seal of Transparency.

Fund it. Find it.”

KidneyCure

⚒️

What they do:

KidneyCure advances medical research by providing funds to prevent, treat, and cure kidney disease. They do this by awarding independent grants to new researchers exploring novel ideas in kidney disease and related complications. And, they help the next generation of investigators gain experience by allowing students and fellows to participate in their research projects. Furthermore, they fund clinical scholars to advance nephrology education.

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, KidneyCure has invested over $46 million in the fight against kidney diseases. For example, in 2019 alone, they provided approximately $3 million in grants across 46 leading kidney researchers and educators to advance the field of kidney care. As an example, in 2022, they awarded a Ben J. Lipps Research Fellow Award Grant to Johnny Bou Saba to study the potential reparative outcomes of regulatory T-cell therapy to promote early tissue repair in kidney transplant patients. 

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to KidneyCure via their website. You can also join their fundraising campaigns or apply for an independent research grant.

6

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation: Funding Mental Health Innovation

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

🔎

Their transparency & ratings:

Charity Navigator gives the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation a 3-star rating. GuideStar gives the charity a Platinum Seal of Transparency. 

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

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

⚒️

What they do:

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation advances medical research by funding the most innovative ideas in neuroscience. For this, they award grants to scientists researching new ways to understand, prevent, and treat mental illness. For example, in 2005, they funded research on a new technology called Optogenetics, which is now in use at thousands of labs around the world to identify the mechanisms that cause depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation has awarded more than $430 million to fund more than 6,200 grants in mental health research. Their funding has directly contributed to some of the biggest breakthroughs in the mental health community, including the first fast-acting antidepressants, non-invasive brain stimulation, and computer-guided early diagnosis of mental illness.

Ways to contribute:

You can make a monetary donation to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation via their website. You can also get involved by sponsoring an event or creating your own fundraiser.

7

The V Foundation: Victory Over Cancer

Logo for The V Foundation
Help Us Achieve Victory Over Cancer

🔎

Their transparency & ratings:

Charity Navigator gives The V Foundation a 4-star rating. According to their financial report, the charity spent 81.4% of their expenditure on grants and 7.9% on fundraising.

Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

The V Foundation

⚒️

What they do:

The V Foundation advances medical research by funding game-changing research to combat cancers affecting adults and children. Through a highly competitive selection process, The V Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Committee awards grants to the most promising people and projects. For example, grants for childhood cancer research are funded through the charity’s Dick Vitale Fund for Pediatric Cancer. These include research into new therapy treatments for pediatric cancer patients, as well as better ways to protect the reproductive health of young cancer patients

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, The V Foundation has awarded nearly $290 million in research grants to more than 154 institutions in 40 states in the US and Canada. Furthermore, the Dick Vitale Fund for Pediatric Cancer has awarded almost $67 million to end childhood cancer, including the development of genetic therapies that target the PPMID gene, which causes tumor growth.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to The V Foundation’s Dick Vitale Fund for Pediatric Cancer via their website. You can also participate in an event or support a fundraiser.

8

American Hearing Research Foundation: Funding Hearing Innovation

Logo for American Hearing Research Foundation
Captioned: Spotlight on Hearing and Balance (Meniere's)

🔎

Their transparency & ratings:

Charity Navigator gives the American Hearing Research Foundation a 100% rating for Finance and Accountability. GuideStar gives the charity a Gold rating for transparency. 

“Making new discoveries possible for more than 60 years.”

American Hearing Research Foundation

⚒️

What they do:

The American Hearing Research Foundation advances medical research by providing seed grants for novel research to better understand and overcome hearing and balance disorders of the inner ear. Their Research Committee chooses 5 to 10 projects to fund a year, prioritizing proposals that include groundbreaking research ideas. For example, in 2002, they funded research that led to the discovery of the human deafness gene. They also work to educate the public about hearing loss prevention through their bi-annual newsletter and through educational resources on their website.

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the American Hearing Research Foundation has funded hundreds of projects to advance the understanding of hearing and balance disorders. For example between 2010 and 2022, they funded 106 projects with over $2.5 million in grants, including a project that led to the discovery of hair-cell roots, changing the way scientists think about the inner ear.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the American Hearing Research Foundation via their website. You can also sign up to receive their newsletter.

9

CURE Childhood Cancer: Fighting Cancer, Supporting Families

Logo for CURE Childhood Cancer
CURE Childhood Cancer 2021

🔎

Their transparency & ratings:

Charity Navigator gives CURE Childhood Cancer a 4-star rating. GuideStar gives the charity a Gold Seal of Transparency.

Until there is a cure, there’s CURE.”

CURE Childhood Cancer

⚒️

What they do:

CURE Childhood Cancer advances medical research to eradicate all cancers affecting children. They prioritize research that will lead to more efficient treatment, such as the use of precision medicine to determine the best course of treatment for each individual child. They also offer emotional, financial, and practical support to families. For example, their Open Arms Meal Program provides meals to families in the hospital. In addition, their Early Outreach Program provides newly diagnosed families with a tote bag containing essential resources, such as an educational booklet written by experienced parents, and connects families with a community of emotional support.

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, CURE Childhood Cancer has improved the lives of millions of children with cancer and their families. For example, since 2010, they have invested over $38 million in cutting-edge cancer research, including the development of genetic testing for children with high-risk tumors. Furthermore, in 2021, their Open Arms Meal Program provided 13,000 boxed meals to families in hospitals. In the same year, their Early Outreach Program distributed 342 tote bags to newly diagnosed families.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to CURE Childhood Cancer via their website. You can also attend an event or host a fundraiser.

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities for advancing medical research. 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 if 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 can 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 advancing medical research – 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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