9 Best Charities for Vulnerable Adults (Complete 2024 List)

9 Best Charities for Vulnerable Adults (Complete 2024 List)

By
Alycia O'Dell

Read Time:20 Minutes

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From cognitive impairment and physical disability to old age and homelessness, millions of adults around the world are considered vulnerable. These individuals rely either partially or completely on others for care but also deserve to live with dignity and autonomy. Fortunately, organizations around the world remain dedicated to supporting vulnerable adults, promoting economic opportunity, independent living, and respect. So we had to ask: What are the best charities for vulnerable adults?

The best charities for vulnerable adults are Meals On Wheels America and Easterseals. Charities such as the AARP Foundation and the National Council on Aging work to ensure that older adults can live as independently and securely as possible.

Whether you want to help a physically disabled adult navigate their environment independently, provide relevant job-skills training for older adults, or create permanent stability for homeless individuals, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities for vulnerable adults are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to contribute.

Here’s What All the Best Charities for Vulnerable Adults 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 support vulnerable adults internationally.

Many of these charities provide direct training and opportunities to help vulnerable adults secure employment, while others provide social opportunities to combat isolation. Some cater to specific populations like those with disabilities. Others support anyone whose circumstances contribute to their vulnerability.

Some of the charities below focus on providing support to maximize independence and autonomy, while others focus on advocacy and policy change.

Yet, they all share the same goal of helping vulnerable adults.

These Are the 9 Best Charities for Vulnerable Adults in 2024

Below are our favorite charities for vulnerable adults (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

Meals on Wheels America: Delivering More than Meals

Logo for Meals on Wheels America
Meals on Wheels: Tailored Nutrition and Vital Services

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Their transparency & ratings:

Meals on Wheels America holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“Together, we can deliver.”

Meals on Wheels America

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What they do:

Meals on Wheels America supports the physical and social well-being of seniors by delivering nutritious meals, friendly visits, and safety checks. Volunteers bring meals to individual seniors in their homes and provide socialization to those who may be isolated otherwise. They also assess at-risk seniors’ health and living conditions to identify and report health concerns. Additionally, they facilitate meal delivery to congregate nutrition sites such as senior centers, which provide additional opportunities for socialization. Moreover, they advocate to ensure that the needs of seniors are represented at all levels of government.

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What they’ve achieved:

Meals on Wheels America delivers more than 251 million meals to over 2.2 million seniors every year. For example, in 2020, they responded to increased isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by scaling their efforts to serve 47% more seniors and distributing 77% more meals than pre-pandemic. And, in 2022, their advocacy efforts bolstered Congress’ decision to pass the largest regular appropriations increase in the history of the program, securing an additional $100 million to support nutrition services for the elderly. Furthermore, according to a 2015 study by Brown University, the charity’s services improved several measures of well-being for seniors, including mental, physical, and social health.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to Meals on Wheels America via their website. You can also volunteer to deliver a meal to a senior in your community.

2

Easterseals: Enhancing Quality of Life for Disabled Adults 

Logo for Easterseals
Easterseals: Helping People Lead Full Lives

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Their transparency & ratings:

Easterseals holds a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

“All abilities. Limitless Possibilities.”

Easterseals

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What they do:

Easterseals helps disabled vulnerable adults through programs that provide support at various levels. For example, their Adult day services provide a place outside of the home for vulnerable adults to engage with peers, be active in the community, and receive necessary health and personal care services. As another example, their Senior Community Service Employment Program, the largest federally-funded employment assistance program for older adults, provides participants with training opportunities to target and achieve their personal goals. And, they provide short-term and long-term in-home services to ensure that vulnerable adults can stay in the living arrangement of their choice

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What they’ve achieved:

Each year, Easterseals helps more than 1.5 million people with disabilities. For example, since 2003, their signature annual fundraiser, Walk With Me, has generated nearly $41 million across 615 events and 230,000 participants. Easterseals was also a leading advocate for the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on a disability.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to Easterseals via their website. You can also contribute by registering to participate in a Walk With Me event, or by volunteering with an Easterseals near you.

3

AARP Foundation: Economic and Financial Guidance for Older Adults

Logo for AARP Foundation
Senior Poverty By the Numbers - Part 1

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Their transparency & ratings:

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

“For a future without senior poverty.”

AARP Foundation

⚒️

What they do:

The AARP Foundation works with older, vulnerable adults to increase their income and decrease expenditures to avoid poverty. For example, their Work for Youself@50+ program helps older adults explore options for self-employment and provides them with tools for success. As another example, they operate AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, the largest free, volunteer-run tax assistance program in the US, helping older adults file taxes accurately and with maximum benefit. The organization also offers in-demand skills training and food security resources, as well as advocating for policies that protect the finances of vulnerable adults.

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the AARP Foundation has increased economic opportunity for and protected the finances of millions of vulnerable older adults, serving almost 950,000 individuals in 2022 alone. In the same year, their Tax-Aide program secured over $374 million in tax refunds and credits for more than 693,000 older adults with low income. Furthermore, their workforce programs helped generate more than $125 million for financially vulnerable seniors.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the AARP Foundation via their website. You can also support the organization by volunteering.

4

National Council on Aging: Equitable Aging Matters

Logo for National Council on Aging
NCOA:  Aging well for all.

🔎

Their transparency & ratings:

The National Council on Aging holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

Aging with dignity shouldn’t be a stroke of luck.

National Council on Aging

⚒️

What they do:

The National Council on Aging provides resources, tools, best practices, and advocacy to ensure that every person can age with health and financial security. For example, their BenefitsCheckUp tool connects older adults with benefits programs that can help them pay for vital healthcare services, like doctor visits and prescription medicine. As another example, their Age Well Planner is a free assessment that provides older adults with a personalized collection of resources, like tips for fall prevention and expert advice on utilizing Medicare. And, they engage in political advocacy to promote equitable healthcare for older Americans.

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the National Council on Aging has been a leading force in the fight for health equity for older adults. For example, in 1965, they successfully advocated for the laws that created Medicare, Medicaid, and The Older Americans Act. And, in 2022, their programs helped equip more than 24.4 million people, 93% of whom identified as low-income, with tools and resources to access equitable healthcare and financial security. 

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the National Council on Aging via their website. In addition, you can join their advocacy efforts.

5

The Arc: Respect, Dignity, and Inclusion

Logo for The Arc
The Arc -- Driven by Opportunity

🔎

Their transparency & ratings:

The Arc holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

“We fight every day so no person with a disability gets left behind.”

The Arc

⚒️

What they do:

The Arc supports vulnerable adults by ensuring they have all of the tools and opportunities to thrive. For example, the Center for Future Planning assists individuals and their families in building a guide to help navigate a fulfilling and independent future. A future plan is especially important for adults with disabilities when a parent or caregiver is no longer able to provide support and can include topics like financial health, employment, and socialization. Furthermore, they promote policies that benefit vulnerable adults, like securing community-based long-term supports and services and strengthening the Social Security system.

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, The Arc has impacted millions of individuals with disabilities, including vulnerable adults. For example, they were the first organization to fund research on intellectual and developmental disabilities and were instrumental in enacting social support programs for people with disabilities, like Medicaid and Medicare. As another example, in 2022, they supported extending the Money Follows The Person program to expand home and community-based services, which has helped over 100,000 people transition to less restrictive living environments.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to The Arc via their website. You can also support the organization by creating a fundraiser or participating in advocacy efforts.

6

National Council on Independent Living: Independent Living is Fundamental

Logo for National Council on Independent Living
We Can't Breathe: The Deaf & Disabled Margin of Police Brutality

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Their transparency & ratings:

The National Council on Independent Living holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

“NCIL envisions a world in which people with disabilities are valued equally and participate fully.”

National Council on Independent Living

⚒️

What they do:

The National Council on Independent Living supports their members, which include both organizations and individuals, by building their capacity to promote social change, eliminate discrimination, and create opportunities. For example, their Provider Accessibility Initiative and Barrier Removal Fund allow healthcare providers to improve their physical and programmatic accessibility for people with disabilities, with local members actively participating in applicant reviews. As another example, they provide resources members can use to advance their missions, like the Disability Pride Toolkit and Resource Guide and the Environmental Health Barriers Toolkit. Moreover, they advocate for policies that promote autonomy for people with disabilities.

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the National Council on Independent Living has become the longest-running, cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities, promoting autonomy and pride across the US. For example, their Barrier Removal Fund has awarded over $2 million in grants to fund accessibility improvements at healthcare providers in 14 states since it was introduced in 2018. And, in 2023, they launched their 5 for 5 Campaign, asking Congress for $500 million to support Independent Living Services.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the National Council on Independent Living via their website. You can also support the organization by purchasing branded merchandise or joining their advocacy efforts.

7

United Cerebral Palsy: Independence and Productivity for All

Logo for United Cerebral Palsy
United Cerebral Palsy

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Their transparency & ratings:

United Cerebral Palsy holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

“Life without limits for people with disabilities.”

United Cerebral Palsy

⚒️

What they do:

United Cerebral Palsy utilizes their network of affiliates throughout the US to provide services and support to vulnerable individuals with disabilities in their communities, and their services for adults vary by location. For example, UCP of Long Island’s Day Treatment Program helps adults with disabilities enhance their abilities to perform basic living tasks as independently as possible. At the same time, UCP Seguin’s residential program provides 24-hour residential care and in-home and weekend respite care. The organization also promotes inclusivity through public advocacy and disability etiquette education

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, United Cerebral Palsy has become one of the largest and most efficient health charities in the US, dedicating their network-wide annual budget of over $750 million to enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities. For example, they publish the Case for Inclusion, an annual report detailing how well state programs are supporting people with disabilities, to help guide lawmakers and other organizations toward more inclusive policies. To date, the charity’s network includes almost 100 local affiliates throughout the US and Canada, helping more than 176,000 people with disabilities every day.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to United Cerebral Palsy on a national or regional affiliate level. You can also volunteer with your local affiliate of United Cerebral Palsy’s network.

8

Back On My Feet: Using Fitness to Combat Homelessness

Logo for Back On My Feet
Back on My Feet Transforming Lives One Mile at a Time

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Their transparency & ratings:

Back On My Feet holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

Transforming lives one mile at a time.”

Back On My Feet

⚒️

What they do:

Back On My Feet promotes sports and fitness as a means to motivate and support vulnerable members of the homeless community as they work toward independence. Volunteers host Circle Ups, where new members commit to 3 early morning runs per week. Once they demonstrate consistency and dedication, they are invited to join Next Steps, where they work with a mentor to develop a personal roadmap to success. Next, the program provides support through job training, financial literacy classes, and financial aid to start their new lives. Finally, members who graduate from the program receive ongoing community support and the opportunity to mentor new members.

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, Back On My Feet has helped thousands of vulnerable people regain their independence. Through their program, over 3,000 people received training and education, and more than 7,500 gained employment and housing, with help from over 150,000 volunteers and supporters. And, they have shown sustainable results. For example, 44% of program graduates received increased wages after 6 months, and 83% were still employed after 15 months.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to Back On My Feet via their website. You can also volunteer to lead Circle Ups, or FundRace to show your support.

9

National Alliance on Mental Illness: Destigmatizing Mental Health

Logo for National Alliance on Mental Illness
Welcome To NAMI

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Their transparency & ratings:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar

“Changing the mental health conversation, together.”

National Alliance on Mental Illness

⚒️

What they do:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness supports mentally vulnerable adults and their families through advocacy, education, direct support, and public awareness. For example, their NAMI HelpLine is a free, nationwide peer-support service providing information, resources and support to vulnerable adults impacted by mental illness, including recognizing symptoms of depression, addressing suicidal ideation, and finding community mental health support. Furthermore, their education program features classes for people with mental illness as well as stakeholders such as family members, significant others, and providers.

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has grown to a network of over 600 affiliates and 49 State Organizations, impacting millions of people affected by mental health conditions. For example, in 2022, their advocates submitted over 55,000 letters to Congress, contributing to unprecedented funding for mental health, including over $500 million for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline, and more than $1 billion for the Mental Health Block Grant. In the same year, their annual fundraiser, NAMIWalks Your Way, raised $14.65 million across 121 events nationwide. The charity was also cited by federal legislators more often than any other mental health organization in 2022.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the National Alliance on Mental Illness via their website. You can also contribute by registering to participate in NamiWalks Your Way, or by volunteering to work on the HelpLine.

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities for vulnerable adults. 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 vulnerable adults—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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