9 Best Charities That Fight for Civil Rights in the United States (Complete 2021 List)

9 Best Charities That Fight for Civil Rights in the United States (Complete 2021 List)

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Dennis Kamprad

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People of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, and genders deserve to have their civil rights upheld and protected. But with so many charities advocating for and promoting civil rights, we had to ask: What are the best charities that fight for civil rights?

The best charities that fight for civil rights are the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Center for Constitutional Rights. These charities fight for civil rights by advocating for equality and combating social injustices.

Whether you want to join a civil rights movement in your community, raise awareness on certain issues, or donate to a particular cause, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities that fight for civil rights are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to make a contribution.

Here’s What All the Best Charities That Fight for Civil Rights Have in Common

The charities on this list were chosen based on their mission and dedication to civil rights protection. These charities also have impeccable transparency ratings and have had a historical impact on civil rights movements and protection. 

They operate across the United States and tackle a range of civil rights injustices through research, awareness-raising campaigns, advocacy programs, and support services. They also share the same goals of promoting human dignity, equality, and defending the civil rights of all people. 

These Are the 9 Best Charities That Fight for Civil Rights

Below are our favorite charities that fight for civil rights (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.)

American Civil Liberties Union: Defending Civil Liberties for All

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was founded in 1920 by a group of civil rights activists including Helen Keller, Crystal Eastman, Albert DeSilver, Jane Addams, Felix Frankfurter, and Arthur Garfield Hayes. In the post-war era, many people were feared to be radicals and were wrongfully arrested, deported, and detained without rights. The ACLU’s visionaries came together in an effort to defend the US constitution and people’s civil liberties during the ongoing turmoil.  

Their impact and transparency ratings: ACLU currently holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, and has an impressive Accountability and Transparency score of 96 out of 100, also from Charity Navigator. The organization has a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar – the highest rank possible. 

“The ACLU takes up the toughest civil liberties cases and issues to defend all people from government abuse and overreach.”

American Civil Liberties Union

What they do: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defends the rights of others through system equality, litigation, and social change. The organization campaigns for equality by highlighting civil rights injustices and challenging discriminatory legislation that hinders people from having full and equal civil rights in American society.  

What they’ve achieved: Since its inception, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has amassed more than 4 million member activists across the country to fight for civil rights. In 2020, the organization won a landmark case in the Supreme Court, which overturned a ruling that someone could be fired based on their gender identity. In the same year, the organization filed more than 50 lawsuits on behalf of vulnerable immigrants and secured the release of more than 400 migrant detainees that were held in unsafe conditions. 

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to the American Civil Liberties Union by donating directly through their website. You can also give over the phone, or sign up for a monthly membership to make regular donations. 

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: Advocates for the Civil Rights of Minorities 

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in 1908 by Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villard,  William English Walling, and Dr. Henry Moscowitz, a group of journalists, liberals, and activists. They came together to discuss the violent race riots occurring in Springfield, Illinois, and created a call for racial equality. This call was signed by over 60 people, including W.E.B. Du Bois, a famous civil rights activist. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The organization maintains a 4-star rating and an Accountability and Transparency score of 97 out of 100, both from Charity Navigator. It currently holds a Bronze Star of Transparency from GuideStar. In 2019, nearly 71% of the organization’s income was spent on its programming. 

“To seek enactment and enforcement of federal, state, and local laws securing civil rights.”

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

What they do: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) mobilizes activists across the US to defend the rights of minorities, with an active presence in all 50 states. NAACP promotes the social, economic, educational, and political equality of all citizens through advocacy campaigns and grassroots movements. 

What they’ve achieved: With over 100 years of impact on civil rights in the US, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has amassed more than 2 million active members and advocates. In 2020, the NAACP’s large member pool enabled them to generate over 100,000 signatures on a national petition for police reform. In the same year, the organization also won a landmark case to protect the legal status of 700,000 DACA recipients.

Ways to contribute: You can donate to the NAACP by donating via the organization’s website. You can also join your local NAACP group to volunteer, fight for civil rights, and take part in community activities.

Center for Constitutional Rights: Fighting for Civil Rights and Social Justice

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) was founded in 1966 by Arthur Kinoy and William Kunstler, two civil rights activists. The founders were driven by rising social injustices in American society and were eager to build an organization that fought for civil rights and equality. They also wanted to defend the inherent rights laid out in the US Constitution. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Center for Constitutional Rights maintains an impressive 4-star rating and an Accountability and Transparency score of 100 out of 100 from Charity Navigator. In 2020, the organization spent nearly 80% of its income on its programs and advocacy. 

To fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications.

Center for Constitutional Rights

What they do: The Center for Constitutional Rights aims to end civil rights abuses and inequalities by challenging discriminatory legislation, advocating for human rights, and by shifting the narrative to give a voice to marginalized communities. The organization defends the rights laid out in the US Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

What they’ve achieved: Since its founding, the Center for Constitutional Rights has continually defended the rights of marginalized people, including those from racial, ethnic, and minority backgrounds. The organization has participated in and won 38 historic litigation cases challenging racial injustices, another 10 cases for discriminatory policing practices, and 19 cases for sexual and gender violence. The CCR has also helped defend the civil rights of prisoners by advocating against indefinite solitary confinement. Their work has helped move more than 1,200 prisoners from solitary confinement to the general population. 

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to the Center for Constitutional Rights by donating directly through their website. You can also show your support to the organization by attending events, panels, and rallies that fight for civil rights. 

Southern Poverty Law Center: Advancing Civil Rights in America’s South

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was founded in 1971, shortly after the US civil rights movement, by Morris Dees, a lawyer from Alabama. Dees grew up on a farm and had witnessed prejudices related to his social status, and sympathized with others who experienced racial inequalities, civil injustices, and discrimination. As a result, he decided to open the SPLC to defend the rights of those that were the target of bigotry. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Southern Poverty Law Center maintains a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator. It also holds an Accountability and Transparency score of 97 out of a possible 100, also from Charity Navigator. Similarly, the organization has a Silver Star of Transparency from GuideStar

To strengthen intersectional movements and advance the human rights of all people.”

Southern Poverty Law Center

What they do: The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) promotes the equal rights of all people, especially those in the Deep South, and campaigns for racial, economic, and social justice. They achieve this by challenging discriminatory laws and protecting vulnerable people’s civil liberties through strategic litigation.

What they’ve achieved: Since its inception, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has won more than 20 landmark cases challenging discriminatory practices that affect people’s civil rights. For example, in 2019, the SPLC filed a lawsuit against the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USCIS) to represent 100 Latin American workers who were detained based on their perceived race and ethnicity. In the same year, the organization also filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 475,000 children that were wrongfully denied Medicaid services in Louisiana. 

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to the SPLC by donating through the organization’s website. You can also fundraise for the organization by signing up as a canvasser. SPLC also welcomes employer matching, so you can encourage your employer to match your donation to the charity. 

The Advancement Project: Promoting Civil Rights for People of Color

The Advancement Project was founded in 1999 by a group of civil rights activists and lawyers. After establishing the organization, the group went on to bring public attention to cases that involved unfair treatment of Black students in schools. They also advocated for the rights of students affected by forms of segregation and racial discrimination.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Advancement Project holds a respectable Accountability and Transparency score of 85 out of 100 from Charity Navigator. The organization also has a Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, based on their previous financial reporting. For example, in 2019, more than 80% of the organization’s income was spent on its programs and services. 

We are first responders to civil rights crises, as well as on the cutting edge of racial justice issues.

The Advancement Project

What they do: The Advancement Project supports civil rights protection by providing vulnerable communities with tools and capacity-building resources to create change locally. The organization also strives to promote civil rights and equality at a national level through large-scale campaigns, policy changes, and advocacy work. 

What they’ve achieved: Since its founding, the Advancement Project has expanded across 19 US states to provide civil rights advocacy to communities across the country. In 2020, the organization filed 5 lawsuits demanding the release of vulnerable inmates from minority backgrounds. In the same year, the Advancement Project also filed 3 lawsuits against the state of Florida and Virginia, demanding more voting rights to Black and Latino voters.

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to the Advancement Project by donating through the organization’s website. You can also attend one of the organization’s events to show your support.

Equal Justice Initiative: Legal Advocates for Criminal Justice Reform

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) was founded in 1989 by Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights activist. Stevenson was passionate about helping those that are poor, marginalized, incarcerated, or all of the above. He created the Equal Justice Initiative as a way to provide legal remedies and justice for those who are wrongfully discriminated against due to their social or minority status. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The organization currently holds an impressive 4-star rating from Charity Navigator. It also holds a perfect Accountability and Transparency score of 100 out of 100, also from Charity Navigator. Similarly, the Equal Justice Initiative maintains a Silver Star of Transparency from GuideStar.

To challenge racial and economic injustice, and to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.

Equal Justice Initiative

What they do: The Equal Justice Initiative aims to promote civil rights and racial equality through advocacy and programming. The organization researches racial discrimination in both historical and modern contexts, provides legal assistance to those who have experienced it, and delivers policy prescriptions for legislative change. 

What they’ve achieved: Since its inception, the Equal Justice Initiative has spearheaded a number of campaigns that detail the impact of civil injustices in American society. For example, in 2018, EJI opened The National Memorial for Peace and Justice as a tribute to African Americans who lost their lives due to racial injustices. The memorial attracted more than 400,000 visitors in its opening months alone. In the same year, the organization provided training to more than 100 schools, decision-makers, and faith communities on criminal justice reform. They emphasized how criminal justice reform particularly impacts civil rights for African American communities. EJI also won legal cases that reduced sentences for some 40 juveniles serving life sentences.

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to the Equal Justice Initiative by donating directly through their website. 

National Urban League: Empowering Marginalized Communities of Color

The National Urban League (NUL) was founded in 1910, in New York City, by two civil rights activists: George Edmund Haynes and Ruth Standish Baldwin. The organization was established amidst the Great Migration, which saw a large number of African Americans moving from southern to northern states. The founders’ objectives were to empower African Americans moving to northern cities through social and economic capacity-building programs.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The National Urban League has a perfect Accountability and Transparency score of 100 out of 100 from Charity Navigator. The organization also holds a Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, showcasing their commitment to civil rights.   

To enable and empower African-Americans and others in underserved communities to achieve their highest human potential.

National Urban League

What they do: The National Urban League promotes the equal rights of African Americans across 300 communities and 37 US states through social justice and education initiatives, as well as public advocacy and community programming. 

What they’ve achieved: Since its founding, the National Urban League has fought for civil rights on a national scale, serving over 1.7 million people annually with their programming and advocacy work. For example, in 2019, the organization provided job training opportunities to more than 1,000 unemployed and low-income seniors from minority backgrounds living in urban areas. In the same year, NUL also assisted more than 200 students from minority backgrounds with job readiness and skills development courses. 

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to the National Urban League by donating directly through the charity’s website. 

Amnesty International: Defending the Civil Rights of All People

Amnesty International was founded in 1961 in the United Kingdom, by Peter Benenson, a British attorney. Benenson was inspired to create the organization after reading a newspaper article that detailed the arrest of two Portuguese students who were wrongfully jailed for ‘toasting to freedom.’ Upon establishing the organization, Benenson’s aim was to bring awareness to human rights abuses and civil injustices around the world. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: Amnesty International maintains an Accountability and Transparency score of 97 out of a possible 100 from Charity Navigator. The organization also has a Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. For example, in 2020, more than 70% of the organization’s income was spent on its programs and advocacy.

“Fight injustice and help create a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.”

Amnesty International

What they do: Amnesty International promotes the civil and human rights of all people through grassroots advocacy. The organization mobilizes activist groups across the country to drive local and national change. They also conduct invasive research and case studies to raise awareness on civil and human rights abuses.

What they’ve achieved: Today, Amnesty International has active chapters across all 50 US states and in more than 150 countries around the globe. It also has more than 1 million active members in the US alone, advocating for civil and human rights. Due to its influential reach, the organization was able to send an open letter to more than 40,000 US officials, which advocated for civil rights protection to vulnerable people during election periods. 

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to Amnesty International by donating through their website. The organization also encourages you to take action by getting involved in local grassroots campaigns, attending events or conferences, or by joining an activist group in your community. 

Lambda Legal: Promoting Civil Rights for the LGBT+ Community

Lambda Legal was founded in 1973 by Bill Thom, a civil and gay rights activist. The organization originated with the aim of advocating for civil rights for the LGBT+ community. However, since LGBT+ rights weren’t widely recognized at the time, the organization’s charity status was initially rejected by judges in New York, since they didn’t perceive Lambda Legal’s cause to be, “benevolent [or] charitable.” Thom was determined to appeal the decision and took the case to New York’s highest court, where the decision was later overturned. Today, Lambda Legal provides legal support to some of the country’s most vulnerable communities. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: Lambda Legal currently maintains an Accountability and Transparency score of 97 out of 100 from Charity Navigator. It also holds a Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar

To achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV.

Lambda Legal

What they do: Lambda Legal fights for the civil rights of LGBT+ people by providing legal representation, research, and support to the community. The organization also conducts advocacy programs to raise awareness on the prejudiced treatment of the LGBT+ community, and those living with HIV. For example, in 2020, Lambda Legal challenged more than 5 discriminatory laws and policies that unfairly targeted LGBT+ people or those living with HIV.

What they’ve achieved: Since its founding, Lambda Legal expanded across the US with 6 offices in regional cities. The organization has won 9 landmark cases to protect the civil rights of the LGBT+ community and has filed more than 46 federal lawsuits against the US government’s discriminatory policies towards LGBT+ people and people living with HIV. 

Ways to contribute: You can contribute to Lambda Legal by donating directly through the organization’s website. You can also show your support by volunteering with the organization, attending one of their many events, or by participating in one of their many advocacy campaigns.

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities that fight for civil rights. 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

Now it is just 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 civil rights – based on the causes that matter most to you.

Stay impactful,



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:

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