What#s the best charity? (Please read OP in full before responding)

What, in your opinion, is the best charitable organisation, and why?

I’m not going to define terms for ‘best’ - that’s pretty much up to you, but do please explain your reasoning and the justification for your choice.

NB: this isn’t necessarily the same question as ‘what’s your favourite charity?’ - because perhaps you favour the underdog, or you have a personal tie to a specific charity, etc. I’m asking for you to provide some kind of semi-objective rationale for why a particular charity is a cut above the rest.

Serious answers only please - and if you think all charities are futile/corrupt/pointless, that’s an interesting topic for a different thread.

I’ll start with some definitions. I like local charities. I like charities that make a lasting, direct impact. So to me, a charity that helps a homeless person get off the streets gets a higher ranking than one that helps to plant trees in Haiti.

I can’t really explain why - the long term charities are great as well, and do important stuff.

The World Food Program is well vetted and does lots of things right, and give both immediate and long term help. They don’t fit my ‘local’ criteria, but I’m still a big fan. I do have a soft spot in my heart for some feeding related programs, but it’s such a complicated issue…and I don’t want to answer based on my personal involvements.

I try to avoid the overly religious ones. I know people who feel uncomfortable accepting their aid, because it comes with religious ‘lessons’ or ‘pressure.’ I give Habitat for Humanity a pass here, because they mostly just do a prayer circle, which I didn’t even notice last time I volunteered there. And they make a huge difference in people’s lives. And their clients have to earn the right to get the benefit, so it’s automatically screening for people who aren’t likely to throw away the benefits.
I’ll have to think some more to see what else comes to mind.

At a purely utilitarian level, the best charity on the planet is the one that saves the most lives. So maybe Doctors Without Borders or Feed the Children?

The best charity IMO is our local food shelf. It has 1 part-time employee and uses donated space, so virtually all donated money and absolutely all donated goods go to the intended recipients. It doesn’t do anything to help the remainder of the world, so international charities are also essential.

I’m gonna say the Shriners Hospitals for Children.

They treat children with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate conditions. For free. That’s all.

I’ll take the Alzheimer’s Association, only because that day is getting closer and closer.

These are all good picks, especially local food bank, Shriner’s hospitals, and Doctors Without Borders. I’ll add Heifer Project though because while its technically religious you wouldn’t even notice, it has a great “teach a man to fish” concept, and it’s very easy for the average person to understand the impact of a cow or a goat.

Also for similar reasons the Carter Center. Everybody knows about its heroic endeavors with the guinea worm, but they also do great work with subsistence agriculture.

Interesting–I see things almost the opposite. I think you emphasize “direct,” whereas I’d emphasize “lasting.” A large part of the poverty in Haiti can be traced to desertification and water pollution due to overharvesting of forests; planting trees in Haiti is indirect, but it has the potential to permanently solve the problem of poverty.

I’d probably go with Doctors Without Borders for the best charity of all, though.

Is your definition of “charitable organization” broad enough to include non-profits that receive the majority of their funds from the federal government?

If so, then I nominate Legal Services Corporation. They receive a direct grant from Congress, and then divide the money among individual programs in every state. There are onerous strings attached to the money, but the state level programs do great work in providing legal representation to poor people. Domestic violence, child custody, low income housing, predatory lending, etc. Each state-level program sets its own case acceptance policy and priorities.

Does Transparency International fit? I think that corrupt government is pretty much the only reason we still have large numbers of people so poor they can’t eat. Improving the quality of governance is more likely to have a lasting benefit on people’s lives than almost any other charitable action

I’m happy for the definition of charity to extend to any organisation that does good works (in a noncommercial way). Definitions of ‘good’ (and maybe ‘noncommercial’) are whatever seems right to you.

I can’t really disagree there - lasting is definitely important. For instance - while I’ll buy a starving person some food, I’m more interested in helping the homeless but trying to get off the street person with food AND companionship AND a way to move towards his goals.

I’m actually a fan of the Lambi Fund, specifically for re-foresting Haiti. So maybe that wasn’t the best example… It’s hard to draw the lines. I’m thankful that I can support more than one cause. :slight_smile:

In my view the best charities are the ones that either save the most money or cause the most GDP growth because of their activities. I have seen some developing world charities say things like ‘every dollar invested in charity X results in $7 in GDP growth’. I have no idea how true that is, but that would be nice since those charities could help people lift themselves out of poverty. You spend $1000 on basic infrastructure, health care, education and communication technology and you get $7000 in economic activity.

Or a charity that tries to cure an expensive disease. I don’t have stats or anything onhand, but Alzheimers alone costs about $200 billion, and that is just in the US. Global costs are probably in the $600 billion range, so a cure would save a lot of money and productivity. I’m sure a cure would cost far less than the $200 billion we spend in the US.

So that is the method I’d use from a utilitarian POV.

Direct Relief International.

I agree completely. I love the work TI does. I am also a huge fan of Mercy Corps, essentially a non-profit version of the Peace Corps.

I prefer organizations that focus on overall development, and those that strengthen local institutions, such as what TI does. Reporters Without Borders is an excellent organization also.

I’ve more or less given up on human beings as charity targets. While there are innumerable cases of individual misery, as a species we’re doing just fine. And I can’t see that I or any charity I might support could make any measurable difference to any noticeable number of people.

I’ve also pretty much given up on us doing anything meaningful about climate change. So I stopped giving to OxFam a few years ago and now give to Bush Heritage. They buy up Australian rural properties that have useful remnant populations of native plants and animals, and rehabilitate them to as close to their original state as is practicable. The grand idea is to create corridors across climactic zones so that native species can survive climate change by migration.