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Five Tips for Giving as a Family This Holiday Season

In kids’ eyes, the holidays are a season for getting. And although that may be true for the more fortunate ones, it’s also never too early to remind children that it’s also the season of giving. And just because they may not have the means to help someone else financially does not mean that they can’t help spread a little joy to those in need of some.

Here are five tips for giving as a family this holiday season:

carolers_3Flex Those Muscles

Winter is a particularly bad time for the elderly, especially if they live alone. When a bad storm hits, your kids can help shovel out seniors who might otherwise be trapped until the mercury rises. Your back might be sore afterward, but your kids will have so much fun in the snow that they’ll barely realize they are working. And if snow isn’t in the forecast, there will always be someone whose garden is in need of sprucing as well.

Take It to the Bank

Unfortunately, not everyone will be sitting around a fancy dining table with family and friends this holiday season, where the biggest concern will be who gets the drumstick. Telling your kids that they don’t realize how good they have it usually falls on deaf ears, but you can show them by volunteering as a family at a food bank or soup kitchen.

Fa La La La La

Break out the sheet music and bring the kids caroling at a nearby nursing home. You’ll help bring a smile to the faces of people who need it most, especially if they haven’t had visitors for a while.

Get Crafty

It might be a little harder to visit a children’s hospital for caroling, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a little something to brighten kids’ days as well. Work on homemade cards or simple art projects with your children that you can ask nurses to deliver to patients. Pen pal letters will also give sick children something to look forward to on a regular basis.

Out with the Old. . .

You’ve been bugging your children for a while to clean their toys, and they’ve ignored you equally long. The clutter will only increase come the holidays, so there isn’t a more perfect time to gather up the old ones and donate them. Your kids won’t miss them once the new ones are unwrapped, but the kids receiving your old toys will sure be excited.

And that goes for clothing too: Those extra coats that just hang in your closet untouched for years would make someone at a shelter’s winter a whole lot warmer.

To Engage and Retain Millennials, Think Beyond Done-in-a-Day

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When I graduated from college, I wanted to get deeply involved with a community-based organization, and knew from my internships that nonprofits had an interest in reaching my generation. But, I didn’t know where to start looking, how to pitch my skills, or how to communicate my willingness to commit more than a day of volunteering. I’ve spoken to numerous millennials who have had my same experience—and nonprofits who are eager to reach them. Yet, engaging millennials involves a little more than just using social media, as so many blogs recommend. Although millennials attach greater importance to social good than previous generations, the data shows them falling behind in nonprofit engagement. In 2014, 26% fewer millennials volunteered than Gen X, and gave 20% fewer median hours. As most millennials are still discovering their philanthropic passions, this is the best time for nonprofits to share the value and impact of their work to engage millennials for years to come.
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Give Joyfully and Fearlessly

1. What issues do you care about? You can make a difference on a wide array of issues—especially during this uncertain time. There are many ways in which you can give and make an impact. Your donations could. . .

These are just a few examples from the GreatNonprofits 2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit List.

268022096_e52a1c90e6_z2. Go with your heart—are you interested in having a local impact or national? National organizations tend to have more impact in raising awareness and policymaking, and therefore can have broader impacts. The advantage of local giving is that you can get more involved with an organization in addition to donating. There are thousands of nonprofits in each major city providing services ranging from meals for the elderly to legal aid for the low-income. Find your city’s list of nonprofits: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Honolulu, New York, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and more.

3. Go visit the nonprofit and experience it for yourself. Many nonprofits have community outreach events—and you can drop by and talk to them at their table at the community fair, or at their open house. Walk around and see if you can meet some of the people they serve—talk to them and get a sense of what services they value and their experience with the organization. Sign up to volunteer and see firsthand the work of the nonprofit. By volunteering, you will meet other volunteers, even some board members or clients, and get to witness their program firsthand.

And remember, you have just a couple of more weeks to make your 2016 tax-deductible donation count. Giving unleashes endorphins—so give to a worthy cause, and enjoy the true season of giving!

Amazing Kids’ Charities for the Holidays

For many people, the holiday season is an opportunity to reflect on the events of the previous year and express gratitude for all of the blessings in our lives. In the spirit of the season of giving, a lot of these people use the end of the year as an opportunity to support a charity close to their heart as a way to share the love not only with their family members and close friends, but with strangers in need as well.

  • According to the Borgen Project, there are 1 billion children living in poverty worldwide
  • 22,000 children die every day because of poverty
  • 2 million kids die from preventable diseases every year

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Tell the World About the Important Work You Are Doing

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Driving PR to your cause and your website is a great way to amplify the impact you have and attract new donors and volunteers. Let others know about the good work you are already doing by writing a short piece on what your organization’s goals are, adding in some donor and volunteer stories.

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Don’t Forget the Thank Yous!

Six blank speech bubbles hanging from threadThanking your donors is the most important gesture you can make to show them how much you appreciate their support.

Recognition for those who took their time and gave money to help your cause is the best way to build long-term genuine relationships. And saying thank you at the right time and in the right way often leads to additional donations from those supporters, both in the short and longer term.

Here is a list of five simple ways you can thank your donors!

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Changes with You in Mind

By now, you’ve fought the crowds on Black Friday and worked your fingers to the bone on Cyber Monday, sneakily ordering holiday presents while your boss wasn’t looking. But there are still others hoping to receive a gift from you, one that will enable them to continue their great work of improving people’s lives.

Since 2012, the giving season for nonprofits that runs through the holidays until the end of the year has officially kicked off on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving—Giving Tuesday. Perhaps you were one of the donors whose generosity contributed to the $168 million raised this past Nov. 29, a 44 percent increase over last year’s Giving Tuesday total. But if you haven’t made your contributions yet—or you have and still want to do more—GreatNonprofits has worked hard to make your experience as easy as possible. (more…)

Five Social Media Tips for Nonprofits

Workstation surrounded by manu icones suggesting social media, like twitter, facebook, youtube, Cloud Computing, Google Maps, emailing, RSS and so.

Not having much success at the social media game, or simply getting a late start? It’s imperative that you get the word out about all the great work you do to as many people as possible, so here are some tips to help nonprofits up their game:

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Almost as important as getting your message out there is knowing your limitations. If you are small nonprofit and don’t have a staff member dedicated only to social media, you may want to focus on just a few platforms. Facebook and Twitter, along with a blog, are good starting points. (more…)

Top-Rated Health Nonprofits

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Every year, GreatNonprofits announces the recipients of its Top-Rated Awards, charities that have distinguished themselves with outstanding feedback from the clients, donors, and volunteers they work with directly. Nonprofits from all 50 states and cities around the world make up the list, performing inspiring work in a variety of fields, from healthcare to the arts, education, the environmental sector, and more. Their work represents a dedication to improving the lives of their clients, and with health nonprofits in particular, the demand for their services isn’t going anywhere:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 10.5% of seniors 65 and older do not have health insurance
  • From the same data, they estimate that 4.5% of kids and 12.8% of adults aged 18–65 are uninsured
  • According to U.S. census data, the uninsured rate in 2015 fell by about 1.3%, to 9.1%, but that still leaves 29 million Americans uninsured  

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Top-Rated Animal Charities

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Each year,
GreatNonprofits releases its list of Top-Rated Charities based on thousands of reviews from the people who work directly with the nonprofits—the donors, volunteers, and clients served. Our 2016 Top-Rated Awards highlight charities in 40+ different categories that are working to improve the lives and communities of those they serve. From the arts to health care, human services, veterans’ issues, and more, hundreds of nonprofits have been honored this year for their outstanding service. But one sphere in particular received outsized representation: animal charities. GreatNonprofits gave 186 top-rated awards to animal charities, the most of any category.

  • According to the ASPCA, there are roughly 13,000 animal shelters in the U.S.
  • Every year, roughly 7.6 million animals enter U.S. shelters, 3.9 million of which are dogs and 3.4 million cats
  • 35% of dogs entering shelters are adopted, 26% returned to their owners, and 31% euthanized
  • 37% of cats entering shelters are adopted, 41% are euthanized, and less than 5% are returned to owners

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Food-Related Community Nonprofits

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Despite the U.S.’s status as one of the wealthiest countries in the world, nearly one out of every six Americans faces hunger. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a food-insecure household as one that has limited access to foods that are safe and nutritionally adequate, or in which the ability “to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways . . . (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies)” is severely limited.

  • 13.1 million children and 42.2 million Americans of all ages lived in food-insecure households in 2015, according to FeedingAmerica.org
  • 20% of people who lived in food-insecure houses in 2015 were children
  • 12.7% of households in the U.S. are food-insecure, with 5% of households suffering from very low food security, according to the USDA

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Top 10 Top-Rated Nonprofits

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Every year,
GreatNonprofits highlights the work of outstanding charities that are going above and beyond to provide vital, life-changing services to their communities. The 2016 Top-Rated Awards feature nonprofits that have received the highest scores from the people who work directly with them—volunteers, donors, and clients served. The awards honor charities from cities all over the world working to improve lives by addressing issues in 40+ different categories.

Among the hundreds of nonprofits honored this year, 10 charities stand out for receiving the most positive feedback. These are our top 10 top-rated charities:

  1. Veteran Tickets Foundation in Tempe, Ariz.

With 2,020 reviews, the Veteran Tickets Foundation has received more feedback than any other top-rated nonprofit on our site. The Arizona-based veteran’s charity provides free tickets to sporting events, concerts, and family events to service members and former members of the armed forces.

  1. Erowid Center in Grass Valley, Calif.

The Erowid Center is dedicated to providing objective, accurate, and nonjudgemental information about plants, chemicals, and other substances that humans ingest or come in contact with in medical or everyday contexts. Their goal is to put together as objective a database as possible about a variety of products and substances, compiling information from scientists, medical and legal experts, and other academic authorities.

  1. Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Ariz.

The Center for Biological Diversity is committed to securing the future of all living species by supporting scientific research, policies that protect threatened species, legal efforts to prevent the destruction of wildlife, and media campaigns that raise awareness. LA Weekly has described the environmental nonprofit as “pound for pound, dollar for dollar, the most effective conservation organization in the country.”

  1. Bikers Against Drunk Drivers in Ormond Beach, Fla.

Bikers Against Drunk Drivers is a nonprofit that seeks to spread awareness about the dangers of drunk driving and the potentially lethal consequences it can have for drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bikers. They set up displays in high traffic areas, conduct social media campaigns, and hold rallies to increase visibility.

  1. Soldiers’ Angels in San Antonio

Volunteers “adopt” members of the armed forces and help ease the burdens of deployment through individualized assistance; if a soldier wants a phone card to call members of their family, needs help financially, or has other urgent needs, the nonprofit does its best to accommodate them. It also provides homemade treats, handmade gifts, and other gestures of appreciation.

  1. Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz, Calif.

This California-based nonprofit is committed to promoting the careful medical use of psychedelics and marijuana through research, the development of prescription medicines, the  training of therapists to monitor the use of these substances, and the establishment of a network of treatment centers.

  1. Charity Cars in Longwood, Fla.

Charity Cars provides free donated vehicles to struggling families to help them reach self-sufficiency. Their goal is to provide a reliable mode of transportation to a variety of recipients in need, including domestic violence survivors, families in the midst of a medical crisis, victims of natural disasters, families transitioning back to employment, people living in shelters, the working poor, nonprofits, and military families. Since it was established in 1996, the nonprofit has donated more than 4,500 cars.

  1. Global Village Champions Foundation in Sarasota, Fla.

Global Village is committed to providing nutrition all over the world to as many hungry people as possible. Since it was established 20 years ago, the foundation has provided more than 900 million meals to people in need, along with basic necessities to children in extreme poverty.

  1. Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary in St. Pauls, N.C.

The Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary focuses on saving the lives of cats that would be put to death because they are blind, leukemia-positive, or FIV-positive. It educates the public about cats with these health issues and sponsors spay and neuter programs that benefit hundreds of cats per year.

  1. Youthlinc in Salt Lake City

Youthlinc is a program that fosters humanitarian principles in young people through mentoring, refugee programs, humanitarian awards, and service directories that put kids in touch with nearby organizations. Every year, Youthlinc participants contribute more than 15,000 hours of service to organizations in their home state of Utah and raise nearly $400,000 to donate to worthy programs abroad.

These inspiring organizations are addressing a wide range of social issues in order to make the world a better place. Consider sharing this page on your social networks to raise awareness of their important work, and if you feel motivated to take action, peruse our 2016 Top-Rated Charities page to discover organizations that are addressing causes you care about or serving your local community. GreatNonprofits compiles information on nonprofits near you, so you can feel confident donating your time or money to ones that will use it well.

U.S. Cities with the Most Top-Rated Nonprofits

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This year, 1,683 charities received Top-Rated Awards from GreatNonprofits.org. Top-rated nonprofits were selected in 40 different categories based on reviews written by the people who work directly with the charities. Our 2016 Top-Rated Awards compiled feedback from donors, clients, and volunteers, highlighting the amazing work done by charities in the arts, the environmental and social justice spheres, health care, and more! (more…)

2016 Top-Rated Awards: States with the Most Nonprofits

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GreatNonprofits.org
has released its 2016 Top-Rated Awards, a celebration of outstanding charities that are making a difference in the spheres of healthcare, housing, the arts, education and more! GreatNonprofits evaluates charities based on feedback from the people who work with them directly—donors, volunteers, and clients served—in  order to give the most accurate assessment of an organization’s mission and the extent to which that mission is being fulfilled. This year, every U.S. state is represented on our top-rated list, so we decided to take a closer look at the data and pick out some emerging trends in different parts of the country.
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Message from Perla Ni, Founder of GreatNonprofits

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No matter the circumstances, nonprofits have stood strong for their commitment to a more sustainable and equitable world. Nonprofits are needed today, more than ever, to bridge the inequality divide, provide education and health services, conserve our environment, create dialogue, and protect our civil rights. It’s community organizations that are transforming Detroit into livable spaces. In Flint, it’s nonprofits that are helping residents affected by the poisonous water.

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Local Community Nonprofit

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While big-name nonprofits often dominate our pocketbooks, the news, and our newsfeeds, thousands of local community nonprofits are quietly making changes that will impact the people they serve for years. Community nonprofits provide educational opportunities, enrichment programs, and other vital services directly to the communities they serve, but that also means they rely more heavily on people who live nearby. We compiled some statistics on small and local nonprofits that illustrate just how important it is to support local nonprofits:

  • 61% of nonprofits have less than $100,000 in yearly revenue, according to the Nonprofit Finance Fund
  • New nonprofits, which often pop up in response to an urgent need within a local community, are especially vulnerable to the vagaries of the economy: a study from the National Center on Charitable Statistics found that 12% of nonprofits exit within five years and 17% within 10 years
  • According to a study by the New Economics Foundation in London, when people buy produce at a local farmer’s market instead of supermarket, twice as much money stays within their community

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How to Find Local Volunteer Opportunities


Many of us are passionate about wanting to take the opportunity to volunteer and give back to our local community. It’s not always easy to find the best way to get involved with volunteering or to follow through once you’ve decided how you want to help. Luckily, we’re here to help you navigate your way to a rewarding experience.

What inspires you to volunteer?.

“Three years ago, on my 3rd visit to Panajachel, Guatemala, I decided to sponsor a 3 year old girl through Mayan Families so she could attend preschool, get 2 meals per day, a daily vitamin, and learn Spanish in preparation for public school. I I wanted make a difference in [her] life, hoping to give her a chance for an education and a better future.

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Health Benefits of Giving

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A 2013 study in the journal BMC Public Health examined the effect of formal volunteering on one’s physical and mental health. The study found that giving your time has favorable effects on depression as well as other mental health disorders. The warm feeling associated with helping others has long been documented anecdotally, but in the past few decades, researchers have made strides documenting the positive effects of giving inside the lab.

  • According to statistics from Charity Navigator, people donated an estimated $373 billion to charity in 2015
  • Charitable giving has increased by more than 10% in 2014 and 2015, adjusting for inflation
  • Giving has increased for six years straight, and the second record-setting year

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Veterans Day: Addressing Mental Health Issues Faced by Veterans

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One of the major challenges facing those who serve overseas is the adjustment back to civilian life. As many as
31% of Vietnam veterans, for example, suffer from PTSD over the course of their lifetime, according to VeteransandPTSD.com, with many soldiers reporting symptoms years after returning from deployment. An estimated 50% of soldiers experiencing PTSD do not seek treatment.

Although there is a long history of pets and veterans working together to cope with trauma, the Department of Veterans Affairs encourages vets who are struggling with mental health issues to turn to pets in addition to traditional forms of therapy. There are a multitude of reasons why dogs may help servicepeople cope with PTSD. Among the reasons they cited: animals can bring out feelings of love, they can help reduce stress, they encourage owners to get outside for runs or walks, they help veterans meet new people, and, intriguingly, their ability to take orders well when trained can provide a healthy outlet for veterans who were used to giving orders in the military.

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