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2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Children's Defense Fund

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Civil Rights, Human Services

Mission: The Children's Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.

Direct beneficiaries per year: Over 12,500 children and youth attended a CDF Freedom School; Over 1,500 college-age young adults trained, mobilized and deployed as Servant Leader Interns (SLIs); Over 600 high school youth receiving college preparation, leadership development and college scholarship assistance through CDF's Beat the Odds program; Landmark national and state research studies such as State of America's Children; Engaging and training 500 young people, seminarians and faith leaders in CDF's annual Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute on Child Advocacy Ministry

Programs: The Children's Defense Fund is a child advocacy movement that fights every day for America's children, especially for those children and youth who experience the extraordinary challenges of poverty, disability and inequality. CDF's impact areas include: Freedom Schools - a nation-wide summer school and after-school education and empowerment program for children and youth. Reading score improvement and love of learning are key outcomes as children and youth are inspired that they can make a difference in their lives and in the life of their community and nation. Changing the Odds for Children: Fighting every day to educate and inform national, state and local policymakers and practitioners about effective, research-based practices that make a positive difference in a child's journey to successful adulthood. Generation Next - a 40 year commitment to developing the leaders of tomorrow through training and engagement with youth and young adults in social action, child advocacy and positive, non-violent social change.

Community Stories

61 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Advisor

Rating: 5

I appreciate Children's Defense Fund's thoughtful and mission-driven advocacy on behalf of children and families across the US. From CDF's Freedom Schools programs focused on literacy to ensuring that child welfare efforts are included in COVID-19 relief, the organization's impact is tangible. The team's in-depth and specialized knowledge paired with passion ensures brighter futures for us all.

Donor

Rating: 4

We have been a long term annual donor. We believe that many of the problems we now face can only be addressed by taking care of our children's needs - children of any race and any socio economic status - but especially those that are disadvantaged. CDF's primary mission has not changed since it was created and that is part of its effectiveness in helping others. We see the results from the children and young adults they help and sponsor. We do donate to a number of charities but have higher confidence with CDF where our donations are going.

Donor

Rating: 5

I discovered Children’s Defence Fund a year and a half ago. I became a donor last February. They do great work with children and young people and are deeply rooted in the Civil Rights Movement. And that is good.Their Freedom Schools are particularly impressive. As a white person Children’s Defence Fund is a way I can do a tiny bit to help racialized communities.

Donor

Rating: 5

Childhood is where it all starts, and Children's Defense Fund is out there advocating for kids: their education, their safety and their welfare. I truly am humbled by the work that they do to show children how smart and brilliant they are; how they are talented enough to lead. The way they pivoted to reach children in need in this horrible 2020 shows how committed CDF is to a hopeful future. I'm proud to be a donor.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have been associated with CDF since the early 1990s and have observed the terrific growth and impact they have had on the lives of young students of color. I sat on a community committee for the Robin Hood Foundation years ago and that’s where I met Marion Wright Edelman their foundress.
Recently I reviewed their fundraising program and saw up close it’s impressive growth. I’m proud to be associated with CDF. They truly are a great nonprofit.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am a program development consultant in the area of youth justice and behavioral health and use CDF's research regularly to help other organizations craft their advocacy programs. I actually began to rely on their work as a graduate student nearly half a century ago! Their work to advance the wellbeing of children and families is unparalleled.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The mission of Children's Defense Fund is one that is close to my heart. I love their commitment to improving the lives of kids across America. They are uniquely qualified to advocate for the rights, health, and well-being of the next generation. In my interactions with the staff at CDF, I am constantly impressed and inspired by their dedication to the cause and their passion to make a difference. They are all wonderful, talented people.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The people I have met at the Children's Defense Fund are amazing. Their passion for the organization's mission is transparent in the way they do their work. And their willingness to go above and beyond the norms is inspiring. Plus, they are just super enjoyable to be around. And most importantly, the cause they serve is first rate: Providing the needs so children can thrive in today's complex world. It's true what they say: great people make great organizations.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I interned with the Development team at the Children's Defense Fund and had a wonderful experience. The people I worked with at CDF were kind, hard-working, and incredibly passionate about protecting the welfare of children. The CDF's community-based programs as well as its dedication to advocacy make it unique in its broad approach to achieve its mission.

Erik L.2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I've been impressed with Children's Defense Fund's ability to speak to the moments that matter in 2020. From dealing with the challenges during COVID-19 to the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests, CDF has helped me think, act, and organize in this chaotic year.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

First Book has partnered with CDF for several years in support of their amazing Freedom Schools program. The results and impact they create by connecting with children and youth through culturally relevant books are significant. First Book is proud to support this important work.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Children's Defense Fund is a great organization with a strong history of impact - serving as a voice for children. I've engaged with them as a both a vendor and donor to their Beats the Odds program. I'm consistently impressed with their leadership and staff's commitment to the mission and I've been inspired by the stories of their Beat the Odds awardees.

1

Advisor

Rating: 5

CDF is such a wonderful organization with great leadership!

2 Emma M.4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I worked as an intern at CDF this past summer and really enjoyed my time there. I was able to learn a lot about the specific work done by this nonprofit, was taught about how my specific work would make an impact at the organization, and was able to make genuine contributions even as an intern. The individuals working there truly care about the issues they're working to address, and they want to teach others how to make a difference too.

2 Nate A.2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CDF is a great nonprofit doing amazing work! I was fortunate to attend their gala last year and saw first hand the lives of individuals they helped change. They are forward-thinking and are constantly expanding their work and are extremely efficient in the way they allocate their resources.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Children's Defense Fund has provided me with an amazing experience and an ability to gain a deeper understanding of the process of running a non profit organization. I am surrounded by a wonderful staff that is knowledgeable and always willing to give advice. I have learned many strategies to gain sponsors and I was able to help in the organization of the "Beat The Odds" event. Overall, I have really enjoyed my time at the Children's Defense Fund!

3 Cindy Vanessa J.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Every single person at the Children's Defense Fund cares about the work they do. They don't do the work for prestige or accolades, they do it because it's about the greater purpose of helping children through direct services and policy change. You walk in and feel welcomed by every person on every team. Hierarchy of positions doesn't matter because it's a collaborative atmosphere, so being an intern meant something more. They gave me real work that had a real impact. More than that, every single person wanted to talk to me and offer all the advice that they could. If there was a position open with CDF, I would take it in a heartbeat because of the organization’s purpose and because I would be working with others passionate about the cause.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I believe the most necessary charities are those that provide a voice for individuals or groups who are unable to speak for themselves. Children’s Defense Fund protects the most vulnerable of those groups: children of color, children who are disabled, and children who live in poverty. These kids are the voices of tomorrow—and, if given the opportunity to grow and thrive, they are the ones who will change our future for the better. The work CDF is doing to increase awareness and educate the American public cannot be understated.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

Jack and Jill of America, Inc., the oldest and largest African American family organization in the U.S., partnered with the Children's Defense Fund to celebrate "The Power of Children -- Then and Now!" The event was held in Birmingham, Alabama and was created to honor the brave foot soldiers of the 1963 Children's Crusade and to teach todays' youth the importance of raising their voices for social justice. With the leadership and support of the CDF, our organizations' hosted over 2,000 children and parents from across the country and made a life changing impact on the lives of so many young people. The event could not have been possible without the support of the Children's Defense Fund!

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I couldn't be more impressed with the dedication I have seen from the Children's Defense Fund team. I have had the opportunity to work with a long list of non-profits over the years but rarely have I ever seen the sustained and ever present passion that I see when I am privileged to engage with the folks at CDF. The work they do is of critical importance and I'm grateful to know that an organization like this continues to fight for a better world for our children.

1 Tracey Lynn O.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Prevent Child Abuse NC recently attended CDF Proctor Institute in Knoxville TN. The Proctor Institute was inspiring, educational and provided may opportunities to improve the lives of our children and end childhood poverty.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Not only is the location beautiful , but the work they do is very near and dear to my heart. All children might not have an advocate, but that doesn't mean that they don't deserve one, and that is exactly what they work to accomplish.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This program is super needed and it must continue the work it provides within communities. If we are trying to create equitable and meaningful change in our society. We must support and ensure our children have everything they need.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The Children's Defense Fund is an organization that I would give my life to. With a focus on the children, their work has successfully advocated for one of the most marginalized and voiceless groups in this country - children. The Samuel Dewitt Proctor Institute taking place on the Alex Haley Farm every summer is the single most impactful event regarding supporting young people. Gathering the nations leading moral voices, the gathering offers an intergenerational mix of speakers, workshops, and learnings that can be applied in our various contexts. Along with the conference, Freedom Schools continue to build the capacity of young people and their communities. CDF is a national treasure.

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Children's Defense Fund far exceeded my expectations as a place for seminarians to join in community with other church leaders in a spiritual and nurturing environment to learn about ministry. It provides a sacred space on holy grounds for renewal and transformation. It's a place we feel welcomed and at home.

1 Michael C.5

Donor

Rating: 5

Children's Defense Fund makes a big impact for children - both in their policy work and in the services they provide to children. Their work on children's education -- especially their Freedom Schools program -- is so important to those communities they serve. Their efforts for child safety, poverty programs and many others is truly remarkable.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I am a professor in the School of Architecture at The University of Tennessee Knoxville. I visit the Haley Farm site of the Children's Defense fund with up to 60 architecture students each year as do colleagues that I teach with at UTK. We often engage other departments, including engineering, to accompany our field visits to Haley Farms CDF.

The Haley Farm site of the Children's Defense Fund offers an ideal way for students to learn about stewardship of historic architecture, and excellent contemporary architecture. Moreover, to learn architectural lessons in the context of this critically relevant and immensely productive non-profit is instrumental. Architecture students learn of their potential to support the work of non-profits, as professionals and as individual citizens. The tours that we receive every year share ways to help children and to advocate for children.

The college hosts guest from across the globe, and as hosts we are compelled to introduce guests to the CDF with a tour of Haley Farms. They are always inspired by the place and the CDF's mission.

I also attend public events at the library and chapel, for example Black History month poetry readings and apple picking, and our UT high school design camp, Design Matters, visits most summers.

This is an exceptionally important non-profit, and while my work is indirect and architecture focused, the CDF tours introduced me to numerous social equity sources that I use in my work.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The people working at the Children's Defense Fund do a really nice job. They are enjoying their work and love to share their knowledge and experience. As a volunteer at the Children's Defense fund, I enjoyed everyday working with the team as they are engaged for a great cause. They contribute to the wellbeing of the children by working hard on projects.

Jake M.1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Welcoming, helpful, mission-oriented. A great staff culture, primed for collaboration, and making the world better.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am so thankful for CDF's commitment to being an unwavering voice for vulnerable children, and for training the future generations of advocates to be strong commited leaders. I have been involved with Freedom Schools and the Proctor Institute and am always impressed with the enthusiasm brought to the work and the level of expertise the organization brings.

Shilpa J.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

So grateful for CDF and the pioneering work of Marion Wright Edelman. What could be more important in these times than protecting children and supporting them to thrive? Thanks to the wonderful space at Alex Haley Farm as well -- such a gift to non-profit organizations and movements like ours to do vital connecting, healing, and community-building work.

Previous Stories
4

Client Served

Rating: 5

CDF came to our rescue a few months ago, and was an incredible host for the 5th annual Southern Leadership Jam, when our site cancelled last minute on us. CDF's warm and friendly staff, and incredible dedication, made a HUGE difference. They worked tirelessly with us to make it work -- hosting us so generously, working things out with the food and catering, helping meet our budget -- they gave us so many wonderful gifts. Thank you CDF/Haley Farm! Y'all are AMAZING!

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

I've worked with CDF for the last 3 years with the Freedom Schools program. It has been a wonderful experience every year. I recommend the program and all other programs CDF offers to our communities.

2

Board Member

Rating: 5

This is a wonderful organization with a purpose that truly serves the children and future leaders of our community.

3

Board Member

Rating: 5

CDF-MN is deeply committed to improving the lives and futures of disadvantaged children.
This is accomplished by raising awareness of health and education disparities, supporting parents and care takers and continuous advocacy legislatively and in the community by a staff that is very focused, hard working and successful.

3

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

My personal experience with the Children's Defense Fund has always been positive. The individuals involved in the program have all been caring, peaceful individuals.

I was first made aware of Children's Defense Fund in graduate school. We were required to read State of America's Children Handbook and support the handbook with peer reviewed research. Through this activity I was made aware of how prevalent poverty is for children who are minority, children with disabilities, and children that live in at-risk conditions. When I first became an instructor, I incorporate the CDF website and video clips into my course on Family System to bring awareness of the impact of poverty on the development and well-being of children.

A few years later when I became involved as a board member for my state affiliate professional association, I was in charge of planning the annual conference. I reached out to Janet Wolf and asked her to serve as a key note speaker for our annual conference. She spoke on Cradle to Prison Pipeline and brought with her leaders from the CDF Freedom School to speak as well. The presentation was extremely moving and unforgettable. It was also during this time that Janet mentioned she would like to begin a recycling and container gardening program at Haley Farms.

A few years later, I was asked by my director to write a Center Stage Proposal. I knew I wanted to bring Mrs. Marion Wright Edelman to our campus. Bringing her to campus provided an opportunity for the students and faculty of TTU to hear first hand from someone who has devoted her life to improve conditions and wellbeing for all children and especially for children in poverty, children with disabilities and children who are minority.

Other ways I have been involved with the CDF is taking students to visit Haley Farm and hear Kenneth Libby speak of the work of CDF at Haley Farm and learn of the programming held at the facility. While implementing the Women' s Leadership Initiative grant, colleagues and I arranged to take the students to Haley Farm for a retreat. It was also the perfect place to begin working on the advocacy project that was a requirement of the initiative. The students had a wonderful time, loved networking with Ken Libby and Janet Wolf.

This academic year we will work with CDF on a faculty research grant entitled Train the Trainer: Addressing Food Insecurity with Container Gardening. In September of 2017, we conducted the pilot study and plans are to implement the full program with Ella Baker Freedom School Leader in 2018.

To me CDF is dedicated to making a change in the lives of children. This is accomplished by awareness and by action. When you improve the lives of children, you are impacting the lives of families and improving society.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The Children's Defense Fund continually works to improve the overall health and well-being of our community by concentrating on our community's future-the children. Many efforts are devoted to achieving this goal, including targeted programs designed to meet the educational, cultural, and civic needs of all children in Marlboro County.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am a parent and supporter of the Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools program. My child attended the summer program for many years. She loved the energy, the college interns, the enrichment, and THE BOOKS! I saw her love of reading improve and her confidence improve. The program is magnetic and I love it! We look forward to each summer because of the CDF Freedom Schools Programs! We still have the books she got to bring home and keep, each week of the program.

CDF is making a difference and changing lives, one child at a time. I'm a witness. My family and I will be forever indebted to CDF for how the Freedom Schools program changed my daughter's life.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I'm an MSW child advocate and rely on the Children's Defense Fund for the latest news and actions needed to support federal policy that is responsive to the needs of children and families. Their direct programming for children and spiritual resources are impactful and inspiring. CDF is an indispensable leader and stalwart in the field of child advocacy.

3 Emily M.1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Amazing organization with strong mission and social justice warriors for employees.

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Great organization! CDF is the voice for the children in need whom struggle with a disability, discrimination, poverty, and lack of education. Many children and families benefit from this organization and the amazing and caring staff are willing to make this happen.

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The Children's Defense Fund is always willing to work with the local teachers to provide a professional place for our events. In addition, the staff is friendly and makes sure we are always well cared for. While using their facilities, they always tell us of the great things their organization does.

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I previously worked at CDF in 2009 as a Director of Prospect Research for its development department. CDF is an amazing organization that works hard to ensure that American children have access to health care, quality education and community supports to prevent juvenile delinquency, illnesses and family breakdowns. Its president, Marian Wright Edelman, is a powerhouse who goes over and beyond her duties to save our children and bravely points out how we, Americans, have failed our children. I highly recommend this agency that has changed so many lives with its programs, advocacy efforts and leadership.

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Children's Defense Fund is, and has been, the leading voice for all children, and especially those who live in at-risk circumstances, in the United States for over 40 years. It is founder and president, Marian Wright Edelman, leads with a prophetic and compassionate voice that calls a nation into account on behalf of the "least of these." The organization transcends partisan politics in its quest to create a better nation where children can grow into the fullness for which they were created. It is an organization that meets the highest ethical standard and is without scandal because if focuses on what is important - children and their wellbeing.

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

For almost 50 years, Marian Edelman and Children’s Defense Fund have worked tirelessly to advance the treatment of children in and by this country. Although the strategies have evolved over the years, the goal and the commitment have been unwavering.

3

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have seen Mary Carreon from Children’s Defense Fund present and offer the most helpful information. I have learned so much from her presentation, I too tell my friends and family of the available resources. This organization is an excellent source for our community.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was lucky enough to be a read aloud guest a a local Freedom School site and had the best most inspired time. The staff was exceptional at motivating kids, moving them from activity to activity and instilling a love of reading at a young age. And the Kids were awesome. They were excited to be at Freedom Schools and excited to listen to the book I was reading. Can't recommend this program enough!

4

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Great group of individuals who are really engaged in the community and who are working to meet the needs that are brought to them with a compassionate heart.

4 Jessica Herrera R.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Thank you for being great advocates for our Texas children.

3

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My commitment to Children's Defense Fund involves from its mission embedded in Marian Wright Edelman's vision and her much needed commentary on the issues facing poor children. I also valued the moral compass she applies to our society as a whole.

4 Evelia C. C.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Children's Defense Fund is a great organization with proven record of helping Texas children and families! CDF amplifies the voices of vulnerable communities and advocates for solutions to ensure all Texas children (and around the nation) have the resources they need to succeed!

4

Donor

Rating: 5

I had an amazing experience at the annual CDF Beat the Odds program/fundraiser not only meeting some of CDF's staff and learning about their dedication and mission, but also hearing stories from young men and women who have overcome incredible hardships in life at achieve academic, professional and personal success

4

Board Member

Rating: 5

Having been an Advisory board member for CDF-Ohio for over 6 years, I can attest to their leave no child behind mission. They are true advocates for our children who cannot advocate for themselves, whether education, justice, or healthcare.

4

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Alex Haley Farm is a gem in east Tennessee. Easy drive north of Knoxville to Clinton, this is a location that I encourage all my friends and family to visit. The folks on the property are always willing to share insights into the great work they do to support children and folks who work to make the world better for our children. Specifically, I've brought a number of students to the farm to experience the famous Library and Chapel. These, along with the rich history, make this a valuable opportunity for my engineering students to see the impact of the built environment on people and the community. The folks are family to all who visit.

4 Ann Williams C.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The staff of the Children's Defense Fund works tirelessly in the community to make sure all children are covered with health insurance. They work with the school districts and other nonprofits. They are always willing to set up a table at any community event where families can get much needed information. They are part of our health working group and also facilitate a coalition on children's health for the two county area. The State Director keeps all of us informed on what is happening in the state and federal legislatures. I am not sure what we would do without their valuable guidance on children's health.

3

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The Women’s Fund of East Tennessee held a focus group meeting with professionals from our 25-county service area and had a wonderful experience at the Alex Haley Farm. A professional team and inviting atmosphere conducive to productivity.

3

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Children's Defense Fund (CDF) is a leading organization in child well-being in Texas, with a major focus on healthcare. They also work in the area of abuse and neglect prevention, and are a strong voice for both the rights and the healthy development of children. The'r work in helping to ensure that all Texas families have access to healthcare has been especially strong, and they're organized rallies, symposiums, legislative advocacy days and events and are a major resource for anyone wanting to highlight the impact of Texas' large uninsured rate. Their team provides resources, research and testimony support, as well as handling those functions for their own work, and without CDF's tireless championing of the youngest and most vulnerable populations in our state, the advocacy landscape in Texas would look vastly different.

3

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am a member of the RGV Children's Health Coalition, an active group of civic minded individuals and organizations, organized quarterly by the Children's Defense Fund of the Rio Grande Valley. CDF-RGV advocates for access to the children's health insurance program and food assistance programs like SNAP and WIC for vulnerable families who are unable to navigate on their own the government's benefit programs. What impresses me the most about CDF-RGV is the quality of the services provided by the staff members. They assist those who are in crisis with finding solutions, and treat each client with dignity and respect. A mother may come into their office with one problem, and come out with solutions to multiple issues. CDF-RGV is a connector of people to resources, and provides a voice for those who have lost theirs. CDF-RGV offers a beacon of light to help navigate complex systems for those whose circumstances seem overwhelming and impossible to change.

3

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This entity does an amazing job of working for issues important to Children across the U.S. My daughter is a teacher in Texas and has spoken of their "Beat the Odds" program that celebrates kids who have overcome various hurdles to succeed. I also appreciate the policy work they have done to advocate for the CHIP program.

3

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Strong voice for children, passionate and effective advocates, deeply engaged in communities. Love their work and am grateful for it every day.

3

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I had an opportunity to work with CDF for a number of years while I worked in health care advocacy. CDF has long been an important voice in advocating for improved health care access, from the initial passage of S-CHIP in 90s to efforts to have it reauthorized (ongoing now) to the ACA fight of recent years. The team at CDF is extremely capable, committed, and collaborative. Their strong relationships in DC as well as their truly national network are very valuable.