The 50 Most Influential Nonprofits

If you're looking to donate to a good cause, you've got a few things to consider -- your own beliefs and worldview and, importantly, how far your money will go. Top Nonprofits' list of the top nonprofit organizations tells a story of how different organizations marshal their services to make a global impact, whether it's a modest outfit with a few thousand members or a powerhouse with millions of participants. 

This snapshot pulls in a lot of the nonprofits you'd recognize, some you might have forgotten about, and a few that you never knew were nonprofits in the first place. The results are ordered against a few factors: its web rank (1/3 weight, from a number of sources that measure traffic, page rank from Google, and other inputs), its social media engagement (Facebook and Twitter only here, both contributing to 1/3 weight) and its Charity Navigator Rating (1/3 weight). You may quibble with the rankings, but one thing is clear: the cause is noble in each case.

50. Creative Commons
50. Creative Commons

Protection for the creative class, Creative Commons is the modern day defender of intellectual property. By applying a Creative Common license, you can let people share your photographs without allowing companies to sell them. It also requires people who borrow your work to properly credit you. On the user end, songs tagged this way can be remixed and used, royalty free.

49. National 4H Council
49. National 4H Council

Land-grant universities have a long and proud legacy in the U.S. -- including 4H, the largest youth mentoring and development organization. Its current network is more than 6 million young people and nearly 612,000 volunteers-not to mention 25 million alumni. Centered on public service, 4H fills the gaps of community need government programs and the private sector.

48. Zoological Society of San Diego
48. Zoological Society of San Diego

San Diego Zoo is at the top of nearly everyone's list, globally, for its conservation and care. More than 3,500 rare and endangered animals across 300 species call it home. It also has the largest member base of any zoo in the world, with 250,000 member households and 130,000 child memberships.

47. National Council of YMCAs in the USA
47. National Council of YMCAs in the USA

How many people went to "the Y" for camp or after-school programs? For 160 years, this nonprofit has defined community centered activities, support, and fun-giving kids everywhere access to a cool pool in the summer and a warm gym to shoot hoops in the winter. Its mission is to drive social change through personal achievement. Who can't get behind that?

46. National Audubon Society
46. National Audubon Society

More than 500 local chapters nationwide are the lifeblood of this conservation organization that stewards awareness and action on behalf of our ecosystems and the habitats that wildlife call home. Named for John James Audubon, the 19th century French-American ornithologist and author (and illustrator) of the seminal guide Birds of North America, Audubon is for the birds. Literally.

45. Ronald McDonald House Charities
45. Ronald McDonald House Charities

The mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) is simple: help families stay near their sick child during treatment. Since 1974, its local networks have helped millions of families-and RMHC now operates in more than 60 countries and regions all over the world.

44. Livestrong
44. Livestrong

You've seen the wristbands, which have helped Livestrong build awareness of the plight of more than 32 million people globally who are fighting cancer. Livestrong provides direct services them and their families, but it also provides a network of preventative care know-how and a hub of thought leadership around the complicated goal of eliminating cancer.

43. National FFA Foundation
43. National FFA Foundation

The Future Farmers of America (FFA) represented a path forward for students of agriculture at its founding in 1928 and, as the name has it, FFA represented fellowship for those who chose to make farming their vocation. As the National FFA Foundation now, it welcomes those who aspire to be teachers, doctors, scientists, and others.

42. Partners In Health
42. Partners In Health

House calls have gone global. Partners In Health provides what they call a "preferential option for the poor in healthcare," delivering services where they're needed most-and in the homes of the ailing, the indigent, and the otherwise disadvantaged. PIH started in Haiti in 1987, and has since branched out to other countries in Africa, as well.

41. Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
41. Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Outreach is the principle mission of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BEGA), whose eponymous founder is one of the undisputed masters of the media. BEGA supports a television and radio empire, but it also supports a number of fellowship events, disaster relief trainings and operations, and youth programs.

40. Public Broadcasting Service
40. Public Broadcasting Service

The Public Broadcasting Services (PBS) delivers high quality, culturally enriching programs through local affiliates. But, it also represents a broad civic ideal to nurture an enlightened populous across all classes, income levels, or dispositions. It's programming for children-it was the home of "Sesame Street" for decades, and PBS Kids has been a wild success in recent years-is second to none and, notably, free to anyone.

39. Asia Society
39. Asia Society

Founded in 1956, Asia Society promotes partnerships between East and West across the spectrum, from education to business to cultural understanding. Its headquarters in New York City is renowned for its exhibitions and programming, but that's just a slice of the pie. Asia Society generates intellectual leadership for mutually beneficial ends through a dozen permanent centers and offices worldwide.

38. Mercy Corps
38. Mercy Corps

The heart of Mercy Corps is creating the social infrastructure to support more ethical, resilient, and financially stable communities as a means to raise (and in some cases establish) "the intrinsic value and dignity of human life." Mercy Corps looks to convert suffering, poverty, and oppression to what they call "secure, productive, and just communities" in Third World countries.

37. TED Talks
37. TED Talks

Founded by polymath Richard Saul Wurman, TED (technology, education, and design) began in 1984 as a conference for individuals looking to forge new relationships between otherwise discreet fields of inquiry. TED (and its "talks") has since become a cultural phenomenon and a media darling that continues to forge those relationships, as well as drive awareness about the power of ideas on society, commerce, and innovation.

36. World Wildlife Fund
36. World Wildlife Fund

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is an advocacy and conservation organization dedicated to protecting the future of nature. Working in 100 countries and supported by more than 6.2 members globally, WWF leverages science, policy, and grassroots commitment to protect and restore species and their habitats. Plus, its logo is an incredibly cute panda bear.

35. International Committee of the Red Cross
35. International Committee of the Red Cross

A red cross on a white background is the universal symbol for nonpartisan humanitarian and medical care-solely because of this organization, founded in 1863. Its mission has since broadened to include both international conflicts as well as internal ones. Notably, its efforts have since been refined to treat different classes of those afflicted by conflict, from soldiers to victims of sexual violence to migrants (and a dozen more).

34. Boy Scouts of America
34. Boy Scouts of America

Whittling wood, building camp fires, and tying perfect knots is what most people associate with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). But, there are so many more skills, all of which fall under the broader mission of what BSA calls "values-driven" youth development. It's a place where millions of young men have learned confidence, compassion, and-importantly-responsibility.

33. The Trevor Project
33. The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project, named for the film Trevor, leads the pack of LGBTQ support networks by providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention for young people in their teens and early twenties. The Trevor Project works through workshops and training, as well as a sophisticated outreach and resource system, which draws together mobile technology and volunteer verve.

32. Wounded Warrior Project
32. Wounded Warrior Project

Injured men and women who serve in our armed forces have extraordinary needs, and the Wounded Warrior Project raises public awareness to their plight. Importantly, it provides a network for injured individuals to seek support for themselves and offer support to others. Its direct programs are similarly tailored to delivering results for brave men and women whose lives were forever altered by combat.

31. Natural Resources Defense Council
31. Natural Resources Defense Council

Founded in 1970s by environmental law activists, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) draws together more than 2 million members and more than 500 scientists, lawyers, and policy experts to "ensure the rights of all people to the air, the water, and the wild." Through awareness and targeted involvement, NRDC is one of the leading organizations dealing with questions of resilience today.

30. International Rescue Committee
30. International Rescue Committee

Humanitarian crises affect people in every corner of the globe, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one of the first on the scene to restore health, safety, and a baseline quality of life to millions. Founded in 1933 (thanks, in part, to Albert Einstein, no less), IRC works in 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities.

29. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
29. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

St. Jude Thaddeus, patron saint of hopeless causes, was the inspiration for the actor Danny Thomas when he founded St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in 1962 to combat childhood cancer. The organization has improved survival rates among children from 20% to 80% in half a century through research and has markedly improved the lives of children fighting a deadly disease.

28. Charity: Water
28. Charity: Water

The global water crisis is really an amalgam of local water crises that threaten communities everywhere, but the mission of Charity: Water points to one basic reality: our survival as a planet hangs in the balance. Notably, this organization strives to be an open book, giving everyone a real time look at progress in those communities and pushing 100% of donor money to the field.

27. World Food Program USA
27. World Food Program USA

The World Food Program (WFP) is the world's largest humanitarian agency to fight hunger across the globe, reaching more than 80 million people in 82 countries. Working in collaboration with NGOs and governments, not to mention the United Nations, WFP delivers food quickly to areas in dire need, and helps sustain food pipelines after the acute crisis has passed.

26. The Nature Conservancy
26. The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy seeks to protect the land and water that sustains the lives of species everywhere. After 64 years, it claims 1 million members and 600 scientists, and has conserved more than 120 million acres in 69 countries. Its approach is rooted in scientific rigor, but its effectiveness is rooted in what it calls "non-confrontational, pragmatic solutions."

25. Smithsonian Institute
25. Smithsonian Institute

Some people have called Smithsonian "the nation's attic"-as a true American treasure that not only tells the story of this country, but pursues an active research and conservation agenda. All thanks to a gift to the government named in honor of British scientist James Smithson. Its mission is the diffusion of knowledge, and its impact on how we interpret what America really means has been incalculable.

24. Alzheimer’s Association
24. Alzheimer’s Association

Today, Alzheimer's Disease cannot be stopped, only slowed. In that spirit, the Alzheimer's Association offers a diverse and effective array of support systems for those afflicted and their families. It also promotes the issues and approaches surrounding brain health through volunteer elbow grease and a robust research program. Tomorrow? Alzheimer's may be eradicated-due in large part to this organization.

23. Humane Society of the United States
23. Humane Society of the United States

The country's largest animal protection organization, the Human Society and its affiliates provide hands-on care for more than 100,000 animals each year, training for caregivers, and education to the public. Helping to eradicate animal cruelty, and raise the standard of care for affected animals, the Human Society continues to make strides toward a more just society that counts furry friends along with people.

22. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
22. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (and its catchier moniker ASPCA) has had an immeasurable impact on reducing animal cruelty. With more than 2 million supporters, the ASPCA (and its local affiliates) is the first humane society in North America-founded in 1866-and notably over the years, it has expanded its training programs and tactics to keep pace with changing times.

21. Teach for America
21. Teach for America

The gaps in public education are noticeable, and the quality of learning that happens in classrooms across the country is uneven at best. Teach for America seeks to fill some of those gaps by placing committed and passionate teachers in underserved schools.

20. Disabled American Veterans
20. Disabled American Veterans

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) provides support to veterans of all generations in dire times of need and over the courses of their lives-by offering a lift to medical appointments, medical claim filing assistance, and securing retroactive benefits that can be lifesavers. DAV also helps place vets in jobs and holds job fairs through nearly 1,300 chapters and with the support of nearly 1.3 million members.

19. Save the Children
19. Save the Children

Education. Emergency response. Health and nutrition. Save the Children has become synonymous with all three at a time when the statistics are stark-in the U.S. alone, a quarter of all children live in poverty. Protection from abuse and neglect has also come to define the organization's activities, both here and globally.

18. American Red Cross
18. American Red Cross

Those blood drives you see all the time? That's the American Red Cross at work-collecting and dispensing lifesaving resources. But, that's not all that the organization does. Disaster relief and training (and certification) programs round out the cause first championed by Clara Barton in 1881, after learning of the global Red Cross network .

17. New York Public Library
17. New York Public Library

The lions in front of the New York Public Library are iconic-and one defines its equally iconic logo. With 92 locations in The Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, NYPL is the nation's largest public library system that's provided access to the written word for New Yorkers since its founding in 1895.

16. Samaritan’s Purse
16. Samaritan’s Purse

The Good Samaritan offers the Biblical foundation for a global evangelical organization that helps victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine. Its programs provide access the resource-poor, direct aid to the needy, discipleship and training to the eager, and opportunities for volunteers to make a real difference on the ground.

15. Monterey Bay Aquarium
15. Monterey Bay Aquarium

Its conservation and science programs have made an immeasurable impact on not only California's ocean health, but a body of knowledge for global stewards. Through research, policy activism, and consumer-focused programs such as Seafood Watch, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a leader-not to mention a great place to take your kids on Cannery Row in Monterey.

14. Kiva
14. Kiva

Micro-lending is a positive trend and, in many ways, it's been perfected by Kiva. The numbers don't lie. Over 1.4 million lenders, more than $848 million in loans, and a repayment rate of 98.35%--all of it paints a picture of not only a thoughtful, community minded nonprofit, but an effective one, too.

13. Feeding America
13. Feeding America

Through a nationwide network of food banks, Feeding America is strongly positioned to end hunger. It began as a clearinghouse of food donations in 1979, and has since grown to 200 food banks that handle local distribution-and awareness of an important issue.

12. National Public Radio
12. National Public Radio

Along with PBS, National Public Radio's acronym "NPR" has become synonymous with elevated discussions, educational content, and community news. Local affiliates everywhere reach nearly every American-all at the low end of the radio dial. But, NPR's digital presence has grown into a powerhouse in recent years.

11. Metropolitan Museum of Art
11. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Along with the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, The Met is about as New York as you can get-and is on the must-see list for millions of visitors. It is, in many ways, unparalleled for not only its collection, but its ability to command the finest travelling exhibitions-not to mention its world-renowned conservation efforts.

10. Planned Parenthood
10. Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood is a trusted health care provider that, for 100 years, has been community focused in its commonsense approach to women's health. It's also a reliable and accessible resource for everyone of any age for sex education, reproductive awareness, and family planning information.

9. Sierra Club
9. Sierra Club

Founded in 1892 by conservationist John Muir, Sierra Club is one of the preeminent environmental organizations that claims 2.4 million members and supporters. Its chief cause lately has been promoting clean energy though divestment of fossil fuels, but it also helped pass the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

8. Do Something
8. Do Something

One of Do Something's tag lines is "Want to make the world suck less?" and as one of the largest global organizations dedicated to gathering people around social change, it rallies around multiple causes. Poverty, discrimination, environmental issues-its 5.3 million members in 130 countries are committed and passionate.

7. Human Rights Campaign
7. Human Rights Campaign

You've seen the attractive gold equals sign against a blue background on bumper stickers and t-shirts. The Human Rights Campaign's 1.5 million members are vigilant and effective in advocating for the rights of America's LGBT community and raising awareness at both the grassroots level and in the highest offices of government.

6. Rotary Foundation of Rotary International
6. Rotary Foundation of Rotary International

The "Rotary Club" has become shorthand for volunteer-led, community minded opportunities to improve communities. What's behind the club-and, indeed, the clubs nationwide that support 1.2 million Rotarians-is converting donations into grants for everything from pocket-park cleanups to parades that celebrate cultural traditions to nutrition education at local schools.

5. Doctors Without Borders
5. Doctors Without Borders

You may know them as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), but did you know that Doctors Without Borders won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 for its pioneering humanitarian work? Each year, MSF provides emergency medical care to millions of people in conflict zones and in catastrophe areas around the globe-defining, at the most basic level, humanitarianism.

4. American Museum of Natural History
4. American Museum of Natural History

Another New York City institution, the American Museum of Natural History is-in the grand, 19th century sense-dedicated to seeking out, interpreting, and representing the full range of human culture, natural wonder, and scientific discovery. Its research, education, and conservation work is second to none and its iconic headquarters on Central Park West is legendary.

3. United Nations Children’s Fund
3. United Nations Children’s Fund

Also known as UNICEF, this organization is the preeminent child advocate globally-from nutrition to education to vaccination. Annually, it distributes billions of dollars worth of medical supplies and services, living up to its motto, "Every child counts." Its new Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development has pivoted UNICEF in recent years toward a proactive vision of childhood health and safety.

2. Museum of Modern Art
2. Museum of Modern Art

Founded almost a century ago, MoMA has been committed to collecting and chronicling the rise of Modern Art from the 19th century through the 20th century. Importantly, it has maintained its tradition of fostering new talent (the most recent effort has been the wildly successful PS 1 in Queens) and encouraging artists by launching thoughtful, provocative shows that delight, frustrate, and enlighten.

1. Human Rights Watch
1. Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch (HRC) comprises 400 lawyers, journalists, academics, and policy experts around the world who share a mission of uncovering unbiased and accurate information about the true state of global populations-issuing more than 100 reports and briefings annually. Notably, its trusted advocacy and outreach efforts funnel through government officials, regional economic and political groups, corporations, and financial institutions.

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