Top 12 Healthcare Charities Making a Difference

The holidays are the best time of year to give back to charity. The season of giving should encourage you to reflect on your good fortune and express gratitude for the bounties of your life. Healthcare charities are a particularly popular sector for those who are looking for great ways to give back this time of year. They allow you to give gifts in honor of loved ones who have struggled with diseases and conditions that are not widely researched.

All of these charities received a three- or four-star rating from Charity Navigator. This organization rates charities based on their financial health — in other words, whether or not they’re financially efficient and if they have enough capacity to properly serve their specific cause — as well as accountability and transparency.

The American Heart Association (AHA)

The American Heart Association, based in Dallas, is the country’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. The organization focuses on providing public health education — you’ve probably seen the iconic red heart logo on food items to designate that a certain item meets the organization’s criteria for heart-healthy food — but it also provides physicians with science-based treatment guidelines to help prevent heart disease and stroke.

But does it actually make a difference? Definitely. According to the AHA’s 2015-2016 annual report, the organization helped reduce cardiovascular disease mortality by 70 percent since 1968, and helped reduce stroke mortality rate by 36 percent since 2002. The association helped boost survival rates by funding life-saving advancements, such as the artificial heart valve and cholesterol-inhibiting drugs. Charity Navigator gives the AHA a 91.33 out of 100 score, so you can be sure it’s a charity worth your donations.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) was founded in 1971 as an independent humanitarian organization. The organization provides life-saving medical care to those who have been affected by war, natural disasters, disease outbreaks, neglect, and other crises. MSF treats people based on medical need alone, and does not take into account race, religion, or political affiliation. After an emergency, MSF provides free, high-quality medical care to those in need.

MSF won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 and currently has around 33,000 staff members on the ground in 70 countries. Last year, it provided over 9.7 million outpatient consultations and treated nearly 700,000 patients, according to the Doctors Without Borders 2016 Annual Report. It was particularly vital amidst the mounting refugee crisis in Syria and Yemen, and was able to treat large numbers of displaced people throughout the world.

Patient Services Incorporated (PSI)

Virginia-based Patient Services Incorporated may not be as recognizable as The American Heart Association or Doctors Without Borders, but it does equally as much good work. This non-profit organization offers assistance with copayments to chronically ill patients with mounting medical bills. The organization was founded by Dr. Dana Kuhn in 1989 in an effort to help his chronically ill patients receive the medical care they needed to survive.

PSI is one of very few charities on Charity Navigator to receive eight consecutive four-star charity ratings. The organization gave over 94 percent of contributions in 2016 to program assistance groups that work directly with patients to help pay medical bills, according to its annual report . Last year, the group provided financial assistance to 20,738 patients — that equates to over $100 million in services — throughout the United States.

MAP International

MAP International’s slogan is “Medicine for the World,” and at its core, that’s what the organization strives to provide. The international, Christian organization provides medicine and health supplies to people around the world regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality, or ethnic background. These vital medical services help prevent disease and promote good health in many regions of the world where resources are limited, including in Africa, Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean, as well as the U.S. and Mexico.

Last year, MAP International gave $485 million in aid to 102 countries, treating about 10 million patients. The organization also expanded its reach to include emergency support for areas hit hard by natural disasters, with $6.6 million going towards disaster relief efforts. What’s more, MAP has shipped over $6 billion worth of medicine around the world since its founding in 1954. It holds a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and is rated as an Accredited Charity from the Better Business Bureau, so you can feel good about giving to this group this holiday season.

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross is one of the world’s most significant disaster relief organizations. Not only that — the foundation provides international services to support countries with minimal resources, as well as health-focused training and certification programs and support to service members and veterans. But the most important facet of the Red Cross’s work is its lifesaving blood donor initiatives, which are a key resource for survivors following natural disasters and other crises. The Red Cross provides about 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply.

The organization also offers essential health-related services to those in need, including vaccinations, free smoke detectors, and shelter services. According to its 2016 annual report, the Red Cross provided more than 1.66 million meals and snacks, delivered roughly 1.4 million relief items and provided over 56,000 shelter stays. All of these initiatives together provided disaster relief to nearly 4.6 million people in 2016. You can give to the Red Cross in multiple ways, not just financially.

Consider becoming a volunteer or donating blood if you don’t have the means to give a monetary donation. The Red Cross is on the frontlines of biomedical innovations, and runs a program called BioArch that allows donation centers to better monitor and collect blood donations through barcode label technologies. The systems are able to easily identify donor information that might prevent a person from being able to give blood, and helps the organization closely monitor blood inventory levels so that it knows exactly how much a community needs at a given time.

St. Jude Research Hospital

St. Jude Research Hospital is a nonprofit medical corporation that provides free pediatric treatment to children with catastrophic diseases. It’s also a pioneer when it comes to researching non-curable diseases that affect children. The organization was founded by entertainer Danny Thomas in 1962 with the mission that “no child should die in the dawn of life.” Although it’s named after St. Jude, Thomas’s patron saint, the hospital is not associated with any religious organization.

St. Jude treats patients from all 50 United States as well as those from around the world. According to its most recent annual report , the hospital has grown the overall childhood survival rate from 20 percent at its founding to more than 80 percent today. In 2015, St. Jude gave over $1 million in total support, with the vast majority of that going to patient care services and research. It has received several major awards and recognitions, and one of its doctors received a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1996.

Cure Alzheimer’s Fund

Massachusetts-based Cure Alzheimer’s Fund is a non-profit charity that works to fund research that prevents, slows, or reverses Alzheimer’s disease. It was founded in 2004 following principles of venture philanthropy — a method of investing that identifies high-risk, high-reward investments to fund philanthropic causes — and has given over $50,000,000 in funds to Alzheimer’s research. Some of that has contributed to key discoveries in the field, including new drugs and treatments for Alzheimer’s patients.

Why is the organization on our top 12 list? For one, 100 percent of all the funds raised by Cure Alzheimer’s goes directly to research and education. Last year, the fund received $15.6 million in donations and was able to fund 56 research projects and 58 researchers. With 89.7 percent of donations going towards program expenses, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund was able to distribute over $50 million in research grants to Alzheimer’s-related research.

Community Volunteers in Medicine (CVIM)

Founded in 1998 by venture capital and leadership from the Women’s Auxiliary of the Paoli Hospital Foundation in Pennsylvania, Community Volunteers in Medicine was developed to provide primary medical and dental care to people who lack insurance. The organization primarily serves Southeastern Pennsylvania, but has set many standards for global healthcare organizations. It holds a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and a 100 percent score for financials, accountability, and transparency.

Despite the fact that it’s relatively small in reach, CVIM was able to give nearly $6 million in care to the community in 2016, according to its annual report. It also provided care to over 35,000 patients, with over 3,000 of those patients receiving dental care. The group also provided 26,000 free prescription medications to patients in the Chester County region. This organization is certainly one to watch in the coming years.

Arthritis National Research Foundation (ANRF)

The Arthritis National Research Foundation has been funding arthritis-related causes since 1970. Its primary goal is to help fund arthritis research in order to develop prevention programs and new treatments for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, juvenile arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. It also provides funds for researchers to help better understand the causes and side effects associated with arthritis.

The organization typically funds between 10 and 20 grants per year, with over $1 million in research awards given in the 2016-2017 period. What’s so great about this organization — besides its core mission, of course — is that it’s a premier example of a responsibly funded organization. With a four-star Charity Navigator rating for nine straight years, the ANRF is well-regarded because it gives over 90 percent of every donation to research programs.

Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF)

Giving to the right breast cancer research organization can be a challenge. Some of the biggest and most recognizable charities have been heavily criticized for mismanaging funds, so a little bit of research on a donor’s behalf can go a long way. Those who want to help contribute to the field of breast cancer research should consider the New York-based Breast Cancer Research Foundation . This group is the highest-rated breast cancer organization in the U.S., with a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and an A+ rating from Charity Watch.

BCRF strives to provide breast cancer prevention and cure research to worldwide researchers. It was founded in 1993 by Evelyn H. Lauder, and has since raised more than a half a billion dollars for life-saving breast cancer research initiatives. Each year, the organization donates more than 88 percent of its financials directly towards breast cancer research, with about 3 percent designated for awareness programs. The majority of funds go towards researching genetics, prevention, treatment, tumor biology, and survivorship.

Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF)

The Elton John AIDS Foundation was founded by Elton John in 1992 in response to the urgent need for philanthropic support of the global AIDS crisis. Since then, it has raised more than $385 million towards AIDS-related causes. The mission of the EJAF is to provide information and means to prevent the infection, while also helping to support programs that provide high-quality medical care, and treatment for those living with HIV and AIDS.

The EJAF continues to set standards in healthcare charities and received a 100 percent rating by Charity Navigator in accountability and transparency. The organization gives an impressive 93.9 percent of its total expenses to programs that help serve its mission. In 2015, EJAF funded 134 initiatives, which helped to fund HIV testing, education on syringe exchange and the use of preventative drug PreP, and funding for care of those who are HIV positive.

American Kidney Fund (AKF)

The American Kidney Fund provides a wide range of services associated with kidney health. It provides comprehensive programs surrounding kidney health awareness, education, and prevention, and offers financial services that reach one out of every five U.S. dialysis patients. The Maryland-based organization is a 15-time recipient of Charity Navigator’s four-star rating and is positioned in the top one percent of charities nationwide for fiscal accountability, giving 97 cents of every dollar to its programs.

According to the AKF’s 2016 annual report, the organization served nearly 100,000 patients last year with life-saving programs. Not only does the AKF provide essential financial relief for dialysis and other kidney-related medical care, but it also helps patients in need with transportation, nutritional products, and medications. It also provided free screenings to check for kidney and heart health and diabetes, with over 100,000 people in 23 cities taking advantage of these free programs.