Thinking About Thinking

The Most Innovative and Impactful (Emerging) Charities

Posted in Pop Culture by larrycheng on July 21, 2009

Every day I meet for-profit companies that are trying to change the world by solving really big problems with groundbreaking innovations.  Today I asked my twitter friends which non-profits or charities are following suit.  Just like my day job, I am especially interested in charities that may be emerging or somewhat under the radar.  Following is a running list of what I heard (and who referred it).  In alphabetical order:

  1. ACCESS– helping Boston youth achieve higher education.
  2. Acumen Fund – building businesses to solve poverty. (brandonhaskins)
  3. Alley Cat Allies – improving the lives of cats.
  4. CharityWater – bringing clean water to developing nations. (brandonhaskins)
  5. CommonImpact – building stronger communities. (fyietc)
  6. – funding projects for teachers. (BrettTopche)
  7. Facing History – link the past to moral choices today. (bussgang)
  8. Generations Inc – intergenerational outreach.
  9. Global Poverty Project – helping those in extreme poverty. (robtrotter)
  10. Green Light Fund – helping urban families in Boston.  (Polachi_Co)
  11. Idealist – global clearinghouse of nonprofit resources. (fyietc)
  12. Jumpstart – building vital skills in children.
  13. Kiva – loans that change lives.  (Danielmsullivan)
  14. Mass Mentoring – youth mentoring in Massachussetts.
  15. MobileActive – using mobile phones for social good. (fyietc)
  16. – helping low-income households with emergencies.
  17. NetSquared – remixing the web for social change. (fyietc)
  18. Oaktree Foundation – youth-run development organization. (robtrotter)
  19. Pratham USA – imagine India where every child can read.
  20. Restavek Freedom – putting an end to child slavery in Haiti.
  21. RootCause – supporting social innovators. (fyietc)
  22. Servings – bringing meals to the critically ill and homebound. (LyndonMouton)
  23. SocialActions – open source database of social actions. (fyietc)
  24. Teach for America – national teacher corps. (aseidman)
  25. Ushahidi – crowdsourcing crisis management (justindavey)
  26. WorldChanging – environmental media organization. (fyietc)
  27. Year Up – empowering urban talent.

(If anyone has other ideas, please leave a comment or tweet me and I will update the list.)

14 Responses

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  1. smehro said, on July 21, 2009 at 6:01 pm

  2. Gene Schoepp said, on July 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    We are particularly fond of animal charities (in addition to the EFF), and one of my favorite among the animal charities is Alley Cat Allies. They are non-traditional in that they are aimed at feral felines, mostly in urban areas, and seek only to catch, spay/neuter, and return. The research shows that feral cats do not have higher rates of disease than their more domesticated brethren, and are perfectly happy to live on their own and do significant good in the battle against rodents in their local settings while avoiding people and their environs almost entirely.

    For many animals, this is a much better solution than a shelter where they’ll be passed over for more domesticated or younger and eventually be euthanized. I think it’s a unique and innovative approach to a problem and we’re constant contributors to their work.

    Hope all is well, Larry!


  3. Renee said, on July 21, 2009 at 11:45 pm

  4. Lyndon Mouton said, on July 22, 2009 at 12:03 pm


    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and I’m glad that your touching upon what most think is a stodgy, inefficient sector of passion and no focus. I’m currently working this summer in an organization called New Sector Alliance. It’s a non-profit consulting firm, in the tradition of Bridgespan, that places recent graduates or burgeoning social leaders from college at non-profits throughout Boston and San Francisco.

    But that’s not the one I’m making a case for.

    The organization that I’m working with this summer is Community Servings. Simply, they provide meals to individuals with critical illnesses and cannot get access to resources (i.e. income) needed to support themselves at this difficult time. They are based in Jamaica Plains right off of the Stony Brook station stop.

    That’s the punchline. Here’s what I’ve seen and experienced over the past 5 weeks.

    They’ve had rapid growth over the past 9 years after raising 4mm to move into their new facility in Jamaica Plain from Roxbury in 2007. It was intended to increase capacity but has already maxed out at 750 clients.

    They deliver weekly meals to each client which comes out to 4000+ meals being produced weekly on one of the thinnest budgets in the comparable human services category.

    25 different diet profiles for clients with a wide-ranging variety of critical illnesses including cancer, leukemia and HIV. Each client is profiled extensively for their appropiate dietary needs and given appropiate meals for health and, hopefully, recovery. All meals are then delivered by in-house transportation staff along routes across the Greater Boston area. If you’ve been driving around in the middle of the day, you probably have sat next to one of their delivery vans and did not even know it.

    They conduct the Pie In The Sky and Life Savor Events each year. These are two of the most popular fundraising events in the entire Boston area and is repeatedly praised for its simplicity, fundraising effectiveness and effort to unite the Boston philanthropic community.

    I still haven’t touched on why it is the most innovative. They’re just barely starting to tap the potential that they have at this organization.

    They’ve started an Urban Garden for use in the main Meals program (discussed earlier) as to increase the nutritional value of their meals. Almost forgot – these meals aren’t your stale hospital food you see given to ill patients. These are culturally sensitive, VERY well-made meals every day. Honestly, I just graduated from a local university and their food service could never compete in terms of variety and flavor.

    CS just kicked off it’s Farmer’s Market as it expands upon its mission to lie at the nexus of access and good nutrition. 300+ attendees for the past two Sundays and it is only growing in popularity as people look to get more involved. Maybe after church for Sunday’s dinner?

    They’ve started a very successful Job training program called Step Forward. It’s a job training program that is integrated into the Meals program whereby their cooking efforts directly improve the productivity of the internal operations. Very neat stuff indeed.

    They’ve also began supplying meals to area middle schools through a Summer Meals program as a lot of these kids in the area depend on the state for at least 2 of their daily meals requirement. It’s also another way to diversify the funding sources of CS and encourage it’s sustainability.

    I don’t know if your readers are aware but there is a real crisis breaking out in the non-profit sector as needs over the past two years have skyrocketed and corporations/foundations have pared back their donations for survival. Many non-profits are in desperate need of funding and only merge or disappear appear as options.

    CS will not do either. It’s actually adding capacity, expanding into new opportunities, diversifying funding sources and actually increasing their effectiveness.

    Would make for a nice business case, wouldn’t it?


    lyndonmouton2009 at gmail

    PS: I just realized that my passion for this organization has taken way too much time in replying to your request, Larry. But I hope that it serves as an indicator of how important CS will be in America’s future of Service. You can say you heard it here first.

  5. Brendan said, on July 22, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Generations Incorporated: because it is an intergenerational program that, unlike many non-profits, benefits both agents involved, youth and older adults.

    “Generations Incorporated engages active older adults in results-driven intergenerational programs that inspire students and improve schools. Our programs generate strong relationships between older adults and students that get results and make a difference in both of their lives.”

  6. Tony DeWitt said, on July 22, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    From their web site:

    “Our mission is simple. We want to put an end to child slavery in Haiti. Unfortunately, the solution is not so straightforward. As a part of a complex web addressing the restavek system in Haiti-our role is to give hope, and even freedom, to those who need it most. The Restavek Foundation provides restavek children opportunities for education, advocates for enslaved children, and raises awareness on a global scale to end modern-day slavery in Haiti.”

  7. […] The Most Innovative and Impactful (Emerging) Charities — 9:53pm via Google […]

  8. Hang said, on July 27, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Check out BUILD ( True to its Bay Area roots, it’s centered around entrepreneurship but caters to underprivileged, possibly under-performing, at risk Bay Area high school students. The students form teams in their freshman year, hatch up a business plan, and compete for VC money. During their sophomore year, they actually run these businesses while being mentored in both business and academics. In their junior year, they transition into the college preparation step. Finally during their senior year they apply to college. The program has a 100% college attendance rate for students who’ve stayed with the program. It started out in the Bay Area but have recently expanded to locations around the country.

  9. Rukia Kuchiki said, on March 17, 2010 at 3:22 am

    Thanks for the info, I’ll keep checking back for more articles, bookmarked!

  10. Patrick Nommensen said, on February 27, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Restavec Freedom Alliance is another small and new non-profit organization that is really striving to make a difference. Check it out!

  11. The Root Cause Review said, on November 7, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Good points made keep it up.

  12. […] The Most Innovative and Impactful (Emerging) Charities – One writer’s view of who the most innovative charities are. It’s subjective of course, but worth a look. […]

  13. […] Sources and Further Reading: The Most Innovative and Impactful (Emerging) Charities […]

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