When most people think of non-profits and charities, their minds go to a handful of organizations that do a lot of good work and see a lot of press because of it: The American Red Cross, The United Way, UNICEF and World Vision, to name a few. But charities come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and many of them fly beneath the radar of popular consciousness, doing charitable work that is anything but ordinary.
There are roughly 1.5 million different charitable organizations and non-profits in the United States alone, and they are all working toward bettering the planet, its people, its air, its animals and more. Some make use of donated boats and cars to fund charities. Others connect adults with at-risk children, and still others are marching to the beat of a slightly different drum. From voice mail for the homeless to bumblebee preservation, here are seven little-known charities that are benefiting the common good in uncommon ways.
Springwire (Community Voice Mail)
Springwire is a charity that provides free voice mail services to the poor and homeless across America. While most of us have the ease and practicality of a cell phone’s voice mail, the very poor and homeless rarely have access to such a luxury. Because gaining employment often requires a phone number, Springwire can help someone who is out of work get a job more easily. Over 80 percent of Springwire’s Community Voice Mail users have been able to find employment, housing, social services and more with their service.
First Book is a literacy program that focuses on children with limited access to books. The organization has given away over 60 million free or low-cost books across thousands of communities in the U.S. and Canada. 97 percent of the money they bring in goes toward their program—an impressive rate of institutional efficiency. For every dollar donated to First Book, 10 dollars in books find their way to a child learning to read.
Bumblebee Conservation Trust
Bees and other pollinators are in steep decline across the entire world due to pesticides, chemicals and habitat loss. From strawberries and tomatoes to almonds and apples, much of the world’s fruit, nuts and produce need the pollinating help of bees in order to reproduce. In short, humans rely on bees’ efforts for food. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is an organization dedicated to protecting the U.S. bee populations that are in decline and reintroducing those that face extinction. With advocacy, education, habitat protection and more, they are working to ensure this important part of our planet’s biodiversity begins to thrive once again.
A charity that works to stop poverty before it starts, Modest Needs focuses on assisting people with modest incomes who don’t qualify for government assistance when they face an unexpected expense that threatens their financial stability. Whether it’s a job loss that leads to late mortgage payments or an unexpected medical bill, Modest Needs ensures that a single crisis doesn’t force an individual or family, who is otherwise doing fine financially, into a cycle of poverty or homelessness.
Kiva is a microfinance and loan charity that specializes in giving grants and small loans to people in the developing world. With loans as small as 25 dollars, people are able to fund businesses that range from restaurants to taxi services. Simply browse the Kiva website for different projects until you happen upon one you’re interested in helping. Donate money, and change someone’s life.
Hopeline From Verizon
Unless it’s a new product, corporations are rarely heralded as doing something revolutionary, but Verizon has found a way to help at-risk women in a way that is unique to the service they already provide. With Hopeline from Verizon, women in battered women’s’ shelters can receive a phone and service as they go about the difficult work of creating a new life for themselves and their children. Since 2001, Verizon has given over 100,000 phones and hundreds of millions of free minutes away through this program.
Named after the Peanuts character who is rarely seen without his blanket, Project Linus is an organization that works to provide handmade blankets to sick, traumatized and needy children. Since 1998, they’ve given away over 5 million handmade blankets. Not only does Project Linus provide children with the experience and comfort of a new, soft, handmade blanket, but they also provide thousands of volunteers with a meaningful outlet for their knitting, crocheting and sewing talents.
Charities do a world of good in a world that needs a lot more good in it, and many of them are finding unique ways to do so. From handmade blankets to micro loans, charitable organizations and the people who support them are discovering that help can be as specific and individual as the people doing—and receiving—the helping.