Pay It Forward: 6 Charities to Donate to This Thanksgiving and Beyond

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks and give back to people in need. Part of experiencing gratitude is to recognize the things we are thankful to have and take for granted that others may not be so lucky. As we gear up for the holiday period—filled with indulgent food spreads, mountains of gifts, and quality vacation time with loved ones—it's always important to pause and take the time to help the people who may not have access to the most basic of human needs: food, shelter, access to health care.

While our philanthropy and volunteering should extend far beyond the holiday period, the end of the year is a good time to reflect on the good deeds you've done throughout the year and how you can do better moving forward. After all, altruism brings more joy than material possessions. So if you're wondering how to pay it forward to help those in need this holiday period, there are luckily a ton of organizations to choose from. Try one of these six Thanksgiving charity ideas this year and donate your money or your time to helping the most vulnerable.

Thanksgiving Charity Ideas


Founded by Lauren Bush Lauren, FEED was created with the simple idea of creating products that would engage people in the fight against hunger tangibly, by providing school meals to children around the world. Each product has a set number of meals donated attached to them, so you know exactly how far your money is going.

Planned Parenthood

For over 100 years, Planned Parenthood has been providing affordable reproductive health care to women across America. It was founded on the revolutionary idea that women should have the information and care they need to live strong, healthy lives and fulfill their dreams. The organization delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide. 

World Central Kitchen

Founded by Chef José Andrés after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, World Central Kitchen uses the expertise of its Chef Network to provide meals in disaster relief zones, from Puerto Rico to Brazil, Cambodia, and beyond. The organization works to empower people to be part of the solution, with a focus on health, education, jobs, and social enterprise. During the last major disaster in the U.S., Hurricane Florence, World Central Kitchen provided over 300,000 meals to people in need.

American Civil Liberties Union

For almost 100 years, the American Civil Liberties Union has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States. The ACLU fights government abuse and defends individual freedoms, including speech and religion, a woman's right to choose, the right to due process, privacy, and more, ensuring that the most vulnerable Americans have access to justice. 

Charities to Donate to on Thanksgiving
Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis

CityMeals on Wheels

Since 1981, CityMeals on Wheels has been serving homebound elderly New Yorkers by delivering weekend meals, emergency meals, and mobile food pantries to New Yorkers who don't have the means to feed themselves. Around the holidays, they also organize holiday meals and nonperishable boxes on top of offering friendly visits, handmade cards, and senior chats, ensuring that no NYC elderly resident goes hungry or lonely. 

Southern Poverty Law Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded in 1971 out of the Civil Rights Movement to fight hate and bigotry and to seek justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality. Its Teaching Tolerance program produces and distributes—free of charge—anti-bias documentary films, books, lesson plans, and other materials that reduce prejudice and promote educational equity in our nation's schools.

Next up: 8 LGBTQ+ organizations to support well beyond Pride Month.

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