How to Choose the Right Charity to Support

’Tis the season of giving. Here are 14 Canadian non-profits that need your help.

Canadians are a generous lot. In 2020, we gave more than $10 billion in charitable donations, according to research by CanadaHelps, a fundraising platform that connects individual charities with prospective donors. At the same time, the number of people who depend on charitable services has only grown during the pandemic.

How to Choose a Charity to Support

The following list covers charities making a difference in urgent and innovative ways. Most also come with a seal of approval from CanadaHelps or Charity Intelligence Canada, an organization that spots the “top impact” groups—so you can feel confident your donation will make a difference where it matters most.

Canadian Red Cross COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Global Appeal

This fund approaches COVID-19 relief efforts by first assessing which communities are most at risk. In Canada, the Red Cross has helped with vaccination efforts in Quebec, Ontario and P.E.I., as well as in First Nations communities in Manitoba. And last year, during the devastating outbreaks in long-term care centres, Red Cross workers arrived at some of the hardest hit facilities in Ontario to aid in everything from housekeeping to resident care.

Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction

Indigenous people are overrepresented among urban homeless populations—and often, general-service agencies are ill-equipped to provide culturally specific supports. Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction (TIHR) works to fill that gap. The Indigenous-founded grassroots collective connects people with necessary health care (including COVID-19 testing) and supplies (like warm winter coats), as well as access to traditional medicines. Since April 2020, TIHR has served more than 3,000 meals to individuals living on the streets.

Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC)

This umbrella organization supports local spaces in low-income neighbourhoods across the country where residents can come for community meals, affordable produce, hands-on kitchen and garden experience, and educational programs. CFCC offers fresh, whole foods to those in need—a category that included more Canadians than ever during the pandemic, when economic uncertainty caused food insecurity to surge by 39 per cent.

Food Secure Canada

This national coalition works to combat hunger and promote sustainable food systems. Their recent projects have involved consulting on Canada’s first-ever food policy and raising awareness around the challenges faced by migrant workers—a group that COVID-19 hit particularly hard. Where CFCC tackles food scarcity on an immediate level, this non-profit works to bring about broader policy-based change.

How to choose a charity to support - woman with holiday listIllustration: Raz Latif

Fresh Start Recovery Centre

Aimed at Albertans grappling with addiction and homelessness, Calgary’s Fresh Start Recovery Centre provides an intensive four-month live-in program that includes fitness training, meditation and nutritional support. The group also provides counselling for family members, transitional housing for those recovering from alcohol use disorder and resources for employers. Other initiatives include a food truck that’s fully staffed by people in recovery; in 2020, it pivoted to bringing necessary supplies to those in need.

First Book Canada

COVID-19 has negatively impacted children’s education—and for some, it’s nearing a crisis. First Book Canada operates on the premise that “Education is a child’s best path out of poverty, but access to quality education is not equal.” The organization has connected kids in low-income households across the country with more than seven million books and educational resources.

Encampment Support Network

In Toronto, COVID-19 only increased the need for affordable housing—more than 100,000 households are now on waiting lists. The pandemic also highlighted the vulnerability of homeless populations, many of whom resorted to setting up encampments in parks. This volunteer network works tirelessly to deliver basic supplies, such as water, tents, ice, sleeping bags, fire-safety equipment and snacks, to those in need.

Educational Program Innovations Charity (EPIC)

Youth living in poverty or in at-risk situations, as well as members of Black and Indigenous communities, get support from this Sydney, N.S. organization, including one-on-one mentoring, parenting workshops and scholarships for high-school graduates. The program also helps kids from underprivileged families who struggle to get access to tech devices and Internet services.

Charities 2Illustration: Raz Latif

Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund

If you’re drawn to an issue, such as supporting First Nations communities, but you can’t narrow down your choices to an individual charity, CanadaHelps recommends more than 200 options in the First Nations category and 300 options in the Indigenous Peoples category. You may also choose to donate to the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund, the proceeds of which are distributed between more than 40 Indigenous-led charities across the country, all of which were selected in consultation with an Indigenous adviser.


CUPS is a Calgary community centre, health-care system and social-service agency rolled into one hub. Many programs are tailored to families, including several parenting workshops. In 2020 alone, CUPS saw 2,336 people use its services for the first time. During the pandemic, it created “assisted self-isolation sites” at a designated hotel for people with no fixed address who had been exposed to COVID-19.

Aunt Leah’s Place

For more than 30 years, New Westminster, BC’s Aunt Leah’s has prepared youth in foster care to live independently. They offer outreach programs, life-skills lessons and employment and educational guidance so youth can avoid becoming homeless when they’re compelled to leave their foster residences. The group also connects young people with housing and helps keep mothers in need from losing custody of their children.

Alison McAteer House, Sutherland House

People in the North can be particularly vulnerable to intimate-partner violence: isolation, the cost of living and the strain of small communities can all exacerbate volatile situations. And yet, according to a 2020 CBC News report, one out of every three people in the Territories are more than 100 kilometres away from a domestic-violence shelter. The cost of maintaining such lifelines is a huge obstacle, which is why every donation to these Yellowknife and Fort Smith shelters counts.

Black Lives Matter Canada

This umbrella organization provides a centralized pool to support Black Lives Matter groups across the country. This year, BLM Canada secured a bricks-and-mortar space in Toronto, the Wildseed Centre for Art & Activism, an industrial building that will serve as a performance area, cultural incubator and headquarters to nurture fellowships for Black artists.


This innovative Vancouver group aims to combat anti-Asian racism using creative strategies that range from interactive social-media campaigns to tools for educators. The organization also serves as a vital platform: members of Asian communities who experience racially motivated violence can report what happened, contributing to a data set that’s sadly ever-expanding.

For more inspiring stories of people making a difference in their communities, check out this roundup of good news from around the world.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada