The Giving Season: Where You Should Donate This Year

Want to give back this holiday season but not sure where to start? We're doing a deep dive into the best (and most effective) charities in the world.

The Giving Season: Where You Should Donate This Year

Want to give back this holiday season but not sure where to start? We're doing a deep dive into the best (and most effective) charities in the world.
Where to Donate in 2018 The Bullet

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It’s the season of giving but, if you’re like us, sometimes you’re overwhelmed by the asks (don’t get us started on Secret Santa). Whether it’s $5 at the grocery store checkout, holiday hampers, toy drives or straight-up cash, there are a lot of worthy places to donate but limited resources to give. (We’re looking at you, wallet.)

So we’ve broken down Canada’s top charities by efficiency (measuring what percentage of donations actually make it to the cause), compiled the biggest causes of 2018 (and how to support them) and outlined all the ways you can make a difference this season, including a guide to the best gifts that give back.

‘Tis better to give than to receive, after all.


To understand which Canadian charities are making the greatest difference, Charity Intelligence analyzed the top 125 based on the impact of every dollar donated — kinda like an ROI for charitable giving.

The average return was one to two times your donation, while the top 10 had returns of six times. That means that for every dollar you donate, the charity is providing six dollars in value. It’s important to note that many of the top 10 are international charities providing aid in developing countries. Our Canadian dollar goes a lot further in those regions.

• The Top Ten

  1. Against Malaria Foundation – Provides international medical aid; based in Montreal, QC.
  2. Aunt Leah’s Place – Aids homeless youth; based in New Westminster, BC.
  3. Canadian Foodgrains Bank – Provides international nutritional aid; based in Winnipeg, MB.
  4. CUPS – A multi-service organization helping homeless individuals; based in Calgary, AB.
  5. Doctors Without Borders – Provides international medical aid; based in Toronto, ON.
  6. East York Learning Experience  – Helps new immigrants bridge language gaps; based in Toronto, ON.
  7. Fresh Start Recovery – Provides local addiction recovery; based in Calgary, AB.
  8. JUMP Math – Helps students across Canada build math skills; based in Toronto, ON.
  9. One Drop Foundation – Provides access to safe water in developing countries; based in Montreal, QC.
  10. Operation Eyesight Universal – Provides eye care for people in developing countries; based in Calgary, AB.

To read more about the 10 most impactful Canadian charities of 2018, visit

• The Runners Up

But there are other ways to measure the success or reputation of a charity.

MoneySense releases a list each year of its top 100, based on a letter grade rating of four categories: program spending efficiency, fundraising costs, governance and reserve fund size, followed by an overall grade.

This year, its top 10 charities include Calgary Food Bank, Calgary Homeless Foundation, ERDO (Emergency Relief and Development Overseas), Nature Conservancy Canada, Rick Hansen Institute, The Mississauga Food Bank, United Way of Calgary and Area, United Way of the Alberta Capital Region, Wesley Urban Ministries, and the B.C. SPCA.


If choosing one specific charity or cause to support feels impossible, there are organizations you can donate to that send money and support wherever it’s currently needed most, like the Canadian Red Cross or Amnesty International.

During times of crisis, like the wildfires in British Columbia, Hurricane Michael in Florida, or the Syrian Refugee Crisis, so many organizations pop up to lend support, but it’s best to donate to a well-established organization, so you can be sure of where your donation is going. The Canadian Red Cross has a four-star rating from Charity Intelligence, and excels in financial and mission transparency and donor accountability..

Still stumped on how to choose and what to give? Charity Navigator is an incredible resource covering everything from questions to ask yourself before donating to protecting yourself from fake charities looking to scam you (literally the worst people on Earth).



If you live in Canada, you know how unbearable our winters can be — but they’re downright deadly when you don’t have access to a warm bed and a hot meal. Thanks to Engage and Change, this winter, homeless Canadians will have access to 3,000 survival kits during extreme weather conditions. Shelters rely on these supplies (which are purchased with donations) as they struggle to protect record numbers of people from the cold, who have no permanent shelter. Contribute to Project Winter Survival and help make a difference for a fellow Canadian in need.

In partnership with


Giving back isn’t restricted to monetary donations, there are so many other ways you can help your community during the holidays and all year round.

Charities in all categories are always looking for people to volunteer their time, helping “on the front lines” of an organization, or in head office.

If time is tight, donations to your local food bank or clothing drive are always appreciated (particularly during the winter season when socks, outerwear and cold weather accessories are in dire need). Just be sure to carefully read the guidelines on what’s currently being accepted.


While canned food drives and toy donations are a great way to support a charity, most of these organizations would prefer the value of that item in cash. For starters, collecting, moving and storing food donations can be costly for a charity. Secondly, and most importantly, when charities buy food, they’re not only able to purchase food that’s actually desired, but they’re buying it in bulk, and getting a way better rate. (Think of it like Extreme Couponing to the extreme.) he holidays — just make sure it’s the good stuff.


Gifts that provide a donation to a cause or support those in need, are the ultimate two-for-one deal. Honestly, why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to help others while crossing gifts off your list, especially when the gifts are this good? (FYI, we’ll happily accept any of these.)

• Holt Renfrew’s H Project boutique curates items from around the world, all with a unique backstory. This beautiful natural fiber tote by Mola Sasa is from their eco-friendly collection and was made by the indigenous communities of Colombia. Mola Sasa has currently created sustainable employment for more than 80 families.

Vija Chimichagau Tote Bag ($295)

• • •

• Peace Collective (of “Toronto -VS- Everybody” fame) has teamed up with United Way to create the Unignorable capsule collection, aimed to raise awareness of the unignorable social issues impacting local communities, like poverty, domestic violence and mental health.

Unignorable T-Shirt ($30)

• • •

• Ardene has pledged to raise $350,000 for the Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada’s Ward + Robes program, through sales of slippers and $1 donation requests at checkout. The program creates unique hospital gowns for teens, providing them with joy and empowerment during hospital stays.

Swan Slippers ($20)

• • •

• Canadian brand Five Faves makes empowering T-shirts that reinvent the F-word (think fabulous, fighter, fleek, fun, and so on). This year, they’re donating 50% of net proceeds from their limited edition FIGHTER F-Word-Tee™ to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Limited Edition FIGHTER F-Word-Tee ($35)

• • •

• While shopping the World Vision catalogue for holiday gifts (like this beautiful brass necklace made by artists in Kenya), you can add gifts for those in need, too, like care for mothers and babies, classroom supplies for children living in poverty, and emergency water and sanitation systems.

Kenyan Brass Necklace ($85)

• • •

• With every purchase of Lush’s Charity Pot body lotion, 100 % of the price (minus the tax) will be donated to grassroots organizations dedicated to preserving the environment, protecting animal welfare and human rights.

Lush Charity Pot ($8)

• • •


The incredible thing about charitable giving is there’s no wrong way to do it. Whatever you give, whether it’s money, or goods, or time, and whenever you give (through the holiday season, or all year long), your help is always needed, and always appreciated.

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