The 2021 Better Guide to Giving

The holiday season is filled with so many sources of delight — twinkling lights reflecting off the snow, the excitement and anticipation of little ones, the pleasure of coming together with family and friends for great meals and company — but nothing warms the heart quite like giving to those in need. Make It Better Media Group makes it our mission to help you bring comfort and joy to the most deserving individuals and organizations, like the winners of our annual Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Awards, in the easiest and most effective ways possible.

From where to donate new and gently used items, to the best ways to maximize your year-end tax planning to get more bang for your charitable buck, to ways to teach kids about philanthropy and great a lasting legacy of family giving, this website is packed with resources to help you give better. Here are a few links to get you started.

Support a Deserving Nonprofit This Holiday Season

Each of the following organizations has worked with Better this year or in the recent past, to make real, positive change. If you’re looking for an organization to support, all of these outstanding Chicagoland nonprofits will gratefully use your donation dollars to provide much-needed support in our communities.

Arts & Education

Academy For Global Citizenship is a Chicago Public Charter School that uses an innovative and holistic approach to education to foster systematic change and inspire the way society educates future generations.

Bernie’s Book Bank sources, processes and distributes new and gently used children’s books to increase book ownership among under-served infants, toddler and school-age children throughout the Chicago area.

Big Shoulders Fund supports Chicago Catholic schools with scholarships, academic enrichment programs, operational improvements, leadership development, and academic programs and professional development for teachers.

By The Hand is a Christ-centered, after-school program that takes kids by the hand and walks with them from kindergarten through college, loving and nurturing them — mind, body and soul.

Chicago Council on Global Affairs provides insight, advances policy solutions, and fosters dialogue on critical global issues.

Chicago Debates advances educational achievement and life success of Chicago’s youth through the power of academic debate.

Chicago History Museum brings Chicago history to life through exhibits, artifacts and interactive programming.

Chicago Hopes For Kids provides direct academic support to children living in Chicago’s homeless shelters to help them overcome the educational challenges of homelessness.

Photo courtesy of Chicago Hopes For Kids

Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund gives high school scholarship assistance and educational support to Chicago students from under-resourced neighborhoods.

Deer Path Art League The mission of the Deer Path Art League is to spark, nurture and enhance creativity and promote community interest in the visual arts.

Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest botanical conservatories in the nation and allows visitors to enjoy lush flora and tropical temperatures year round.

Horizons For Youth offers educational help and mentorship opportunities for more than 250 children at more than 50 Chicago-area elementary and high schools.

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center preserves the legacy of the Holocaust by honoring the memories of those who were lost and by teaching universal lessons that combat hatred, prejudice and indifference.

Ingenuity works to ensure every student in every grade in every school has access to the arts as part of a well-rounded education.

Innovations For Learning believes learning to read is a basic civil right and it strives to build beginning reading skills globally through its programs.

Link Unlimited Scholars aims to connect high potential Black high school students with mentors, resources and foundational skills required for success as they advance into, through and beyond college.

LINK scholars pose at a pre-COVID event

North Chicago Community Partners strengthens communities by empowering underfunded school districts with equitable programs, resources, and relationships that enrich schools, engage families, and expand opportunities for children to learn, grow, and thrive.

Northwestern University Settlement House offers children a chance to escape Chicago’s street violence and learn in a safe place, allowing them to grow and simply be a kid.

One Million Degrees provides support to low-income, highly motivated community college students to help them succeed in school, work and life.

The People’s Music School delivers access to quality, tuition-free music education, allowing students to grow musically, socially, emotionally and intellectually.

Phalen Leadership Academies is dedicated to student achievement and helping K-12 public and charter schools across the country see results.

The Posse Foundation believes a small diverse group of talented students — a posse — can serve as a catalyst for individual and community development, and the foundation aims to train these leaders of tomorrow.

Sit Stay Read advances children’s literacy skills using an engaging curriculum, certified dogs, and dedicated volunteers.

Snow City Arts helps bring art of all kinds to children in hospitals through one-on-one sessions with artists.

SPARK creates opportunities for students in the middle grades, opportunities that forge the gap between what they are learning in the classroom and what they dream to accomplish later in life.

Disaster Relief

American Red Cross of Illinois helps people whose lives have been upended by wildfires, storms, floods, and countless other crises.

UNICEF ​​delivers the essentials that give children an equitable chance in life: health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.

Photo Courtesy of UNICEF

Domestic Violence

Wings Program Inc. provides housing, integrated services, education and advocacy to end domestic violence.

WINGS Allison Cuca (right) is a WINGS Metro Associate Council member. Photo courtesy of WINGS.


Environmental Law & Policy Center is the Midwest’s leading environmental legal advocacy organization, driving transformational policy changes with national impact.


A Just Harvest fights poverty and hunger in the Rogers Park and the greater Chicago community by providing nutritious meals daily while cultivating community and economic development and organizing across racial, cultural and socioeconomic lines to create a more just society.

Meals on Wheels Northeastern IL fosters health and independence by delivering nutritious meals to homebound older adults and others unable to care for their nutritional needs.

Photo courtesy of Meals on Wheels

Trees That Feed plants fruit trees to feed people, create jobs, educate, and benefit the environment.

Health, Wellness and Empowerment

Above & Beyond Family Recovery Center provides the highest level of outpatient, behavioral addiction treatment services available anywhere, at no cost, to those who cannot pay while assisting them with housing and employment.

Allies for Community Business is a financial support system that provides small businesses owners in the U.S. with access to capital, networks and coaching.

Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter provides reliable information and care consultation, creates supportive services for families, increases funding for dementia research, and influences public policy changes across the state.

&RISE empowers women to be the ultimate versions of themselves no matter what adversities they’ve faced.

Beyond Sports Foundation assists student-athletes from under-resourced communities in the Chicago area to reach their academic and professional goals by giving them the skills to enter and excel in college and succeed in life beyond sports.

Chicago Run promotes the health and wellness of Chicago children through innovative, engaging, and sustainable youth running programs.

Photo courtesy of Chicago Run

The Chicago Lighthouse serves the blind, visually impaired, disabled and veteran communities with rehabilitation services, education, employment opportunities and assistive technology for people of all ages.

Cycling Without Age North Shore Chicago helps seniors feel a part of society, reduces isolation and integrates individuals with limited mobility back into the broader communities in which they reside by offering rides on a Trishaw with experienced “pilots.” Seniors can experience their neighborhood and nature, share stories of their lives and youth with the pilots.

George Pocock Rowing Foundation builds and supports high quality programs and facilities that promote access to rowing, excellence in rowing, and use rowing as a means to foster physical activity, health, leadership, and community engagement.

Girls In The Game inspires girls to find their voice, discover her strength and lead with confidence through fun and active sports, health and leadership programming.

The Gray Matter Experience unlocks the self-determining power of Black youth and strengthens their ties to community through real world experience in entrepreneurship.

Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association supports youth, adults and military veterans who have a physical or visual disability by offering inclusive recreation, fitness and competitive sports activities.

Journey Care is the largest provider of supportive, palliative, hospice care in Illinois, serving nearly 3,000 adult and pediatric patients each day.

Selah Freedom aims to end sex trafficking and bring freedom to the exploited through Advocacy & Awareness, Prevention, Outreach, and Residential pograms.

Skin of Steel aims to provoke revolutionary personal, behavioral and institutional change in dealing with melanoma.

Solidarity Bridge builds a healthier future for the people of Bolivia and Paraguay through domestic and international partnerships, training and equipping medical communities, empowering them to provide complex surgery and other health care for patients who lack access to treatment.

The Woman’s Board of Rush University Medical Center works with the Medical Center to help it provide the best health care for the individuals and diverse communities Rush serves.

YWCA Evanston/North Shore is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice and dignity for all.

Housing & Anti-Poverty

A Safe Haven Foundation provides food, shelter, treatment, medical care, education, job training and job placement to people in crisis and helps them transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency.

Breakthrough Urban Ministries partners with those affected by poverty to build connections, develop skills, and open doors of opportunity.

Breakthrough Urban Ministries Fresh Market

Catholic Charities of The Archdiocese of Chicago fulfills the Church’s role in the mission of charity to anyone in need by providing compassionate, competent and professional services that strengthen and support individuals, families and communities based on the value and dignity of human life.

Housing Opportunities and Maintenance For The Elderly improves quality of life for Chicago’s low-income elderly, offering support services and opportunities for intergenerational living.

Mercy Housing Lakefront creates stable, vibrant, and health communities through its resident-centric service, stategic approach to housing development, and the support of partners and donors.

Pads Lake County is a community-based organization that provides trauma-informed support, resources, and shelter to individuals and families experiencing a housing crisis.

The Night Minstry provides housing, health care, outreach, spiritual care and social services to adults and youth who struggle with homelessness, poverty and loneliness.

Sarah’s Circle serves women who are homeless or in need of a safe space.

Youth and Family Services

Austin Childcare Providers Network empowers early childcare providers in Austin to create engaging early learning environments and develop sustainable businesses.

Boys & Girls Club of Chicago aims to enable all young people to reach their full potential, providing members with emotional, educational, physical and cultural resources that allow them to enjoy their childhood and thrive in adulthood.

BUILD is a gang intervention, violence prevention, and youth development organization on Chicago’s West Side.

C24/7 Father’s Arms Ministries is dedicated, through the power of Jesus Christ, to improving the lives of children and young adults in the North of Howard neighborhood by providing the necessary tools, security and environment for them to thrive economically, socially and spiritually.

Casa Lake County exists to promote and protect the best interest of children who have been abused or neglected, by training volunteers to advocate for them in courts, in schools and in our community to help them find safe, permanent and loving homes.

Center For Independent Futures creates innovative product and service models that give individuals with disabilities and families the skills and opportunities to realize full lives.

Chicago Fire Foundation, the charitable arm of the Chicago Fire Major League Soccer team, makes contributions to enhance the lives of disadvantaged youth throughout the Chicago area.

Children’s Home & Aid is a leading child and family service agency in Illinois, helping children recover their health, hope and faith in the people around them.

The Cove School teaches children with learning disabilities and believes every child has the ability, given the resources, to learn, grow and flourish.

Cradles To Crayons provides disadvantaged children with items they need, free of charge, by collecting items through community drives and corporate donations, then packaging and delivering those items to the kids.

Crushers Club is an alternative to gangs, giving young people the support and skills to restore their lives and improve their neighborhoods.

Curt’s Cafe provides jobs, training and mentorship for at-risk youths, giving them a path to a successful future.

Erika’s Lighthouse is dedicated to education and raising awareness about adolescent depression, encouraging good mental health and breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health issues. We promote inclusive school cultures through mental health education by providing schools with free programs to impact the whole school community.

Photo courtesy of Erika’s Lighthouse

Fresh Start Caring For Kids Foundation transforms the lives of disadvantaged children with physical deformities caused by birth defects, accidents, abuse or disease through the gift of reconstructive surgery and related medical care.

Gigi’s Playhouse builds awareness, acceptance, education and celebration of individuals with Down syndrome.

Grip Outreach For Youth mentors Chicago inner-city youth through life-on-life relationships.

James B. Moran Center For Youth Advocacy provides community-based legal, social work, and restorative services for youth and families, advancing a vision of a more just and racially equitable society.

Keshet brings classroom experiences, camps, sports, social and vocational activities, and residential opportunities to 600 people with disabilities and special needs each year.

Literature For All of Us uses books and writing to facilitate circles of connection, healing, and growth in the face of social inequity.

Little City Foundation serves children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities by providing the best options and opportunities to live safely, learn continuously, explore creatively and work productively throughout their lifetime.

Photo courtesy of Little City Foundation

Mother’s Trust Foundation provides immediate assistance during times of crisis to low-income children in Lake County.

New Moms strengthens families by partnering with young moms as they progress toward housing and economic stability, and family well-being.

The Nora Project promotes disability inclusion by empowering educators and engaging students and communities.

A student sending a custom Friendship February postcard to an essential worker, photo courtesy of The Nora Project

Refugee One welcomes hundreds of refugees through the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Admissions Program, helping them rebuild their lives after fleeing violence, persecution and war.

Urban Autism Solutions is dedicated to changing outcomes for young adults with autism through an integrated community life that advances social and vocational opportunities.

Willow House is dedicated to providing free supportive services to youth, young adults, parents and school communities grieving the death of a parent, sibling or child.

Youth Organizations Umbrella provides services and leadership to meet the emerging needs of young people and their families in Evanston.

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