The 2022 Better Guide to Giving in Chicago and Beyond

The holiday season is filled with countless sources of delight, but nothing warms the heart quite like giving to those in need. In fact, a Harvard Business School study found that giving gifts, money or donating to others increases our happiness more than spending that money on ourselves.  Better 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 align your money with your mission and create a lasting legacy of family giving, this website is packed with resources to help you give better.

There’s no better place to start than by donating to a deserving nonprofit. 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.

Read our 2022 Guide to Giving Highlights, with select nonprofit profiles.

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. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner – 2013

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

Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods collaborates closely with community partners to offer art and nature programs. Visit their gallery for rotating art exhibitions, concerts, shopping, and their Smith Nature Symposium Series.

Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods

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. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner – 2012

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.

Chicago Humanities Festival connects people to the ideas that shape and define us, and promotes the lifelong exploration of what it means to be human.

Cinema/Chicago is a year-round nonprofit cultural and educational organization dedicated to fostering better communication between people of diverse cultures through the art of the moving image.

Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund gives high school scholarship assistance and educational support to Chicago students from under-resourced neighborhoods. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner – 2012

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.

Firebird Community Arts’ mission is to empower and connect people through the healing practice of glassblowing and ceramics.

Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance mission is to change lives through the power of nature.

Horizons For Youth offers educational help and mentorship opportunities for more than 250 children at more than 50 Chicago-area elementary and high schools. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner – 2014

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.

iMentor Chicago is on a mission to help students in under-resourced communities navigate the path to post-secondary success and economic mobility. They do this by matching an adult volunteer mentor with every student in our CPS partner schools, no matter their GPA or test scores.

iMentor Chicago

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.

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. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner – 2013

One Million Degrees provides support to low-income, highly motivated community college students to help them succeed in school, work and life. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner – 2017

The People’s Music School delivers access to quality, tuition-free music education, allowing students to grow musically, socially, emotionally and intellectually. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner – 2019

The People’s Music School

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.

Side Street Studio Arts, NFP provides educational and creative resources and an inclusive space, run by artists. Side Street’s mission is to support the artist and artistic journey through collaboration.

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. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner – 2016

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.

Urban Gateways engages young people in arts experiences to inspire creativity and impact social change.

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.

Domestic Violence

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


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.

Greater Chicago Food Depository believes that food is a basic human right. They work in partnership with a network of community-based organizations and individuals to connect neighbors with healthy food, lift voices and advance solutions that address the root causes of hunger.

Credit: Lou Foglia for The Greater Chicago Food Depository

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.

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 provides the capital, coaching, and connections entrepreneurs need to grow great businesses that create jobs and wealth in their communities.

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.

Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter

&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. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner – 2013.

Care For Real helps vulnerable individuals and families overcome food insecurity with dignity.

Catholic Charities has served anyone in need, regardless of their faith, gender, race, or ethnicity, for over 100 years. This includes aiding adoptive families with counseling and tools to navigate roles as new parents, counseling survivors of domestic violence, preventing homelessness and more.

Credit: Dcn. Randy Belice for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago

Chicago Rowing Foundation charts a path to open water to change lives meaningfully through the magic of rowing. CRF takes a comprehensive approach to the physical, mental, and social well-being of its athletes, and creates an environment that promotes physical exercise, teamwork, positive role models, and wellness.

Chicago Rowing Foundation

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

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.

CommunityHealth‘s mission is to serve people without essential health care. Our vision is quality health care for all.

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.

Enlace Chicago convenes, organizes and builds the capacity of Little Village stakeholders to confront systemic inequities and barriers to economic and social access.

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. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2012

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.

Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project’s mission is to eradicate drownings by being the leader of Great Lakes water safety by providing trainings public preparedness and public awareness.

Ignatian Spirituality Project invites people recovering from homelessness and addiction to encounter hope and healing through spiritual companionship, programs and ministries that transforms lives.

Ignite stands with youth on their journey to a home and a future with promise.

Institute for Nonviolence Chicago’s mission is to replace the cycle of violence using the principles, practices and teachings of nonviolence.

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

Kenilworth Union Church is an ecumenical church community. Their Outreach program supports 40 not-for-profit benevolence agencies in the Chicago area. We are committed to serving the greater community in meaningful ways as we focus on supporting children and their education, emergency services, physical and mental health, or agencies that provide a range of services to a particular impoverished community.

National Kidney Foundation of Illinois (NKFI) is a lifeline for all people affected by kidney disease. As pioneers of scientific research and innovation, they improve lives through action, education and accelerating change.

McGaw YMCA cultivates the whole person, strengthens community, and provides equitable access to transformational experiences that uplift the mind, body, and spirit.

Paws for Patrick is dedicated to connecting young people with Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) & Therapy Dogs to aid them as they live with mental illness. They also seek to raise awareness of mental illness and break the stigma that still exists.

Paws for Patrick

Selah Freedom aims to end sex trafficking and bring freedom to the exploited through Advocacy & Awareness, Prevention, Outreach, and Residential programs. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2019

ShowerUp provides mobile showers and personal care for those who are experiencing homelessness. ShowerUp relies on the support of individuals, families, businesses, faith groups, and others in order to operate.

Skin of Steel aims to provoke revolutionary personal, behavioral and institutional change in dealing with melanoma. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2014

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.

Southwest Organizing Project’s (SWOP) mission is to build relationships between the stakeholders of Southwest Chicago so that they can build power to improve the community.

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.

Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center‘s mission is to mobilize the community toward ending systemic sexual violence while amplifying the voice of survivors through trauma-informed care, advocacy, and prevention education.

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. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2012

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

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 (H.O.M.E.) helps low-income seniors in Chicago remain independent and part of their community by offering opportunities for intergenerational living and providing a variety of citywide support services. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2016

Mercy Housing Lakefront creates stable, vibrant, and health communities through its resident-centric service, strategic approach to housing development, and the support of partners and donors. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2018

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 Ministry provides housing, health care, outreach, spiritual care and social services to adults and youth who struggle with homelessness, poverty and loneliness. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2021

The Night Ministry

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

Legal Services

Prairie State Legal Services (PSLS) is a non-profit law firm that provides free civil legal services for low-income people and people aged 60 and over.

Prairie State Legal Services

University of Chicago Crime Lab designs, tests, and scales data-driven innovations to improve the public sector’s response to the dual crises of gun violence and America’s broken criminal justice system

Youth and Family Services

Alternatives mission is to inspire young people to create a just future through practices that heal individuals, restore communities and transform systems.

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 inspires hope and offers opportunities so youth facing systemic obstacles can achieve positive futures. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2017

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. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2021

Chicago Fire Foundation

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.

Cradles to Crayons

Crushers Club is an alternative to gangs, giving young people the support and skills to restore their lives and improve their neighborhoods. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2014

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.

Fill a Heart 4 Kids provides local underserved and foster children educational support, critical necessities, and enriching experiences to help youth & communities Build Brighter Futures.

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. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2016

Gigi’s Playhouse builds awareness, acceptance, education and celebration of individuals with Down syndrome. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2016

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. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2019


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.

Madonna Mission provides refugee families with literacy, tutoring, and resettlement programs that support their journey to self-sufficiency. They empower through education.

Madonna Mission

Marillac St. Vincent Family Services strengthens, empowers and gives voices to those in need-in the Vincentian spirit of service-through education and comprehensive programs-to build vibrant communities in Chicago.

Metropolitan Family Services mission is to provide and mobilize the services needed to strengthen families and communities.

Mother’s Trust Foundation provides immediate assistance during times of crisis to low-income children in Lake County. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2013

New Moms strengthens families by partnering with young moms as they progress toward housing and economic stability, and family well-being. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2017

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

READI Chicago, a Heartland Alliance program, is an innovative response to gun violence, connecting men highly impacted by gun violence to cognitive behavioral interventions, transitional jobs, and wrap-around support services.

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. A Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner, 2014

UCAN strives to build strong youth and families through compassionate healing, education, and empowerment. Our vision is that youth who have suffered trauma can become our future leaders.

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 Advocate Program’s (YAP) mission: to provide individuals with the opportunity to develop, contribute and be valued as assets so communities have safe, effective and economical alternatives to institutional placement.

Youth & Opportunity United (Y.O.U.) promotes the agency, success, and well-being of youth and their families through identity-affirming relationships, expanded learning opportunities, and resources to meet emerging needs.

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

More From Better:

  Who We Are       NFP Support       Magazine       Programs       Donate