Top 10 Impact Charities
A growing niche of donors each year is looking for terrific charities to support, particularly those that have measurable, proven, and high impact.
Most charities claim that they “make a difference” in the lives of those they work with. Charity Intelligence’s rigorous analysis measures the difference, or the impact, charities actually make to see how each dollar we give can create the most positive change.
Over $17 billion was given to charities by Canadian donors last year and a significant portion of that is going to less effective charities. Based on our work, up to 40 per cent of donations may be wasted by donors giving based solely on the reputation of the charity or by getting distracted by salaries or administrative costs.
“Some charities create a lot of change with the donations given to them. Others have almost nothing to show for the money coming from donors” says Greg Thomson, Director of Research at Charity Intelligence. “Of the 300 Canadian charities we analysed for impact, these Top 10 have the highest measurable demonstrated impact. Our calculations estimate this group of Top 10 Impact Charities delivers average returns of almost 7 dollars for every dollar donated, compared with overall average returns of only 1-2 dollars.”
The 2021 Top 10 Impact Charities cover frontline charities providing social services in Canada as well as international programs. Many of these charities bring evidence-based programs to developing countries, like clean water and education, which can produce high impact per dollar. Because of this, six of this year’s Top 10 Impact Charities work overseas in developing countries.
2021 Top 10 Impact Charities based on demonstrated impact per dollar donated (listed alphabetically):
|Against Malaria Foundation||Toronto, ON||International - Health||Donate|
|Canadian Foodgrains Bank||Winnipeg, MB||International - Food||Donate|
|The Citizens' Foundation||Oakville, ON||International - Education||Donate|
|East York Learning Experience||Toronto, ON||Education||Donate|
|Effect Hope||Markham, ON||International - Health||Donate|
|Fresh Start Recovery||Calgary, AB||Addiction Recovery||Donate|
|Indspire||Ohsweken, ON||First Nations - Education||Donate|
|JUMP Math||Toronto, ON||National - Education||Donate|
|Lifewater Canada||Thunder Bay, ON||International - Water||Donate|
|Operation Eyesight Universal||Calgary, AB||International - Health||Donate|
For more information on these charities, please view our Top 10 Impact Charities Summary.
To meet Canadian donors’ growing demand for impact charities, Ci also released 6 additional lists of charities with top impact:
- Top 10 Canadian Impact Charities, charities with high-impact programs in Canada
- Top 10 International Impact Charities, Canadian charities with high-impact programs operating overseas
- Top 10 Impact: Canadian Food Banks, Canadian food banks creating high impact
- Top 5 Impact: Canadian Youth Charities, charities creating high-impact results for youth in Canada
- Top 5 Impact: Calgary Charities
- Top 5 Impact: Toronto Charities
These Top Impact Charities are a breed apart from the over 800 Canadian charities we report on and rate. Charity Intelligence’s star ratings are based on an assessment of 5 objective aspects: 1. donor reporting, 2. financial transparency, 3. funding need, 4. cents to the cause, and 5. demonstrated impact. The 5-Star rated charities based on these metrics are listed in the 2021 100 Highest Rated Charities report.
The demonstrated impact rating is different and looks at only one aspect: for every dollar you donate, what’s the measurable return?
Rather than just heart-warming stories, impact donors feel good about proven results, data quality, and strong counterfactuals. Recently a charity asked, “wouldn’t you agree that making a child smile is priceless?” Our answer is “no”. Impact donors always consider opportunity costs. Money is a scarce resource. If comparing two charities where one charity saves lives for $100,000 each and a second charity saves lives for $20,000 each, impact donors will support the second charity that creates 5 times the impact per dollar. Five lives saved compared with one life saved for the same donation. Impact donors give for the highest change created from their donations.
Some call Charity Intelligence a “charity watchdog”. We see ourselves as research analysts who help Canadian donors give better. Yes, we hold charities to account for the generous support they receive from Canadian donors and expect them to be financially transparent, and yes, we call out exorbitant overhead costs or charities that don’t need more funding. Similarly, each giving season we also call out the best impact charities we’ve found. Charity Intelligence’s reports are independent and objective – charities do not pay for ratings or listing on our website.
Charity Intelligence’s reports and ratings help Canadians give confidently. With greater confidence, people say they gave 32% more money.
Charity Intelligence’s impact analysis began in 2006 and is an ongoing research project that is generously funded by donors. Our goal is to expand impact analysis to 400 Canadian charities by 2023.
If you find Charity Intelligence’s research useful in your giving, please consider donating to support our work. Being entirely funded by donors like you maintains our independence and objectivity to help Canadians be informed in their giving. Canadians donate over $17 billion each year. This giving could achieve tremendous results. We hope Charity Intelligence's research helps Canadians give better.
The information in this report was prepared by Charity Intelligence Canada and its independent analysts from publicly available information. Charity Intelligence and its analysts have made endeavours to ensure that the data in this report is accurate and complete but accepts no liability.
The views and opinions expressed are to inform donors on matters of public interest. Views and opinions are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, organization, individual, or anyone or anything. Any dispute arising from your use of this website or viewing the material hereon shall be governed by the laws of the Province of Ontario, without regard to any conflict of law provisions.
“Every investment is an impact investment. The problem is most people don’t know if their investment has positive or negative impact.”