Top California Charities You Might Want to support

California is one of America’s largest states and has several of the richest cities in the country. However, a portion of the Golden State’s population is either homeless or underserved. Several charities exist to help these people improve their living conditions. However, a significant number of these philanthropic organizations in California rely solely on donations from benevolent humans for their operations to help the poor and needy with innovative programs.

If you’re living in the Golden State and looking to donate, you might want to go through the list of top California charities we’ve compiled in this article. Your kind donations will go a long way towards changing lives for the better. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

American Red Cross

A well-known charity in California is the American Red Cross (ARC), whose mission is to provide emergency aid, disaster relief, and create awareness, especially in communities that often experience these natural catastrophes. As a high-profile emergency rescue organization affiliated with the American Red Cross, it has assisted in several notable tragedies, including the Titanic’s sinking. Along with the Charity Organizations Society, the ARC’s New York chapter provided relief funds to survivors of the accident.

The ARC, also known as the American National Red Cross, was founded 140 years ago on May 21, 1881, by Clara Barton, who became its first president.

United Ways Of California

UWCA is on a mission to promote health, education, and financial standards for low-income children and families by strengthening and organizing California’s United Ways’ community impact, giving, and advocacy activities.

United Ways of California was founded in 2008 by local United Ways in California working together to educate state and national authorities about policy concerns affecting community impact objectives in health, education, and financial stability.

Feeding America

Feeding America is a popular name among California charities. The nonprofit organization based in the United States operates a statewide network of over 200 food banks that feed millions of people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based organizations. 

According to Forbes, Feeding America is the second-largest charity in the United States in terms of income. Feeding America was formerly called “America’s Second Harvest” until August 31, 2008.

The non-profit was founded by John Van Hengel in the mid-1960s, who, while recovering from a debilitating accident in Phoenix, Arizona, began working at a neighborhood soup kitchen. He asked for food donations and ended up with considerably more than the kitchen could handle. 

One of Hengel’s clients informed him that she fed her children leftovers from a grocery store’s dumpster every day. Furthermore, the woman suggested that there should be a location, similar to a bank, where undesired food could be placed and later collected by individuals in need. Thus the charity was formed.

Schools on Wheels

School on Wheels is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving educational opportunities for homeless students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Despite its small size, School on Wheels has been delivering programs at no cost to children and families since 2001 via strategic collaborations with several public schools and shelters, including emergency, transitional, and permanent supportive housing providers.

One of the charity’s projects is the “Holiday Wish Drive,” which aims to meet the specific wishes of low-income children, families, and seniors in the San Francisco Bay Area and neighboring towns. Back to School Drive provides young people with backpacks full of school essentials.

Woman lifting pack of item with the help of two person

Family Giving Tree

Family Giving Tree, which was founded in 1990, is on a mission to connect people who can give to those in need through educational support, gifts, and volunteerism. Each year, the charity collaborates with over 500 schools, service agencies, and nonprofits such as homeless shelters, community centers, rehabilitation houses, and various charitable organizations to assist individuals in need. 

The California Fire Foundation

Well known among all California charities is the California Fire Foundation, which offers emotional and financial support to the families of fallen firefighters, as well as firefighters and the communities they serve. 

Founded in 1987 by California professional firefighters, the California Fire Foundation’s mandates include various survivor and victim assistance projects in addition to community outreach activities. 

Furthermore, the foundation provides emergency assistance to departments and families of fallen firefighters, including educational assistance to the children of fallen firefighters.

In addition, the foundation created a relief program themed “Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency” (SAVE), aiming to provide immediate assistance to victims of a fire or other natural disaster.

Mount Tamalpais College

Mount Tamalpais College aims to provide a free, intellectually disciplined, and inclusive Associate of Arts degree program and a college preparatory program to incarcerated individuals at San Quentin State Prison; to increase access to quality higher education for prison inmates; and to nurture the values of equity, civic engagement, independence of thought, and freedom of expression. The college was formerly known as the Prison University Project.

California State Parks Foundation

William Penn Mott, Jr., former director of California’s Department of Parks and Recreation, founded the California State Parks Foundation (CSPF) in 1969. CSPF is the only independent nonprofit membership organization in California dedicated to protecting, enhancing, and advocating for magnificent state parks. 

The foundation has over 100,000 members and is dedicated to improving the standard of living for all Californians by continuously increasing access to the natural beauty, rich culture and history, and recreational and educational opportunities provided by California’s 279 state parks—the nation’s largest state park system.


Formerly called United Animal Nations, RedRover is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Sacramento, California that serves the United States and Canada. The charity is entirely supported by private charitable contributions, with no government funding.

RedRover’s mission is to rescue animals in need and strengthen the human-animal bond through emergency sheltering, disaster relief services, financial assistance, and education. Furthermore, the organization achieves its goals by enlisting volunteers and supporters, collaborating with others, and leveraging technology.

California Farmworkers Foundation

The California Farm Workers Foundation (CFF) is one of the well-known non-profit organizations in California that provides and creates opportunities for California farmworkers to improve their personal and professional abilities. CFF’s services are based on five pillars: education, health and wellness, workforce development, immigrant services, and community engagement.

The Community Foundation of the North State

The North State Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity serving Shasta, Siskiyou, and Tehama counties to make a difference in the region through donations. Since its inception, the Community Foundation has awarded millions of dollars in grants to recognize the benevolent and professional financial management practices of several of its fund holders.

Donations to the Community Foundation of the North State are tax-deductible since it’s a 501(c)(3) organization with an IRS ruling year of 1996.

Be the change word increpted in wooden box

North Valley Animal Disaster Group

NVADG’s mission is to work with public and private agencies and organizations in the North Valley to provide emergency temporary shelter, evacuation, medical care, and identification services to reunite animals with their owners or adopt them into good, suitable permanent housing. 

The group aims to achieve these goals by utilizing volunteers who have completed NVADG preparedness training, educating government and non-government agencies and animal owners on the importance of disaster preparedness, and arranging drills and disaster drills.

North Valley Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief and Recovery Fund

North Valley Community Foundation established this fund to provide emergency relief and support to North State communities affected by wildfires in Butte, Colusa, Glenn, and Tehama counties. Also, the fund aims to raise funds to support nonprofits and institutions that provide immediate assistance to evacuees, animals, and others affected by fires in disaster-stricken areas.

Oroville Hope Center

Oroville Hope Center, a non-profit Christian outreach that ministers to Butte County and the surrounding communities, provides emergency food and clothing, resources to families battling various forms of poverty, food boxes distributed monthly, and commodities distribution every fourth Wednesday of the month.

While relying on donations and the goodwill of local community members, the Oroville Hope Center provides a broad range of services to underprivileged families and people in communities across the United States, including a food bank, clothes and counseling help, and educational programs.

Oroville Rescue Mission

The Oroville Rescue Mission is a religious non-profit organization serving the homeless and vulnerable in the Oroville area and surrounding communities. In addition, the rescue mission is affiliated with the Gospel Rescue Mission Association.

Located in the state of California, the nonprofit operates a homeless shelter for men, women, and children. Furthermore, the association works towards providing three meals a day, seven days a week, and evening church services, as well as blankets and clothing for the homeless and vulnerable seeking help and those looking for a safe place to sleep.

Rescue Ranch Adoption Center

The Rescue Ranch is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to animal rescue, spaying and neutering programs, education, and wildlife conservation. Although founded in 2003 to aid abandoned or injured animals, the IRS granted Rescue Ranch permanent, public, nonprofit status on December 27, 2007, because 92 percent of all funds raised go directly to animal care.

UC Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team (UCD VERT)

Following the Yuba County floods in 1997, the UC Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team (UCD VERT) was formed. While working as a veterinary response team, the unit responds to events involving horses and other large animals. 

In response to large-scale disasters in Yolo and neighboring counties, the team handles animal-related incidents by delivering technical large animal rescues and equestrian helicopter rescues. 

Later, in January 2008, UCD VERT expanded and became a Registered Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) unit. The MRC program is part of the National Citizenship Corps and is associated with the Surgeon’s Civilian Volunteer Office.

Family Assistance Ministries

Family Assistance Ministries (FAM) is a faith-based charity non-profit organization that provides resources for food, shelter, and customized support counsel and aid to individuals in need in Orange County, assisting clients in bridging the gap from dependency to self-sufficiency. 

Ellen Gilchrist started FAM in 1999 to aid families that the local church could no longer serve. FAM now serves tens of thousands of people in Orange County with food, shelter, and client assistance. 

The charity helps with utilities, transportation, medical, dental, and prescription pharmaceuticals. They also offer financial counseling, free income tax preparation, and partnerships with other social service organizations to provide referrals, medical screenings, vaccines, eyeglasses, and other services.

Donations are Printed on Paper using a typewriter

The Orangewood Foundation

Orangewood Foundation, founded in 1981, is a private, nonprofit organization whose aim is to prepare foster and community youth to fulfill their full potential. The foundation’s initiatives are focused on basic needs, housing, life skills, jobs, and education. 

Support for Orangewood’s programs is based on the organization’s successful outcomes due to its in-depth understanding of client requirements and strong relationships with public and private organizations.

Second Harvest Orange County

Second Harvest Food Bank aims to eradicate hunger in Orange County. The nonprofit drives change via creative, innovative collaborations with several other local organizations dedicated to poverty alleviation. Furthermore, Second Harvest gives access to sufficient and nutritious foods and is committed to establishing a community where everyone may thrive.

A Place Called Home

A Place Called Home provides a safe, caring environment in South Central Los Angeles where underserved teens become the architects of their own lives and are encouraged to serve their communities through education, arts, and well-being programs.

The organization was founded in 1993, a year after the Los Angeles Unrest, in the middle of a crime epidemic that made the streets of South Central unsafe for children of all ages. APCH’s objective was simple but not without challenges: to create a haven for gang-affected kids in South Los Angeles away from the life-threatening hazards and temptations of the streets.

Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

The Coachella Valley Rescue Mission has been a haven for the homeless and destitute since 1971. Over the years, the rescue mission has grown to meet the ever-increasing needs of those who, for various reasons, have found themselves without the necessities of life. 

Every year, staff and volunteers provide over 130,000 hot meals and shelter to thousands of men and women with children. Even outsiders are provided with food, clothing, and bathing facilities.

Operation Gratitude

Operation Gratitude is a US nonprofit organization devoted to offering opportunities for hands-on involvement in support of the military, veterans, and first responders across America.

The US-based non-profit delivered its first four care packages to deployed servicemen in Iraq in March 2003. Since then, the foundation has effectively aided millions of Americans to show their gratitude via hands-on participation, lifting the spirits of millions of deployed troops, recruiting grads, veterans, military families, first responders, etcetera.


Foodshare, founded in 1982, is a local food bank serving Connecticut’s Hartford and Tolland counties. The organization is a member of the national organization Feeding America and collaborates with more than 200 other food banks around the country. 

Foodshare partners with the food industry, philanthropists, and community leaders. Also, the charity volunteers to increase access to healthy food and other resources that promote food security. 

Because hunger is more than just a lack of food, Foodshare works with anti-hunger organizations, policymakers, and the broader community to develop effective hunger-relief solutions.

Rescue Mission Alliance

The Rescue Mission Alliance is a Christian nonprofit organization that provides emergency and long-term recovery assistance to the most fortunate people in Southern California.

For over 43 years, the Rescue Mission Alliance has supported the homeless. The organization has expanded from its original location on 6th Street in Oxnard to various locations in four Southern California counties. They offer multiple individual programs that provide “total care” to meet the needs of the hungry, homeless, and poor.

Man and Woman arranging items on the box

Visalia Rescue Mission

Visalia Rescue Mission has been a faith-based, non-profit organization since 1981, bringing hope and healing to people suffering from homelessness, addiction, and other problems that prevent independence and self-sufficiency, such as job limits induced by a criminal record. 

The rescue fulfills its objectives by offering programs, services, and resources that assist people in becoming stable, productive members of society.

Second Harvest Santa Cruz

Second Harvest is California’s oldest food bank and a founding member of Feeding America. As a food bank, Second Harvest helps nearly 55,000 people each month through 200 agencies and initiatives. The charity aims to inspire and assist Santa Cruz County in its efforts to feed all community members.

Marthas Kitchen

Martha’s Kitchen is a charitable nonprofit business that sprang up in the 1960s by founder Louise Benson, who distributed peanut butter sandwiches and other essentials to vulnerable people from her Willow Glen garage. 

Louise moved her ministry to her parish in 1981 after neighbors complained about long lines for people in need in the area. Thus, the result was a parish outreach for the impoverished community, intending to feed the hungry with dignity and without any problems. 

A few years later, the charity was acquired by Catholic Charities until it became an independent non-profit organization in 2001.

Family Giving Tree Milpitas

For the past 31 years, the Bay Area’s Family Giving Tree has brought joy to families in need. What began as a San Jose State MBA project to assist underprivileged children has progressively developed into an established, well-respected nonprofit organization.

The Family Giving Tree has helped over 2 million children and adults in the Bay Area since its inception in 1990. Every year, the charity organizes two major drives with the help of our donors, sponsors, volunteers, and drive leaders. 

With a program called the Holiday Wish Drive grants children’s specific holiday present desires, the Back-to-School Drive delivers bags loaded with school supplies to area K-12 students in need.

Bay Area Rescue Mission

Bay Area Rescue has been caring for the homeless and poor in the Bay Area since 1965. According to its mission statement, the rescue helps people by providing food for their bodies, shelter, warm showers, and fresh, clean clothing. 

They also preach gospel messages of eternal hope for the soul, bible study, computer-assisted learning, and GED preparation. Furthermore, the underserved can learn culinary arts, warehousing, and heavy-duty job skills training for equipment operation, office work, construction, security, cleaning services, car sales, and service. 

Additionally, the rescue mission offers parenting courses, job search assistance, and psychological employment assistance.

Larkin Street Youth Services

Since 1984, Larkin Street Youth Services has assisted thousands of young people in danger of or experiencing homelessness via outreach, shelter, housing, health, employment, etcetera.

Presently, Larkin Street is the biggest non-profit supplier of assistance for homeless young people in San Francisco, and its scope and effect are unparalleled: three out of every four young people who complete programs at Larkin Street leave the streets.

Workers put donation in a plastic cellophane

Shepherds Gate Livermore

Shepherd’s Gate is a Christian non-profit organization seeking to meet the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the homeless, drug addicts, and other women and children through the love of Jesus Christ. Thus, helping these individuals live in faith, hope, and love and contact other people in his name.

Established in 1985, shepherd’s gate is supported entirely by private donations from individuals, family foundations, churches, and corporations. The organization boasts of receiving over 150 phone calls monthly from women who are anxious to find long-term answers in today’s economy.

St. Mary’s Center

St. Mary’s Center is a community in Oakland that serves at-risk adults and children. Through counseling, housing, nourishment, advocacy, and social support, the organization aims to improve living standards.

The center is an independent social assistance organization with offices and five service locations in the San Pablo Avenue corridor in West Oakland. It delivers necessities and attends to thousands of seniors and 40 preschool families each year.

As previously mentioned, several California top charities operate with funding from selfless individuals. However, the government also makes resources available for these nonprofits. Profit-making organizations also take the charitable route by sponsoring these organizations financially and providing shelters, equipment, and food for them to perform their services. 


While we only selected a handful, there are several other charitable organizations situated across California. Many of these organizations serve their local communities, while others assist the poor and needy across the world.

If you want to make a difference in the lives of people in California with your donations, consider visiting the websites of these to take the necessary steps and make a donation now.

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Read next: Top 26 Charities in Oregon to Support

Paul Turner

Paul Turner

Paul Turner co-founded Food for Life Global in 1995. He is a former monk, a veteran of the World Bank, entrepreneur, holistic life coach, vegan chef, and author of 6 books, including, FOOD YOGA, 7 maxims for soul happiness.

MR. Turner has traveled to 72 countries over the last 35 years helping to establish Food for Life projects, train volunteers, and document their success.


David Clem

Let me help

Although there are many wonderful charities that provide food and shelter to those who choose to live on the streets, I have developed a cart, not shopping cart, for the homeless that are in a transitional stage to a sheltered living facility the safety, pride and dignity they deserve while still on the streets.

The carts are designed to provide:
Portable solar charger with power for 13 hours of LED lighting.
USB port for charging their phones.
The ability to send a distress signal.
Two person pop-up waterproof tent.
Foam bed roll and sleeping bag.
Lockable 2-shelve inner compartment to protect their belongings.

I’m hoping to work with both local and nation wide charities to help finance and distribute these carts to those in need.

I am a third generation native of California and have witnessed first hand the situation that the homeless face on a daily basis.

My cart is not designed as a fix all to our homeless crisis but certainly a safer way for those to choose to live on the streets to exist.

David Clem

January 3, 2023

Hi Dave, please write to use at [email protected]

January 6, 2023


February 15, 2023

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