It can be hard for potential students to assess what their prospective colleges value. But an easy way to work out what a college stands for is to see how it’s helping the world and why. The best way to do this is to look at the charities that it has formed. Most colleges in America have, directly and indirectly, led to the formation of many charities. But not all US colleges are equal in charity creation. Only some have created organizations that have brought about and continue to bring about significant positive changes to the world. And this article is going to highlight the 40 American colleges that are the best at making charities that do this!
Colleges, as entities that promote new ways of thinking, provide solutions to major problems and aim to make the future a better place, naturally have a duty to create charities. Some people stereotype colleges as being inefficient places that just argue over academics. But the truth is that colleges pave the way to a better world, as the college charities in this list prove.
This list has used a broad definition of “college formed charity.” Charities that the college’s leadership, faculty, students and alumni have started have been included in the ranking of this list. But the most important factor in a college’s inclusion in this list is the fact that its environment and education have inspired the creation of the charities. Additionally, the definition of a charity as being among “the best” also has a loose definition in this ranking. It can include charities that have saved lives, lifted people out of poverty, led to environmental improvement and many other things. But the unifying theme in all of the charities in this list is the fact that they have impacted the world positively and/or promise to do so in the future.
Any one of the 40 colleges on this list is a fine choice for a student who wishes to attend a university with a charitable ethos. But it’s also possible that none of the colleges below is right for you. If that’s the case, then this list can still be a vital resource. Every entry has a detailed summary of which charities the college has formed and why it was able to create them. These have been included so that you can compare them to your own college options. If any of your potential colleges are approaching charitable work with the same passion as the 40 below, then that’s a strong sign that they’re fantastic colleges to attend.
The colleges in this ranking have been sourced from a number of areas. Articles that list the best charity work on a college campus, the best charities in general and the best charities that are student-run formed the basis of our research. After sourcing the colleges from these lists, we conducted further research into the colleges themselves. This was done so that we could identify the factors that were key to the creation and success of the charities.
Our full list of sources is as follows:
Forbes, The 100 Largest U.S. Charities: https://www.forbes.com/top-charities/list/
WalletHub, Best Charities: https://wallethub.com/edu/best-charities-to-donate-to/28658/
Her Campus, The Most Charitable Schools: https://www.hercampus.com/lifestyle/most-charitable-schools
The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Who’s Raising the Most: The 100 Charities That Are America’s Favorites: https://www.philanthropy.com/article/Who-s-Raising-the-Most-The/244933
WorldWideLearn, Giving U: 10 Charitable Projects by University Students: https://www.worldwidelearn.com/education-articles/10-charity-projects-by-university-students.html
The final list has been sorted with the following criteria: impact of the college charities, quantity of college formed charities, diversity of college formed charities, evidence that the charities are being innovative and evidence that more charities will form in the future due to college efforts.
The final ranking, from 40 to one, is below:
40. Texas Woman’s University
One of the major sources of charitable activity on the Texas Woman’s University campus is the Helping Hands Service. This service encourages civic engagement to students through a range of program ambassadors. It hosts volunteer projects for students on Fridays and Saturdays, which many students participate in. Some students have taken the charitable ethos of Texas Woman’s University and formed their own charities as a result. For example, Vonette Zachary, an alumnus of Texas Woman’s University, co-founded Campus Crusade for Christ International, better known as CRU, which is the 26th largest charity in America according to Forbes.
39. Pacific Lutheran University
One of the three founders of America’s third largest charity, Task Force for Global Health, attained their bachelor’s degree at Pacific Lutheran University. This charity has been instrumental in fighting diseases and spreading immunizations across the world. Another example of a college charity formed by a member of this college’s alumni includes Victory Academy, which is a Portland, Oregon based autism school. One of the reasons why some incredibly successful charities have come from Pacific Lutheran University is because it incorporates civic engagement and care for other people as a core part of college life.
38. Lawrence University
Thanks to Lawrence University, millions of people around America have been able to feed themselves. That’s because Feeding America, America’s second largest charity, according to Forbes, was founded by Lawrence University alumnus John van Hengel in 1979. Additionally, Lawrence University has a number of on campus organizations that perform charity work, such as People for Animal Welfare and Lawrence Assistance Reaching Youth, which provides mentorship to schoolchildren in need of extra support. Additionally, students at the college gain critical charity work skills through its Community Engagement and Social Change program
37. University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Alumni of University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point have founded numerous incredible charities. Perhaps the most impressive is the Academy Award winning filmmaker Peggy Rajski, who is a co-founder of The Trevor Project. GoFundMe names The Trevor Project as being the best LGBTQ charity to donate to. The husband and wife alumni John and Patty Noel have also founded an amazing charity. Since 1993, their organization, The Make a Mark Foundation, has been helping orphans who have been affected by the AIDS pandemic. University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point states that community engagement is one of its highest values.
36. American University
One of the core principles of American University is “advancing social justice and civic responsibility.” Its main focus on achieving this is through the college’s Center for Community Engagement & Service. The center runs a range of charitable programs aimed at improving Washington DC, America and the entire world. These include a reading tutor program and a social justice alternative breaks program for students. Alumni really benefit from these kinds of experiences. For instance, college alumnus Louis Clark went on to found the Government Accountability, which is GoFundMe’s best government accountability charity to donate to.
35. Fresno State University
WalletHub names the Semper Fi Fund, which was founded by Fresno State University alumnus Karen Guenther, as being the fifth best charity to donate to. Many current students at Fresno State University are also engaged in charitable activities. The primary focus of these charitable activities is encouraging and aiding people from communities who are less likely to attain a college education to get the skills and resources they need to gain degrees. One of the best ways that Fresno State University achieves this is through the Chicano Youth Conference, which is free for middle school and high school students.
34. University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana
As a charity in its own right, University of Notre Dame ranks at 39th on The Chronicle of Philanthopy’s favorite American charities list. The main way that University of Notre Dame conducts charity work is through partnering with other non-profits, which it has done for over 50 years. Current charities that the college is partnered with work to prevent the transmission of HIV and treat those with HIV, support children in developing their lives for the better, eliminate poverty and much more. Alumni of University of Notre Dame have founded charities such as the Stellar Solutions Foundations, Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and the William K. Warren Foundation.
33. Auburn University
Many students at Auburn University look set to follow in the footsteps of one of its most successful alumni of all time, Millard Fuller, who co-founded America’s eighth largest charity, Habitat for Humanity International. There are numerous stories of current students, faculty and alumni performing charity work. For instance, students take part in the college’s Campus Kitchens Project, which feeds around 550 people in the local area every single week. In fact, Auburn University uses every single opportunity it can to perform charity work. When students move out of their campus accommodation, for example, the college runs a charity event called Check Out for Charity, which donates unwanted items to charities. This college charity event has been running for over 20 years.
32. Huntingdon College
Huntingdon College proudly states that it is for students who “yearn to serve others.” Because of this, the college encourages all students to perform charity work during their time on campus. Students have volunteered at places such as the Floyd Elementary School, The Montgomery Area Food Bank, The American Cancer Society, Tree Campus USA and many more places. It’s not surprising in that case that Linda Fuller, the co-founder of America’s eighth largest charity, Habitat for Humanity International, is an alumnus.
31. Boston College
Thanks to the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, Boston College has become a leader in motivating its students into the world of charitable activities. Though the center closed in 2015, its impact on the world is still being felt. There are many charities that have come about and been enhanced because of its work. One of these is Boston College Charity: Water, which funds drilling rigs and wells for communities who need access to clean drinking water. Additionally, many alumni of the college have created charities, such as Doug Flutie, who has raised over $16 million for people with autism through the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. Her Campus names Boston College as being the sixth most charitable college.
30. University of Pennsylvania
Thanks to The Center for High Impact Philanthropy, University of Pennsylvania has managed to drastically improve the world through charitable efforts. The center has run an education program for over a decade that helps philanthropic leaders create more social impact. It does this by highlighting how charities spend their funding in the most effective ways. Numerous alumni of University of Pennsylvania have created charities. Perhaps the most impressive is Richard M. Walden, who founded Operation USA. Operation USA is GoFundMe’s best disaster relief charity for people to donate to.
29. Boston University
Goodwill Industries International, America’s 14th largest charity according to Forbes, was founded by Boston University alumnus Edgar J. Helms. Many other students of Boston University have followed in Helms’s footsteps. At present, the college’s Community Service Center has a volunteer base of more than 1,500 people. It also contributes more than 75,000 hours of service in Boston and the USA. A more recent Boston University alumnus who has founded an incredible charity is the ice hockey player Travis Roy. His charitable foundation helps people with spinal injuries lead independent lives.
28. The New School
New York City, New York
The New School’s community is “driven by the values of social justice and equity.” And some of the college’s work in this field is at the cutting edge of societal advances. For instance, Maya Wiley is the senior vice president for social justice at the college’s Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy, and she has created the Digital Equity Lab, which challenges students to team up to “address a series of issues related to the digital divide in New York City.” Perhaps the most impressive charity co-founded by an alumnus of The New School is Global Fund for Women. This charity is GoFundMe’s best women’s rights charity to donate to.
27. New England College of Optometry
Many people with vision problems have been supported by New England College of Optometry’s outreach services. It particularly focuses on giving quality eyecare to the homeless, people with disabilities, the elderly and children. There is also the NECO Lions Club, which raises money to give to the National Braille Press and conducts regular eye and health screenings in the community. But perhaps the greatest charity to have been created thanks to New England College of Optometry’s education is Scholarship America. Scholarship America is GoFundMe’s best education charity to donate to. It was founded by New England College of Optometry alumnus Irving Fradkin.
26. Stanford University
Her Campus features Stanford University at 10th place in its list of the most charitable colleges, mostly thanks to its Ravenswood Reads program. This program has been running since 1986 and connects Stanford students with elementary school children to improve the children’s literacy skills. Charities started by graduates of Stanford University include the Skoll Foundation, which invests in and supports social entrepreneurs who are solving the world’s most pressing issues; and the Special Olympics, which has redefined the image of the intellectually disabled. The Chronicle of Philanthropy also names Stanford University itself as being America’s sixth favorite charity in 2018.
25. University of Connecticut
The UConn Foundation has a long history of helping people at home and overseas. For instance, it has helped asylum seekers stay in America, been improving the healthcare in rural Haiti for over 30 years and even constructed a medicinal garden on campus. Another on-campus charity includes Coins for a Cause, which leaves donation boxes on campus every month, with each month’s donations going to a different charity. An example of a charity founded by a University of Connecticut alumnus is Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which fights childhood cancer. Her Campus names University of Connecticut as being the ninth most charitable college in America.
24. Princeton University
Princeton, New Jersey
Since 1996, Princeton University’s John H. Pace Jr ’39 Center for Civic Engagement has boosted Princeton University’s charitable activities. This center and its charitable engagement support a range of Princeton associated non-profit organizations. One example is Princeton AlumniCorps, which aims to connect Princeton graduates with a range of American non-profits. The John H. Pace Jr ’39 Center for Civic Engagement supports many other charitable activities, such as Breakout Princeton, Princeton Student Climate Initiative and Student Volunteers Council. Perhaps the most successful Princeton University alumnus to co-found a charity is Russell Train. Train co-founded African Wildlife Foundation, which is GoFundMe’s best wildlife charity to donate to.
23. Randolph-Macon College
Perhaps the most impressive on-campus charitable activity that takes place at Randolph-Macon College is Alumni Charity Challenge. This is an event that encourages alumni to go back to campus to donate unwanted canned goods for FeedMore. Alumni of Randolph-Macon College have also created some incredible charities. For instance, Robin Kelleher is an alumnus who co-founded Hope for the Warriors, which GoFundMe names as the best veterans charity that people can donate to. The college also counts Lemuel W. Diggs among its alumni. He created the South’s first blood bank and helped with the creation of St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
22. Saint Mary’s College of California
The students at Saint Mary’s College of California engage with charitable work throughout study. Thanks to the college, students have done things such as support disaster relief in Puerto Rico. And to ensure that students are able to create their own successful charities after graduation, the college’s Career and Professional Development Services department connects students to internship opportunities at a wide range of non-profits. Alumni of Saint Mary’s College of California have gone on to found charities such as Hope + Future, which helps children in conflict zones; the Mony Nop Foundation/Rising Young Leaders, which empowers young people to follow their dreams; and Envision Education, which prepares students for success in college, career and life. The reason why so many of this college’s alumni created charities are so frequently aimed at young people is simple. As Her Campus notes, the college proactively enrolls and guides first generation college students.
21. University of Missouri
Dr. William W. Mayo, one of the founders of The Mayo Clinic, graduated from the University of Missouri in 1854. In 2018, The Chronicle of Philanthropy noted that The Mayo Clinic was the charity that Americans had given the fifth largest amount of donations to. Other important charities that University of Missouri alumni have founded include The League of Women Voters, which is focused on voter equality; and The Donald W Reynolds Foundation, which awarded $1.8 billion in grants to a range of worthy causes. University of Missouri’s own community outreach program, MU Extension, helps over one million Missourians every year.
20. University of Nebraska
The donations that go into University of Nebraska’s charitable foundation have helped the world in a number of ways. For instance, lots of the money goes into the college’s Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, which provides free cancer screenings and cancer prevention education across the state of Nebraska. In fact, The Chronicle of Philanthropy even names the college’s foundation as being America’s 96th favorite charity. WorldWideLearn, however, cites the college’s friendly philanthropic rivalry with University of Iowa as being a fantastic way of helping a good cause. The two colleges compete to see who can get the most people to donate blood every year in the Corn Bowl Blood Drive
19. University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
When a student enrolls into University of California, Los Angeles, “They become an active part of the diverse Los Angeles community.” And one of the primary ways that these students affect that community is by taking part in the college’s charitable efforts. For instance, the college runs The Mobile Clinic Project, which, since 2001, has improved the health outcomes and quality of life for homeless people and vulnerable communities in LA through providing and connecting them with healthcare services. It also runs BruinCorps which, since 1997, provides education opportunities to under-resourced communities in LA. Her Campus also notes that University of Los Angeles, California students are encouraged to participate in charitable efforts though Volunteer Day, which is America’s “largest community participation event for new students.”
18. Hunter College
New York, New York
Evelyn Lauder, the founder of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, was an alumnus of Hunter College. GoFundMe lists The Breast Cancer Research Foundation as being the best cancer charity to donate to. Many Hunter College students are following in Lauder’s footsteps. For instance, in 2018, the college’s Muslim Students Association was able to raise $45,000 for children’s charities in the space of just one week. These students have many, many other charity founder alumni to look up to, such as Antonia Pantoja, who founded ASPIRA; and Sandra Schnur, who founded Women with Disabilities United
17. Gettysburg College
At Gettysburg College, “history and innovation intersect to shape the future.” With an ethos like this, it’s no wonder that the college is involved in many incredible charitable activities. In fact, Her Campus notes that 72% of students at the college engage in community service. This is all thanks to the college’s Center for Public Service, which encourages all members of the college’s community to participate in charitable activities. Unsurprisingly, Gettysburg College has many alumni who have created their own successful charities. Alumni founded charities include The Center Foundation, The Friends of the Delaware County’s Women Commission, Kids Sport Network and many, many more.
16. University of Wisconsin, Madison
One of the two co-founders of The Innocence Project, Peter Neufeld, studied at University of Wisconsin, Madison. The Innocence Project is GoFundMe’s best legal aid charity for people to donate to. University of Wisconsin, Madison is also part of Partners in Giving, which in 2019 alone donated $2.42 million to 520 different charities. However, 2019 also saw a major boost for University of Wisconsin Madison’s charitable activities. Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl gave the college $10 million to expand the public outreach conducted by the college. The money will also fund college classes in public and nonprofit leadership.
15. University of San Diego
San Diego, California
Thanks to University of San Diego’s Nonprofit Institute, the college is a hub of charity creation and improvement. This institute runs a range of programs designed to make non-profits the best they possibly can be, such as the Conscious Leadership Academy, the Environmental Initiatives Hub and the Governance Symposium and State of Nonprofits Summit. Alumni of University of San Diego have gone on to found charities such as New GateWay, which prevents homelessness through through assisting with employment acquisition; Ruben Castro Charities, which works to eliminate poverty by building relationships; and JustMedicine, which aims to lower the cost and increase the supply of important drugs. Her Campus names University of San Diego the eighth most charitable college in America.
14. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
In 2014, a $100 million alumnus donation to University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill created the Eshelman Institute for Innovation, which “fuels innovation, creates jobs and spurs economic development in the state” While this one center has contributed a lot to North Carolina, it is not the only charity to come out of the college. For instance, the college also runs Carolina Cares, Carolina Shares, which in 2018 raised almost $600,000. And the college also runs a range of charitable efforts that aren’t part of officially formed charities, such as selling signed sports items and giving the money raised from the sales to charities. But WorldWide earn names University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill as being a great charitable college for its partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
13. Fordham University
New York City, New York
Charity work is built into Fordham University’s curriculum. But the students are not just content with course managed charity work. There is also the Student Philanthropy Committee, which is student run and which creates a range of charitable events on campus and in the college’s home city of New York. And if that weren’t impressive enough, then the college also runs he Women’s Philanthropy Summit every October. Charities started by alumni of Fordham University include Black Citizens For Fair Media and the Faraja Foundation. Her Campus names Fordham University the seventh most charitable college in America.
12. Rhodes College
The city of Memphis has gained so much from Rhodes College and the college’s community. Her Campus states that 80% of students get involved in community service while studying. One of many examples of students who are contributing to this service is Jacob Fontaine. Fontaine is a current student who is also the editor-in-chief of a student run non-profit newspaper named The Bridge, which provides incomes for the homeless of Memphis. When he graduates, he hopes to be involved in policies that tackle inequality. However, Rhodes College can be considered charitable in many more ways than the charities is has founded. Its approach to community interaction is “with, not for,” meaning that it frequently partners with existing charities as an alternative to creating them.
11. Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas
In the fiscal year of 2018, $311.2 million was gifted to Texas A&M University. The college’s foundation used this money in a variety of ways. Part of it went into scholarships, building construction and similar college projects. Other funds went into community support. For instance, it funded the college’s Family & Veterans Advocacy Clinic, which provides legal support to low income families and veterans. Another college foundation funded program was Texas Target Communities, which helps small communities develop their infrastructure. And alumni have created many incredible charities. For instance, Shannon Maxwell is the co-founder of the Semper Max Support Fund and Hope for the Warriors, which is GoFundMe’s best veterans charity to donate to.
10. University of Minnesota
Driven to Discover is University of Minnesota’s current fund raising campaign. It aims to get $4 billion in donations. A portion of these funds will go towards researching improvements in the college’s M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. The college also takes part in community fund drives. In 2019, the college’s community campaign was able to raise $1.2 million. One particular University of Minnesota alumnus, Janet Benshoof, founded what GoFundMe names the best women’s charity to donate to, Center for Reproductive Rights.
9. Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
The Chronicle of Philanthropy named Cornell University as America’s ninth favorite charity in 2018. The college’s main way of supporting the needy is through the Cornell Public Service Center, which proactively matches its students, faculty and alumni to public service opportunities. One of the most impressive things that this center does is match an average of 250 students to local charitable efforts every year. Alumni of Cornell University have formed many successful charities, some in partnership with the college. For instance Ira Drukier founded the Gale and Ira Drukier Institute for Children’s Health at the college. This institute improves the lives of children through accelerated research.
8. Saint Louis University
Saint Louis, Missouri
The first ever location for Campus Kitchen, an organization which gets colleges to provide food for the needy in America’s cities, was in Saint Louis University. Since then, the project has been adopted by 62 more colleges. The college also partners with Belize 2020, which aims to solve the issues of drug-gang violence, unemployment, family instability and other issues in Belize. Her Campus also names Saint Louis University as being the fifth most charitable college in America. Alumni of the college have created many charities, such as the Topeka Community Foundation, which manages almost 400 charitable funds.
7. Columbia University
New York City, New York
Columbia University runs 27 programs for students to volunteer in. These charitable efforts fall under five different categories, namely youth programs, adult programs, emergency services, health, and leadership. Collectively, these programs help thousands of individuals every single year. However, the charitable work at Columbia University goes much further than student volunteer projects. For instance, it also runs the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, which is one of only 27 Alzheimer’s research centers in America. GoFundMe names the Columbia alumnus co-founded organization Global Fund for Women as being the best women’s rights charity for people to donate to.
6. Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut
Of all the charities founded by Yale alumni, none is larger than Americares Foundation, which Forbes notes is the 10th largest US charity. On campus, the college’s hub of community outreach is Dwight Hall, which is the college’s undergraduate student founded charity. It began in 1886, with a mission to serve the poor. Over the 130+ years of its existence, the charity has branched out into any areas. Its most recent expansion was the Socially Responsible Investment Fund, which “makes use of socially responsible investment methods to have a positive environmental and societal impact.” Another undergraduate founded charity, Elmseed, aims to help New Haven businesses succeed by providing a range of growth services.
5. University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa
The University of Iowa’s Center For Advancement spends much of its funding on medical research. In 2018 alone, it gave $39.9 million of its overall donations to college formed charitable research groups such as the Jared and Carol Hills Polycystic Kidney Research Fund, which aims to find better treatments for people suffering from kidney disease. But the Center For Advancement focuses on many diverse areas of support. For instance, a recent project was one that used a $50,000 college gift to send students to Africa to “work on water sanitation, solar energy and other basic infrastructure projects.” WorldWideLearn lists University of Iowa as a great charitable college for its friendly philanthropic rivalry with the University of Nebraska in raising blood donations. Additionally, WalletHub names the University of Iowa alumnus founded charity Rotary as the best charity to donate to.
4. Northwestern University
One of the three founders of The Mayo Clinic, which in 2018 The Chronicle of Philanthropy named as America’s fifth favorite charity, Charles H. Mayo, was an alumnus of Northwestern University. Northwestern University itself has some incredible charities to its name. For example, it runs Points for a Purpose, which gets students to donate food to people who cannot afford it. And for over 43 years, it has organized Dance Marathon, which encourages donations by running a 30 hour dancing event. To date, this event has raised over $17 million for worthy causes. Additionally, the founder of Prevent Child Abuse, which is GoFundMe’s best children’s charity to donate to, was an alumnus of Northwestern University.
3. Harvard University
The Chronicle of Philanthropy notes that Harvard University in its own right is the charity that raised the fourth highest amount of money in America in 2018. Much of this money goes on college scholarships/construction projects. But generous amounts of this money go into sub charities within the college itself, such as The Harvard Foundation, which aims to improve intercultural and race relations within the university. On top of this, there are currently over 70 non-profits associated with Harvard University’s campus community and 7,600 nonprofits started by Harvard alumni. One of these is The American Civil Liberties Union, which is GoFundMe’s best civil rights charity to donate to.
2. New York University
New York City, New York
There are many ways that New York University conducts charity work. But perhaps the most impressive of these is The Combined Campaign. This campaign raises support for hundreds of charities near the college’s campus via the financial contributions of college employees. However, the college also conducts a range of charitable activities outside of New York City. For example, it organizes Alternative Breaks, a program that has provided more than 140,000 hours of charitable support in 50 US communities and 25 countries. And many New York University alumni have gone on to found incredible charities. For instance, Anne Firth Murray is one of the four co-founders of The Global Fund For Women, which is GoFundMe’s best women’s rights charity to donate to. And Scott Harrison is the founder of Charity:water, GoFundMe’s best international aid charity.
1. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, Michigan
William J. Mayo, one of the three family members to have founded America’s fifth favorite charity, The Mayo Clinic, attended University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Another important alumnus founded charity to come out of the college was Students for a Democratic Society, which opposed the Vietnam War. The college itself has an important health charity. It runs the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. In 2017 alone, this hospital discharged over 8,200 different children who were able to get the vital treatment they needed thanks to its services. This hospital has also saved countless people’s lives by being part of the team that developed the polio vaccine.