Updated 9/2/15: The refugee crisis in Europe has many asking how they can direct their funds and attention to Syrian and other refugees here. There are many different initiatives, but here are a few good ones I’ve found:
- Refugees Welcome – The site is mainly in German, but you can donate here or sponsor the monthly rent for a refugee here. German residents can also volunteer, or offer up a spot in their home if they have one.
- Migration Aid – This charity specifically helps refugees who have arrived in Hungary and accepts both cash and goods donations.
- The Migrant Offshore Aid Station helps rescue refugees at sea. I think this is a worthy cause, but their FAQ is worth reading to understand how they treat refugees once they’re rescued.
- The European Council on Refugees and Exiles doesn’t provide direct relief, but rather advocates for better policies in Europe.
- British charity Refugee Action provides a range of services to refugees who’ve reached Britain’s shores.
Two years ago, I wrote a post about how you can help Syrian refugees. While I stand by the information in that post, I decided to write a fresh one that includes newer organizations. This post also includes some repeats from the last. Many thanks to Lina Sergie Attar and Sima Diab for their help.
As I explained last time, I’ve highlighted organizations that are 501(c)(3) US-based nonprofits and receive high marks from GuideStar and Charity Navigator, with a couple of notable exceptions.
Suggestions are in no particular order:
- Save the Children is an internationally known organization (95.01/100 on Charity Navigator) and 501(c)(3) nonprofit that currently maintains a Syrian children in crisis fund. Their program is unique in that they’re working to create “child-friendly spaces” to give children in refugee communities ” a safe space to play and get support while keeping their minds off the harsh reality they are facing.” This is important in that psychological help is as needed in a crisis as medical and other care. Guidestar also ranks Save the Children highly, with a Gold-level mark in the Exchange.
- The Syrian American Medical Society Foundation received a Silver ranking from Guidestar‘s Exchange and is not yet ranked on Charity Navigator (which requires 7 years of IRS filings). The organization has local programs in Lebanon and southern Syria. Their own annual report states that only 1% of donations went toward overhead costs in 2013.
- Basmeh & Zeitooneh is unranked because it’s not a US charity, but Syrian and Lebanese friends speak highly of it. The aid group, based in Lebanon, works primarily with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, providing them with psychosocial support, food, clothing, and other needs. You can donate to their current campaign here. They also run a women’s workshop.
- The International Rescue Committee is a highly-rated relief agency and 501(c)(3) nonprofit (95.36/100 from Charity Navigator) with incredibly efficient use of funds (93% goes to programming, only 3% toward fundraising). You can’t specify that your donation goes toward Syrian refugees, but the organization has been doing a lot of great work in Syria and elsewhere. And if you don’t have a lot of cash, the IRC has a toolkit for running a fundraiser for a given cause. The IRC is not religiously affiliated and is independent from government.
- The Middle East Children’s Alliance is a California-based nonprofit that works locally and internationally, and is currently running a campaign to support children and families in Gaza and Syria during the winter. They score a 70.79/100 by Charity Navigator, likely due to their high fundraising expenses (they send glossy materials out to even small donors). Their financials are a bit outdated on Guidestar.
- Karam Foundation (Attar’s organization) is a Bronze-level GuideStar Exchange participant that seeks to help displaced Syrians in a number of innovative ways. Karam is not ranked by Charity Navigator, which only ranks organizations with more than $1 million in revenue.
- Relief and Reconciliation is a charity that runs a Peace Centre in northern Lebanon aiming to “help people of all faiths … to exit violence and to find a better future.” As they are not a US nonprofit, they are unranked by Guidestar and Charity Navigator, but their About page boasts some impressive credentials!
- Islamic Relief–also obviously an Islamic charity, and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit–is working to provide assistance to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, distributing food, clothing, and medicine. As with the IRC, you cannot specify that your funds go to Syria, but can donate through their emergencies fund. Their Charity Navigator ranking is 80.90/100 and their financials are up-to-date on GuideStar. IR also offers ways to host local fundraisers. Nifty NB for Muslims: They offer guidelines for giving Zakat using credit cards.
- The UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, has a special fund for refugees, with clear indications of what support of different amounts can provide (for example, “$200 can provide blankets for 20 families”). Donations through that page go through USA for UNHCR, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and is ranked 70.90/100 by Charity Navigator. Part of the reason for their lower ranking is that they spend more than 20% of their funds on fundraising, which usually means a lot of paper (and it’s true: I do receive a lot of mailings from UNHCR generally). You can review their financials through Charity Navigator or GuideStar.
- UNICEF, the UN agency that works to protect children, is also collecting funds for Syrian refugees. Like the USA for UNHCR, UNICEF USA is also a tax-deductible organization. You can check out their rankings on Guidestar and Charity Navigator, where they have a 93.69/100 rating.
- The International Red Cross/Red Crescent is, as far as I know, not a registered 501(c)(3) (though the American Red Cross is) and does not appear to have a Charity Navigator ranking. Nevertheless, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has been doing amazing work under dire circumstances.
- Syrianorphans.org is a small organization that received 501(c)(3) status in 2013, after I wrote this post. Though it does not yet have its financial reports up (GuideStar), the charity claims that it does not use any donations to support overhead costs, ensuring that donations are used entirely to support Syrians.