Make the Most of Your Charitable Giving

Donating to charities focused on education can be a satisfying way to support students after you leave the field.

A group of women holding a digital tablet. The screen reads, 'Make a Difference. Donate'.

by NEA Member Benefits

Key takeaways

  • The NEA Foundation is a good place to start your charitable giving in support of education.
  • allows you to be selective in helping to support individual teachers.
  • Charity Navigator offers tips to help you find the charities doing the most good.
  • For a lasting legacy, make charitable giving part of your estate plan.

As an educator, you’ve made a difference in the lives of countless students—often by donating extra time and your own funds. After you leave the field, you can continue to support educational causes by volunteering and through selective charitable giving.

To make sure your charitable giving has impact, carefully research and vet charities to find the organizations that best match your passions and that do the most with your money. Below are just a few options, as well as some tips for finding the most reputable organizations.

The NEA Foundation improves public education for all students

As an NEA member, you are part of an organization that supports The NEA Foundation—a public charity that strives to recognize and support educators, raise student achievement and improve public schools.

If you would like to donate to The NEA Foundation, as little as $25 can fund pencils, notebooks and other stationery items for a classroom. Donations of $100 or more can fund items like iPads for special education classrooms, science-related learning materials or a new projector, just to name a few.

To contribute to The NEA Foundation, go to their secure donation page. crowdfunds for educators is an online charity that allows public school educators to post classroom-project requests on the site, which are then crowdfunded by individuals.

When a project reaches its funding goal, materials are shipped to the school. Donors get photos of the project taking place, a letter from the teacher and insight into how every dollar was spent.

The NEA Foundation partners with, and in 2014, the Foundation matched public donations to support 1,500 NEA member requests for classroom materials, reaching 120,000 public school students.

Other organizations focused on education

Here are a few other organizations that might be worth a look.

  • Adopt-A-Classroom — Because teachers shouldn’t have to spend their own money on school supplies.
  • Kids In Need Foundation — In 2017, Kids in Need directly supported 6.2 million kids with new supplies.
  • United through Reading — We unite military families facing physical separation by facilitating the bonding experience of reading aloud.
  • Teach Plus — Empowers excellent, experienced teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success.
  • First Book — Millions of children from low-income areas don’t have the tools they need to learn. With your help, we can change this.
  • Network for Good — An all-in-one fundraising platform and donor management system.

Finding the worthy charities

The charity industry is full of suspect organizations and outright scams. So how do you separate the worthy organizations from ones that might show up in a 60 Minutes exposé?

A good place to start is Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest and most influential charity rater. Charity Navigator rates and ranks over 9,100 charities by analyzing their financial health, accountability, transparency and performance results. The organization is itself a charity and does not charge for its services. To get an idea of the depth and breadth of information provided by Charity Navigator, take a look at The NEA Foundation listing.

Charity Navigator offers the following tips for people wanting to find the best charities:

  • Identify causes meaningful to you. Pinpoint specific causes and then search for the charities focused on those causes. Research and vet each candidate to find the best of the bunch.
  • Avoid telemarketers. Telemarketers calling on behalf of charities generally keep a large portion (in some cases all) of each dollar they collect. Proactively research through Charity Navigator and other online resources.
  • Be careful of sound-alike names. Some charities have strikingly similar names to others but their performances and ratings may be vastly different.
  • Confirm non-profit status. Only support groups granted tax-exempt status under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Check for accountability and transparency. Charities that follow good governance and transparency practices are less likely to engage in unethical or irresponsible activities.
  • Review financial records. Financial health is a strong indicator of a charity's programmatic performance. Financial records will show what percentage of the budget is spent on programs versus administrative fees, salaries and fundraising.

Leave an educational legacy

You can make charitable donations whenever the urge strikes, and you can build it into your estate plan so that giving becomes part of your legacy. To designate gifts in your will or for more complex solutions such as charitable trusts, consult an estate planning attorney and a tax professional.