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The 15 Best Nonprofits in Chicago to Support

ALT TEXT: A man stands against a wall with a large mural of the word “Chicago” with art of local iconography inside each letter

Chicago is a massive city: it’s the largest in Illinois and third-largest in the nation. In a sprawling city with a storied, diverse population, there’s no shortage of communities to call home. That means there are also plenty of community organizations dedicated to supporting Chicagoans, whether through education, career services, or philanthropy. We’ve rounded up a list of some of the best nonprofits in Chicago to help you connect with the efforts that align with your corporate social responsibility mission.

Table of Contents

1. The Chicago Community Trust
2. Greater Chicago Food Depository
3. Cara Program
4. PAWS Chicago
5. Chicago Public Library Foundation
6. GirlForward
7. Chicago Cares
8. Alliance for the Great Lakes
9. Center on Halsted
10. Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
11. Gilda's Club Chicago
12. Care for Real
13. Working Bikes
14. Chicago CRED
15. Collaboraction

15 of the Best Nonprofits in Chicago

Our full list of nonprofits in Chicago features some of the most impactful organizations in the city. Let’s take a closer look at each.

1. The Chicago Community Trust

Founded in 1915, the Chicago Community Trust (CCT) is one of the city’s oldest and most significant nonprofit organizations. For over a century, CCT has mobilized resources, built partnerships, and funded action dedicated to supporting the Chicago community. 

Today, CCT’s mission is to enhance the lives of Chicagoans by addressing critical issues impacting the city. From its early days providing local relief during the Great Depression to its modern fight for equity and economic opportunities, CCT has established itself as one of the most influential Chicago nonprofits.

2. Greater Chicago Food Depository

About one in six Cook County residents benefit from the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s services each year. This food bank is one of the largest nonprofits in Chicago; it supplies donated and purchased food to a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters across the county. 

That’s not all the Food Depository does for the community, though. Its popular Lunch Bus offers free healthy lunches to children throughout the city each summer. Likewise, the nonprofit’s “Producemobile” brings fruits and vegetables to parts of the community with limited access to fresh foods.

3. Cara Program

The Cara Program, hosted by the nonprofit organization Cara Collective, is an educational and skills-training program designed to prepare participants to enter the workforce (and, ideally, stay there). 

Its affiliate location in Chicago offers a program that lasts about four to five months and gives students opportunities to learn skills like team building and financial literacy. The organization notably has partnerships with over 100 employers located near the Chicago area, meaning opportunities for graduates are plentiful.

4. PAWS Chicago

Since its foundation in 1997, PAWS Chicago has significantly decreased the number of dogs, cats, and other pets euthanized in the city. Fast forward to today, and PAWS runs the largest pet adoption and foster programs in Chicago. The organization also operates a clinic and a mobile surgical van that allows PAWS team members to spay and neuter local pets, oftentimes free of charge.

5. Chicago Public Library Foundation

The Chicago Public Library Foundation partners with the Chicago Public Library to support equitable access to its programming. The Foundation focuses on opportunities for learning, creativity, and building digital literacy. Its overall goal is to close the academic opportunity gap within the city and bring tools for success to all.

6. GirlForward

GirlForward is an Edgewater-based nonprofit that supports teenage girls who have been displaced from their home countries. Each girl is paired with a local female mentor to receive tutoring, career assistance, and personal guidance. 

Something that separates GirlForward from other Chicago education nonprofits is its emphasis on building a sisterhood. While girls have plenty of opportunities to learn – like English vocabulary classes and SAT prep – they also are given new chances to bond with their peers. Girls can “shop” for clothes and school supplies together at distribution events or explore their neighborhoods with mentees, among other examples.

7. Chicago Cares

Few nonprofit organizations have mobilized volunteers quite like Chicago Cares, which focuses on utilizing volunteer effort to build a more unified, stronger Chicago. The organization organizes and leads thousands of service projects annually, each focused on the most pressing issues within the city. 

Chicago Cares aims to drive community engagement and social change through the act of volunteerism, whether that means revitalizing schools or supporting local seniors.

8. Alliance for the Great Lakes

For 45 years, the Alliance for the Great Leaks has dedicated itself to protecting the Great Lakes through a combination of education, advocacy, and environmental restoration. As such, its activities have historically varied. From pushing for legislation that reduced pollution flowing into lakes to its annual Adopt-a-Beach cleanup event, the Alliance has taken a stand however it can to preserve the environment surrounding the Chicago area.

9. Center on Halsted

As one of the largest LGBTQ nonprofits in Chicago, Center on Halsted sees tens of thousands of community members each month. This community center offers everything from yoga to cooking classes and HIV testing. Its goal is simple: it serves as a local hub for support and advocacy for the Chicago community.

In recent years, Center on Halsted has opened the area’s first LGBTQ-friendly affordable housing project, Town Hall Apartments. The Center has also opened a senior center in the city’s former Town Hall police station, a legendary spot where foundational members of the community came to rest after raids on local gay bars.

10. Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) is the only nonprofit organization in Illinois committed to advocating for public policy that will curb and end homelessness. CCH aims to target the lack of affordable housing across Illinois and in metropolitan Chicago. To do that, CCH leads community outreach, strategic public policy initiatives, and local advocacy for those affected by homelessness.

11. Gilda’s Club Chicago

Saturday Night Live’s Gilda Radner once joked that having cancer granted her membership to an elite club she’d rather not be a part of. Following her passing in 1989, Radner’s loved ones created Gilda’s Club, a nonprofit organization offering free activities and family programs to community members touched by cancer. The organization offers hundreds of programs every month, and it welcomes anyone with or affected by cancer, including friends and family.

12. Care for Real

Located on the North Side, Care for Real is a nonprofit focused on reducing food insecurity. The organization was founded 50 years ago and still runs strong today, distributing food and clothing to community members six days a week. Care for Real also supports local animal welfare by providing families with supplies from its pet pantry, including food, toys, and essential supplies.

13. Working Bikes

Working Bikes believes that every person deserves a set of two wheels. This nonprofit operates out of Little Village and sells refurbished bicycles and bike parts at affordable prices. 

The funds that Working Bikes receives support its overall mission to reduce waste and promote personal wellness. Each year, the organization donates about 1,500 bikes to local children and adults. Plus, it ships an estimated 7,000 bikes and tools abroad to provide transportation options to people throughout the Americas and Africa.

14. Chicago CRED

Chicago CRED gets its name from an acronym: Create Real Economic Destiny. This nonprofit is dedicated to reducing the prevalence of gun violence in Chicago by breaking the cycle of underlying factors that cause it. The organization deploys outreach teams, mentors, and life coaches to reach community members from economically disadvantaged communities across the South and West Side.

15. Collaboraction

Collaboraction is not only among the most accomplished Chicago arts nonprofits, but it’s also actively devoted to social justice. Its annual festival, Peacebook, brings community artists to the stage to call for societal change using music, dance, and spoken word. Meanwhile, its new program, The Light, pairs young performers with older mentors who provide guidance on how to blend art with activism. 

Donate to Top Chicago Nonprofits with Groundswell

Whether you want to offer time, funds, or partnerships, support the nonprofits that align with your values with Groundswell. Our mobile-first platform makes it simple to find the best nonprofits in Chicago and throughout the nation. Deliver grants, match employee donations, and track volunteer hours right from your mobile device. Request a personalized demo today to see how you can get started.

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