27 Outstanding Local Charities in the San Francisco Bay Area + How You Can Help

|November 3, 2017

For centuries, the Bay Area has served as a leader in social and political movements. As such, thousands of charitable organizations have flourished in the region — and continue to do so with help from locals, supporters and volunteers just like you!

From food banks and sustainability to housing and health care, from environmental efforts and animal advocacy to youth education and artistic expression — Bay Area organizations are making strides in the nonprofit world. Learn about a few of the region’s best, find out how you can help, then share your favorites in the comments below!

Jump ahead:

Food | Shelter + Rehabilitation | Health | Animal | Youth | Environmental | Education | Arts + Culture


SF-Marin Food Bank San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit charity

Photo courtesy of SF-Marin Food Bank and Elisabeth Fall

SF-Marin Food Bank

The mission: The mission of SF-Marin Food Bank is to end hunger in SF and Marin counties — to create a community where everyone is able to obtain enough nutritious food to support the health and wellbeing of themselves and their families.

The story: In San Francisco and Marin counties, one in every four people is at risk of hunger. The programs at SF-Marin Food Bank contribute to community pantries, provide healthy morning snacks for students, deliver groceries to homes, educate the community on proper nutrition and much more.

How you can help: Donate money, donate food, organize a food or fund drive and more.

Food Runners

The mission: The mission of Food Runners is to help alleviate hunger in San Francisco, to help prevent waste and to help create community.

The story: Founder Mary Risley began Food Runners in 1987 with a small group of concerned professionals in the food industry. Today, the organization’s volunteers relay food for over 3,000 meals in the city each day picked up from area restaurants, caterers, bakeries, hospitals, event planners, corporate cafeterias and hotels.

How you can help: Donate food, donate money and volunteer.

Project Open Hand

The mission: The mission of Project Open Hand is to nourish and engage our community by providing meals with love to the sick and the elderly.

The story: Founded in 1985, provides wholesome meals to critically ill neighbors and seniors in order to ensure clients can recover from illness, get stronger and lead healthier lives. Today, with the help of about 125 volunteers, the organization prepares 2,500 nutritious meals and provides 200 bags of healthy groceries San Francisco and Alameda counties.

How you can help: Donate, volunteer and work for Project Open Hand.


The mission: The mission of CUESA is to educate urban consumers about sustainable agriculture and to create links between urban dwellers and local farmers.

The story: Founded in 1994, CUESA organizes farmers markets and educational programs throughout the Bay Area in order to bring individuals in our communities together with the food growers and producers in the region. You can attend their markets in Jack London Square and Ferry Plaza.

How you can help: Donate, volunteer, sponsor a market and subscribe to the newsletter.

Shelter + Rehabilitation  

SF LGBT Center San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit charity

Photo courtesy of SF LGBT Center and Trish Tunney

SF LGBT Center

The mission: The mission of the SF LGBT Center is to connect our diverse community to opportunities, resources and each other to achieve our vision of a stronger, healthier and more equitable world for LGBT people and allies.

The story: Since opening in 2002, the SF LGBT Center has become a cornerstone of the community and is the only nonprofit in San Francisco serving all members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Programs include economic development, health and wellness, community and policy initiatives and much more.

How you can help: Donate and fundraise, volunteer and attend events.

Raphael House

The mission: The mission of Raphael House is to help at-risk families achieve stable housing and financial independence while strengthening family bonds and personal dignity.

The story: When it began in 1971, Raphael House served as an emergency shelter for single mothers and their children. In order to grow and help more local families, the shelter moved to the former Golden Gate Hospital in 1977, becoming the first homeless shelter for families in Northern California.

How you can help: Donate money, donate goods, volunteer and adopt a family over the holidays.

San Francisco SafeHouse

The mission: The mission of SF SafeHouse is to provide a nurturing and empowering living community for homeless women escaping sexual exploitation, prostitution and sex trafficking.

The story: In response to a series of brutal murders and assaults upon prostituted women in the mid-1990s, Rev. Glenda Hope founded SafeHouse in 1998. In collaboration with Sister Rosina Conrotto, she and the organization has served over 350 women and successfully created a healing space that addresses gender-specific trauma, homelessness and substance abuse.

How you can help: Donate money, donate items, sponsor an intern, volunteer and work for San Francisco SafeHouse.

Community Housing Partnership

The mission: Community Housing Partnership’s mission is to help homeless people secure housing and become self-sufficient.

The story: Founded in 1990, Community Housing Partnership is a San Francisco nonprofit that has been winning awards for its supportive residential properties and its comprehensive programs. Dedicated to helping homeless people secure housing and become self-sufficient, their focus is on advocating, building community and creating opportunity.

How you can help: Donate, get involved online and in person and become an investor or supporter.


Academy of Friends San Francisco Charity nonprofit

Photo courtesy of Academy of Freinds and Jim Norrena

RotaCare Bay Area

The mission: RotaCare provides free medical care to those with the greatest need and the least access to medical care in the Bay Area.

The story: RotaCare Bay Area was formed in 1989 by local Rotarian Dr. Mark Campbell and his Campbell Rotary Club. Beginning in Santa Clara, the organization now has 12 clinics in Concord, Daly City, Gilroy, Half Moon Bay, Monterey, Pittsburg, Richmond, San Jose, San Leandro, San Rafael and Santa Cruz.

How you can help: Donate and volunteer.

Mental Health Association of San Francisco

The mission: The mission of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco is to cultivate peer leadership, build community and advance social justice in mental health.

The story: Beginning humbly as a movement of concerned citizens in SF, this organization was originally established as the San Francisco Mental Hygiene Society in 1947. For more than 70 years, the nonprofit has been advocating, training and designing programs to promote awareness and help those struggling with mental health issues.

How you can help: Donate, volunteer or work with MHASF.

Shanti Project

The mission: Shanti Project’s mission is to enhance the health, quality of life and well-being of people with terminal, life-threatening or disabling illnesses or conditions.

The story: Founded in 1974 by Dr. Charles Garfield, Shanti offers a range of services including in-home and onsite patient and care navigation, emotional and practical support and preservation of the human-animal bond through their program PAWS. Empowerment, empathy and acceptance are just a few of the values that help embody the tranquility, community and relationships for patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, Hep C and more.

How you can help: Donate money, donate specific items, volunteer and more.

Academy of Friends

The mission: The mission of Academy of Friends is to be an exemplary model of volunteerism and fundraising that has a significant impact in the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS until the epidemic has passed.

The story: Academy of Friends was founded in 1980 by Kile Ozier. In its first year, it was simply a small, private Oscar party of just twenty-five friends, great food, lots of champagne and plenty of glamour. Today, the organization is one of the largest contributors to HIV/AIDS services organizations in the Bay Area with the Academy Awards Night Gala at the helm of their fundraising efforts.

How you can help: Donate, become a corporate sponsor, volunteer, attend the gala and more.


Family Dog Rescue San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit charity

Photo courtesy of Northern California Family Dog Rescue

San Francisco SPCA

The mission: The mission of the San Francisco SPCA is to save and protect animals, provide care and treatment, advocate for their welfare and enhance the human-animal bond.

The story: As the fourth oldest humane society in the country and the founders of the No-Kill movement, the SF SPCA has been at the forefront of animal welfare for decades. Through education, rescue and prevention of overpopulation and surrenders, they constantly work to keep our communities and our pets safe.

How you can help: Donate, volunteer, attend an event and help to advocate and educate.

Northern California Family Dog Rescue

The mission: this rescue’s mission is to rescue and rehome purebreds, mixed breeds, puppies, adults, large, small, fluffy, hairless, kid-friendly and differently-abled canine companions to bring people and pets together.

The story: Since it was founded in 2010, Family Dog Rescue has rescued over 3000 dogs and matched them with loving families. Founded by Angela Padilla after she realized the therapeutic value of family dogs in her personal life and her battle with cancer, Family Dog Rescue flourished for years on SF’s “Rescue Row” and is now located in the Bayview District, on 2253 Shafter Ave.

How you can help: Donate + sponsor, volunteer, foster a pet, attend an event and adopt.

Rocket Dog Rescue

The mission: Rocket Dog Rescue is dedicated to saving homeless and abandoned dogs from overcrowded animal shelters.

The story: This volunteer-based nonprofit runs on the belief that no dog should be left behind. Founded in 2001, they organize educational and adoption events, host mobile adoptions and in 2014, they opened their first Urban Sanctuary and adoption center in Oakland. To date, they have adopted more than 8,200 dogs to loving families.

How you can help: Donate, volunteer, foster and adopt.


Larkin Street Youth Services San Francisco Bay Area charity nonprofit

Photo courtesy of Larkin Street Youth Services

Safe & Sound

The mission: Safe & Sound works to prevent child abuse and reduce its devastating impact.

The story: Based in San Francisco, this child advocacy organization advocates for helpful laws, policies and practices, collaborates with government agencies, community organizations and the private sector, educates on child safety and security, and supports families with children in the Bay Area. Learn more about their work here.

How you can help: Donate, volunteer, work with Safe & Sound, attend an event and organize corporate engagement.

Larkin Street Youth Services

The mission: Larkin Street Youth Services serves to create a continuum of services that inspires youth to move beyond the street.

The story: Since it opened in 1984, Larkin Street Youth Services has served over 75,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 24 who were at risk of or experiencing homelessness. Today, they’re the largest nonprofit provider of services for young people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco. By providing housing, education, health and wellness essentials, employment, advocacy and more, they nurture potential, promote dignity and support bold steps amongst everyone.

How you can help: Donate, volunteer, get involved with Friends of Larkin Street, signup for emails and more.

Project Night Night

The mission: Project Night Night’s mission is to provide free Night Night Packages to homeless children from birth to pre-teen who need childhood essentials to have a concrete and predictable source of security and increased exposure to high-quality literacy materials during this time of upheaval.

The story: Project Night Night began right here in San Francisco and now operates throughout the United States. Today, they donate 25,000 Night Night Packages each year to homeless children 12 and under who are in need of essentials, a predictable source of security and access to literacy materials. Each canvas bag includes a new security blanket, an age-appropriate children’s book and a stuffed animal.

How you can help: Donate money, donate items, volunteer, get your kids involved with the Be Awesome Program and more.


Save the Bay San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit charity

Photo by Christopher Shaw

San Francisco Parks Alliance

The mission: The mission of the San Francisco Parks Alliance is to inspire and promote civic engagement and philanthropy to protect, sustain and enrich San Francisco parks, recreation and green open spaces.

The story: After noticing a decline in city park conditions and amenities the two leading organizations, Neighborhood Parks Council and San Francisco Parks Trust, joined forces in October 2011 to form the new San Francisco Parks Alliance. Now, they collaborate between residents and the city to improve parks and raise the visibility of parks and recreation as a vital public service.

How you can help: Donate, volunteer, become a Park Leadership Society donor, look into planned giving and become a member.

Greenbelt Alliance

The mission: Greenbelt Alliance serves to facilitate how the Bay Area handles growth, to shape the rules that govern growth, to protect the region’s open spaces and to ensure neighborhoods within our cities and towns are amazing places for everyone.

The story: For over 60 years, Greenbelt Alliance has been serving as the only Bay Area organization that holistically addresses land-use issues like land conservation and smart growth development — from saving farms in Santa Clara County and wildlife habitats in Sonoma County to revitalizing commercial strips in Silicon Valley and Oakland. They work to prevent bad development, but also encourage the right development in the right places.

How you can help: Donate money and goods and attend events like Savor the Greenbelt.

Save the Bay

The mission: To advocate and restore the Bay, Save the Bay works to stop bay fill and reckless shoreline development, restores the shoreline by engaging community volunteers, schools and businesses in planting and scientific monitoring, and prevents trash from polluting and harming wildlife by securing local and regional limits on plastic bags, polystyrene and toxic tobacco litter.

The story: Since 1961, Save the Bay has become the largest regional organization working to protect, restore and celebrate San Francisco Bay. With the help of thousands of Bay Area residents, they work to protect and restore the Bay for future generations, both as advocates in their community and volunteers on the shoreline.

How you can help: Donate money, volunteer with your company, on your own or with the Fellowship Program and more.


826 Valencia

The mission: The 826 Valencia mission is to support under-resourced students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills and to help teachers inspire their students to write.

The story: Co-founded in 2002 by Bay Area author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari, 826 Valencia works to close the academic achievement gap for underserved youth in the Bay Area, provide the tools and resources necessary for success, connect caring adults to young people, and make the path to college and career a shorter leap. They do this through a range of free programs for local students, classrooms and schools with a focus on projects and expressing creativity.

How you can help: Donate money, donate goods and services, volunteer, shop at the Pirate Store, look into planned giving and more.

Youth Speaks

The mission: Youth Speaks creates safe spaces that challenge young people to find, develop, publicly present and apply their voices as creators of societal change.

The story: Founded in 1996 in San Francisco, this nonprofit organization combats illiteracy by inspiring youth in our communities to use their voices and express themselves through writing, spoken word and more. Among other programs and events, Youth Speaks produces local and national youth poetry slams, festivals and reading series.

How you can help: Donate, become a member or partner or attend Friendraiser.

San Francisco Education Fund

The mission: The San Francisco Education Fund harnesses the power of the community to equip every public school student with the skills to succeed in college, career and civic responsibility.

The story: Beginning humbly in 1963 in SF’s Western Addition, this nonprofit uses data to target resources where they are needed most, engages volunteers in classrooms, provides grants to educators and awards scholarships to students.

How you can help: Donate, volunteer, join the Young Professional Council and get your corporation involved.

Arts + Culture

Creativity Explored Nonprofit charity in San Francisco Bay Area

Photo courtesy of Creativity Explored

Youth Radio

The mission: Youth Radio’s mission is to revolutionize how youth tell stories and the ways people connect with next-generation journalists and artists.

The story: During a wave of youth violence and youth homelessness in the Bay Area, Youth Radio began in 1993 in Berkeley. Led by the youth themselves, professional producers and instructors work hand-in-hand with youth reporters and peer teachers to create award-winning media and train the next generation. Now headquartered in Oakland, they deliver honest, top-quality news and culture with correspondents and partners in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Washington, DC.

How you can help: Donate, listen to the podcast and subscribe to the newsletter.  


The mission: Imprint.City’s mission is to cultivate art to vitalize community.

The story: Headquartered in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, Imprint.City organizes art events, music festivals, mural projects and more to inspire and support local artists and to encourage economic development in underserved communities and industrial spaces. Events include the annual BayveiwLIVE Festival which you can learn about here. Read more about the Vice President and the Imprint.City story here.

How you can help: Donate and attend programs and events.

Creativity Explored

The mission: Creativity Explored gives artists with developmental disabilities the means to create and share their work with the community, celebrating the power of art to change lives.

The story: For more than 30 years, Creativity Explored has given people with developmental disabilities the opportunity to express themselves through art programs, classes exhibitions and art sales so participants can earn an income. Learn more about their specific art programs here.

How you can help: Donate, volunteer, attend an exhibition or event and shop art.

Share your favorites!

We’re blessed with so many charitable organizations in the Bay Area; this list just scratches the surface! Share your favorites in the comments below and let us know where you like to donate and volunteer.

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