Don’t Just Share, Do Something: Where to Make Small Donations to help Refugees

The ongoing civil war in Syria is the most documented, most watched conflict in history, yet the publicity of the events did not seem to prevent the unarmed people, including children, being hurt. Following the fall of Aleppo, we hope to initiate something that is slightly more useful than just sharing the sadness on social media. We urge everyone to make small donations to help those who have been misplaced and have to spend this Christmas and New Year in fear and pain.



We feel obligated to say that some of the well-known names might not be a good place to make small donation, because these large organizations have higher overheads, for example, USA for UNHCR, (spelled out as USA for United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees), who has a superstar Ambassador Angelina Jolie and an exceptionally high percentage of fundraiser expenses at 38.2% in its first year 2014. In 2015, this percentage was lowered to 22%, still very high compared to MSFs 11%. One of the key reasons why these organizations can operation with such high efficiency is that they rely heavily on unpaid or low-paid volunteers, that is why they need individuals donations more than fully-staffed large organizations, because places like UN affiliations usually rely more on governmental or corporate entities long-term commitment.



Here are some organizations that provide humanitarian relief to refugees around the world on regular basis, and operates on an impressive efficiency of their fund, so we recommend you to make small donations during the last few days of this not-so-encouraging year.


Our criteria:

  • Humanitarian aid groups (there are organizations serving more long-term purposes such as education and gender equality, however this list focus on Refugee Relief and related urgent issues)
  • The finances of the organization: we prefer those who keep their administrative/ and fund-raising costs to the minimum, which makes sense if they want to convince people that they are good at emergency relief.
  • Regional /location-specific programs
  • Having specific causes rather than a broad mission
  • In reference to Charity Watchs benchmark: The charities listed below perform favorably in relation to CharityWatchbenchmarks: at least 75% of total budget on program service and no more than 25cents to raise a dollar. (equals to fund-raising efficiency 0.25 dollars).
  • We try to diversify the list by selecting those who have international offices
  • We also reference to the ratings given on Charity Navigator



  • MSF Doctors Without Borders: if you don’t have any time doing any research and want to look great, donate to this one directly.
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC) high efficiency of program expenses, been working in Aleppo since 2012
  • Global Giving crowd-funding platform, you can assign your donation to specific project, whether its Emergency Response to the Ecuador Earthquake, or Bring Water to Tanzania.
  • Direct Relief set its mission to medical assistance with strong post-WWII experience. It’s recent focuses includes 2014-16 Ebola Outbreak, post-Earthquake recovery assistance on Nepal, Haiti and Mexico City and civil war in Syria.
  • MAP Internationalsends life-sending medicine packs to children in the underdeveloped countries.
  • Palestine Children’s Relief Fund
  • Vision First: First was established in 2009 as an independent NGO to improve the livelihood of refugees in Hong Kong.


Special mention: Not a refugee relief-focus NGO, but a great example that has provided long-term care and sustainable life support for 25,000 Vietnamese refugees who arrived in the U.S. in the 1980s. Boat People SOS provides assistance to victims of human rights violations in Vietnam, protecting Vietnamese asylum seekers in neighboring countries and rescuing victims of human trafficking around the globe.





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