Top 10 Charities That Help Children at Christmas Time

adult handing a toy to a child

The Spruce / Christopher Lee Foto 

Teach your children the value of giving to others during the holiday season by donating to a charity that provides gifts for children in need. Your kids may enjoy selecting presents for other children who are the same age as them. Choose from a variety of national charities or look for a local organization that's providing Christmas cheer to families in your area.

Finding the right place to donate your time, money, or other goods and items is no easy task. According to Charity Navigator President and CEO Michael Thatcher, a good place to start is finding a charity that aligns with what you care about. "It's always important to start with the mission statement and ask yourself 'Is this aspiration my aspiration?'" he says.

Here are our picks for charities that help children to support during the holidays.

  • 01 of 10

    St. Jude

    All year long, St. Jude Children Research Hospital is dedicated to finding cures and means of prevention for pediatric diseases like cancer through treatment and research. During the holidays, there are so many ways to donate: You can shop the St. Jude's gift shop for gifts that give back. Many brands donate a portion of their sales to St. Jude selling everyday essentials or holiday decor (that are all listed on their website). Or, you can choose St. Jude as your designated charity on AmazonSmile which will donate a portion of qualifying purchases directly to St. Jude.

  • 02 of 10

    Pay Away the Layaway

    Layaway is a way for families to pay for items without paying the full amount up front. This can be especially useful during the holidays when shopping for presents. Pay Away the Layaway partners with major retailers like Burlington Stores and Walmart to pay for thousands of families' gifts and essentials on layaway. Donate online to help families pay for every item on their list or volunteer to help at a local payoff event.

  • 03 of 10

    Project Linus

    Named after the beloved Peanuts characters always dragging around his blue blanket, Project Linus provides blankets to children in need. This children-focused charity donates an average of 350 blankets monthly over the past 20 years. To contribute, you can donate a handmade blanket at a local drop off site or donate monetarily online.

  • 04 of 10

    One Simple Wish

    One Simple Wish aims to provide love and care to thousands of children impacted by neglect or abuse in the foster care system. Now, you can grant a child's dream wish by browsing the wishes on the website, from a Sephora shopping spree to a new camera. The wishes provide information on the child and their interests as well as the price of the specific wish. You can also contribute to a larger wish, like car payments or furniture items for older kids. Additionally, you have the option to contribute monetarily monthly—and this season, One Simple Wish is offering to match certain wishes.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Toys for Tots

    Run by the U.S. Marine Corp, Toys for Tots has been collecting new, unwrapped toys and distributing them to less-fortunate children since 1947. There are a number of ways to support Toys for Tots' mission, including purchasing a toy and donating it at a local toy drop location, shopping for a toy to donate via the Toys for Tots website, or donating money online. The toys typically go to children age 12 and younger, though some communities may provide gifts for up to age 16.

  • 06 of 10

    Operation Christmas Child

    Great things come in small packages and make their way into the hands of children all over the world. In this case, the package is a shoebox. A program run by Christian organization Samaritan's Purse, Operation Christmas Child takes a collection of shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies, hygiene items, apparel, candy, and a personal note. Select a child's age group and fill the box with items consistent for that age group. A small donation is required to cover shipping costs. If you donate online, you will receive a special label for your shoebox so you can track your box's journey to its final destination.

  • 07 of 10

    Make-A-Wish Foundation

    The Make-A-Wish Foundation helps children throughout the year, but it also partners with companies to raise money, specifically during the holiday season. If you drop off a letter to Santa at any Macy's location, Macy's donates $1 per letter to Make-A-Wish. You can also help raise money for Make-A-Wish by making purchases related to current promotions. The partnered company will contribute to Make-A-Wish when you make a purchase.

  • 08 of 10

    Prison Fellowship Angel Tree

    The Christian charity Prison Fellowship Organization offers an Angel Tree program that helps children who have at least one parent in prison. Through the program, volunteers deliver a gift and a message from both the Gospel and the child's incarcerated parent. Each family also gets an English or Spanish Bible.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Salvation Army Angel Tree

    The Salvation Army also has an Angel Tree program in collaboration with Walmart. The stores have Christmas trees that have tags on them. Each tag has a wishlist of a specific child. Donors pick an angel tag, shop for gifts (not necessarily at Walmart), and drop off the gifts for the Salvation Army to distribute.

  • 10 of 10

    Operation Christmas Spirit

    Help out children in a military family through Operation Christmas Spirit. Donors can "adopt" a military family and provide gifts or gift cards. You can also opt to donate money online and allow volunteers to do the shopping for you. The program also allows donors to "adopt" a service member who is not married.

What to Look For in a Children's Charity


Now more than ever, it is possible to donate to charity from your living room with just a few clicks. All of the charities on this list offer monetary donations online, making giving back extremely simple. For some, in-person events or bringing goods, food, or presents to drop-off sites is possible for a different approach. Consider the form you wish your charity to take, whether it be more personal, or you prioritize the simplicity.

"We all want to change the world. And the reality is we're going to do it in discrete bits," Thatcher shares. So make sure those discrete bits are accessible and important to you.


Before donating, do some research into where your donation or donated item will go and what impact you will have. This is easier done with smaller charities who can provide feedback on donations or gift-giving charities where your item goes to one specific child or family. While it may be harder to track your donation in a large foundation, take the time to research what donations go towards and ensure you feel good about spending your money in this way.

"Impact is a result of a clear mission followed by good execution," says Thatcher. "Is there a logical tie between what they say they do and the outcomes they produce?"


Many charities at different times the of year will disclose what kind of help they need at this time. During Christmas time, gifts, blankets, or canned food may be a priority for charities (while monetary donations are always important). Consider a charity's need as well as your own accessibility to presents or other donated items when narrowing down your choices.


When choosing a charity to support, consider the transparency of the organization. "If you call a charity and you ask them how they're going to spend your money, they ought to be able to answer," says Thatcher.

Online tools like Charity Navigator offer some insight into the leadership, culture, and finances of charities to ensure their mission statement and their impact align. Consider how transparent charities are about their donations, their impact, and even how they treat your personal information, says Thatcher, to ensure you are making the right charitable choice.

Why Trust the Spruce?

This article was written by Julia Fields, a lifestyle writer for The Spruce covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays since October 2021. Before that, she covered similar topics including toy reviews, product roundups, expert-focused articles, and more. Expert advice was provided by Michael Thatcher, president and CEO of Charity Navigator.