Considering Autism Spectrum Disorder now affects 1 in every 59 children, chances are you know or are related to someone with autism. This may mean you have the desire to support the autism community by donating to an autism-related charity. But simply donating to a charity with the word “autism” in its title isn’t the best way to go about this. For example, would you rather donate to a group with the mission of “curing” autism, or one which aims to support those with autism and their families? Does it matter to you that an organization only works with those in a particular state or region of the country? How about if only pennies from every dollar go towards an organization’s stated mission?
In order to help you research organizations and choose the right one for your money, we’ve written 20 Autism Charities Worthy of Your Donations. To come up with our list, we read mission statements, talked with those active in the autism community, and consulted watchdog websites such as CharityWatch and Charity Navigator. Keep scrolling for 20 organizations we believe are worthy of your hard-earned money.
What They Do: The Asperger/Autism Network aims to assist individuals on the Autism Spectrum (plus their family members, partners, and professionals) throughout their lifetimes. The network provides a mix of in-person and virtual services such as a referral program, support network, and conferences. The Asperger/Autism Network is largely run by those on the Autism Spectrum.
How Donations Help: Any donations received go to helping the network provide information, education, support, and advocacy to adults, families, friends, and professionals.
What They Do: Autism Canada is a large non-profit organization, and the umbrella under which the Autism Society of Canada is incorporated. The organization aims to “see the potential in people living with autism” and to “see and respect the person as an individual first” in all that it does.
How Donations Help: Money donated to Autism Canada goes towards funding research, education, and services to benefit those on the Autism Spectrum and their families. It also helps the organization achieve its mission as outlined above.
What They Do: Formerly known as Talk About Curing Autism, The Autism Community in Action is a non-profit organization. It provides education and support to individuals and families living with autism. According to its website, the organization’s vision is “for every individual diagnosed with autism to lead an independent life.”
How Donations Help: The Autism Community in Action currently has a three-star rating by Charity Navigator. Donations to the organization help fund the various programs offered at no-cost to families and individuals. These programs include:
- a parent mentor program
- scholarships, and more.
What They Do: “Together we can change the future of our children.” That’s the motto of the Autism Connect Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering individuals living with autism. The Autism Connect Association works to provide individuals and their families with “easy access to a community of parents, professionals, resources, and treatment options.”
How Donations Help: Donations to Autism Connect Association go towards facilitating the creation of information and hosting webinars and conferences to help connect families with information, professionals, and peers.
What They Do: According to its website, The Autism National Committee is “the only autism advocacy organization dedicated to ‘Social Justice for All Citizens with Autism.’” It was founded in 1990. The Committee aims to protect and advance the human and civil rights of all persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder and related challenges.
How Donations Help: The Autism National Committee is entirely run by volunteers. “Every penny” that is donated by the public goes towards providing outreach through:
- training initiatives
- the organization’s national conference.
What They Do: The Autism Research Institute (ARI) conducts scientific research related to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of autism. The Institute aims to improve lives of those with autism by providing new research to those on the spectrum, their families, and the professionals with whom they work.
How Donations Help: Autism Research Institute boasts a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. Money donated to the Institute goes towards:
- conducting autism-related research
- supporting the research of partner organizations
- providing information and education to those it would benefit.
What They Do: A top-rated non-profit, The Autism Science Foundation is an important part of the world of autism research. According to the Foundation’s website, “The Autism Science Foundation provides funding directly to scientists conducting cutting-edge autism research to discover the causes of autism and develop better treatments. ASF also provides information about autism to the general public and supports the needs of individuals with autism and their families.”
How Donations Help: A “What We Fund” section on its website outlines exactly what The Autism Science Foundation does with money donated. In short, money goes directly to researchers and organizations conducting cutting-edge research.
What They Do: Autism Society of America has chapters throughout the United States, though it is ultimately a grassroots organization. It offers offers personalized support, insight, and advocacy. Autism Society of America also runs an online database of local information and recommendations for families and professionals.
How Donations Help: Autism Society of America is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, and donations are tax deductible. Donations help support:
- autism education
- help assist families living with autism.
What They Do: The mission of the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN) is “to provide community, support, and resources for Autistic women, girls, nonbinary people, and all others of marginalized genders.”
How Donations Help: AWN is organized into four main initiatives:
- fiscal sponsorship
- education and outreach
- community and support
Money donated by the public goes towards:
- publishing newsletters and anthologies
- supporting autistic people of color
- funding educational and outreach initiatives
- providing monetary support to community events and charitable projects.
What They Do: The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a nonprofit organization run by and for individuals with autism. According to its mission statement, the Network’s goal is “to empower autistic people across the world to take control of our own lives and the future of our common community, and seek to organize the autistic community to ensure our voices are heard in the national conversation about us.”
How Donations Help: The Autistic Self Advocacy Network spearheads a number of initiatives each year. All are largely supported by donations. These initiatives include:
- public policy advocacy
- leadership training for autistic self-advocates
- the development of autistic cultural activities.
What They Do: Founded by former football star Doug Flutie, the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism aims to “help people and families affected by autism live life to the fullest.” To achieve this mission, the Foundation sponsors a variety of programs and activities to improve the quality of everyday life for individuals on the autism spectrum.
How Donations Help: Money donated to the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism goes towards:
- funding the above programs and activities
- financially supporting families affected by autism
- general advocacy.
- an after-school program
- workplace training
- adult day programs
- general support services for individuals and families.
How Donations Help: All donations made to Have Dreams go towards supporting the organization’s many programs and services for children, teens, and adults with autism.
What They Do: As described on their website, The Miracle Project is a “fully inclusive theater, film, social skills, and expressive arts program for individuals with autism and all abilities. Through shared creative experiences with peers, The Miracle Project encourages individuals with autism, other disabilities, and all abilities to develop social and job skills, enhance communication, increase self awareness and confidence, ease anxiety, and find joy in experience.”
How Donations Help: The donation page of The Miracle Project’s website lays out exactly where donated money goes. For example:
- $75 provides a child with 1-on-1 support during a class
- $500 provides a student with autism a one-semester scholarship
- $100 provides costumes and art supplies to a student attending the summer camp.
- Northern Ireland
- operates eight private schools
- assists with employment placement
- trains members of the community
- sets up mentorship programs
- offers in-home and in-school support, among many other things.
How Donations Help: It is very likely that a person with autism living in the U.K. has benefited at some point in time by the National Autistic Society’s work. Donations from the public ensure that NAS is able to provide those services listd above.
What They Do: As its name may imply, NEXT for AUTISM seeks to strategically design, launch, and support innovative programs. These programs are meant to help individuals with autism lead fulfilling and productive lives. As stated on the organization’s website, they continually ask, “What’s next for people on the autism spectrum?”
How Donations Help: Unlike many organizations on our list, NEXT focuses less on research, and more on assisting individuals with their immediate needs. Donations go towards creating cutting-edge educational, clinical, and vocational programs. NEXT for AUTISM enjoys a three-star rating on Charity Navigator.
What They Do: The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) is a national organization that “strive[s] to use science to address the social, educational, and treatment concerns of self-advocates, parents, autism professionals, and caregivers.” The organization supports applied research “that examines issues and challenges that children and adults with autism and their families face every day.” It places a special focus on adults with autism.
How Donations Help: OAR is ranked by Charity Navigator as the #1 autism-related charity. Donations help support a number of OAR’s programs including scholarships, the “Hire Autism” portal for encouraging employers to hire adults with autism, and various programs and resources for autistic self-advocates.
What They Do: Based in Arizona, the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) seeks to advance research and provide support to those with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. It offers a variety of programs, including:
- early intervention for the newly diagnosed
- vocational experiences for teens ages 13-18
- employment services for adults on the spectrum.
How Donations Help: The Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center is one of the few programs that offers a lifetime’s worth of support to individuals on the Autism Spectrum and their families. Donations help to fund their various programs for children, teens, and adults. SARRC has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator.
What They Do: The STAR Institute conducts research, provides training, and sponsors programs which assist children with Sensory Processing Disorder, autism, and other sensory-related challenges.
How Donations Help: The STAR Institute collects donations to help fund the initiatives outlined above. Additionally, the Institute — based in Colorado — is currently running a Capital Campaign to fund a state-of-the-art permanent facility.
What They Do: Turning Pointe Autism Foundation is another autism-related charity with a four-star rating on Charity Navigator. Founded in 2007, the foundation operates schools and other learning environments where students on the Autism Spectrum can:
- develop independence
- improve communication and social skills
- thrive as an individual.
How Donations Help: Donations to Turning Pointe Autism Foundation go towards supporting the students and teachers at the foundation’s schools. The organization’s donation page outlines exactly what a donation provides. For example, $29 provides a sensory lamp for a sensory room. A $329 donation provides an iPad for a student tocommunicate with teachers and peers.
What They Do: UC Davis enjoys a wide reputation as a leading force in all things medical. Indeed, the UC Davis Medical Center includes the MIND Institute, an organization focused on research related to the diagnosis, therapy, and education of autism. Its mission is to bring together “experts from every discipline related to early brain development working together toward one goal: finding and developing treatments for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities.” The Institute routinely conducts high-level, peer-reviewed studies with larger groups than many other organizations are capable of.
How Donations Help: Donations to the MIND Institute at UC Davis go towards funding the many high-level and peer-reviewed studies the Institute conducts each year.