Top-Rated Nonprofits Protecting the Environment

 Are you planning to celebrate Earth Day on April 22? We may have become complacent after Earth Day was born in 1970, but complacency about our environment will not work now. Why?

Global warming, wildlife extinction, mass migration of people due to environmental causes. And that's just for starters.

Every donor should have a few environmental nonprofits on their lists for annual giving each year. But how to choose? Do some research. I suggest Charity Navigator become your best friend.

Charity Navigator has been assessing charities for years. And it has only gotten better at what it does. It's the "consumer reports" of charities. 

Charity Navigator rates charities on financial health, accountability, and transparency. Charities receive one to four stars with four being the very best. As a donor, you can't go wrong by sticking to the 3 and 4-star charities at Charity Navigator. 

One caveat to CN, however. CN only lists charities it has been able to evaluate, and those are mostly large charities. Its data come from the 990s charities must file with the IRS.

On the positive side, CN assesses only charities that have at least seven years of 990s. That means that these charities have a track record. CN also does not charge a fee to the charities it evaluates, ensuring an independent and bias-free assessment. 

Nevertheless, the seriously investigative donor will want to check out other sources as well and prowl each charity's website.

The following list of three and four-star charities plucked from Charity Navigator only presents a few of the wildly wonderful charities that advocate for our precious environment. It's a starting place, but don't stop here. 

Environmental Defense Fund

Polar bears
Paul Souders/Getty Images

The Environmental Defense Fund focuses on ecological issues that affect people worldwide: clean energy, sustainable fishing, restoring ecosystems, and pollution.

They use a multidisciplinary approach to tackle these environmental problems and avoid duplicating efforts already done by others. Today, the organization has two million members and a staff of 700 scientists, policy experts, economists, and professionals around the world. The

Environmental Defense Fund primarily relies on donations from members for funding. EDF encourages those who want to get involved in taking action by voting and contacting policy leaders on their website.

Charity Navigator Rating: 4 Stars

Sierra Club Foundation

'I'iwi bird

One of the most enduring environmental organizations in the U.S., the Sierra Club, has been working to protect the environment and its people since 1892. The Sierra Club helped pass the Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts, initiated the creation of numerous National Parks, and worked to move hundreds of coal plants towards clean energy.

The organization relies on its community of over three million volunteers and grassroots activists for support, as well as their donations. The Sierra Club also famously offers environmentally friendly wilderness excursions to encourage people to get outdoors. Those interested can take an international trip to study wildlife in Cuba, for example, or go on a smaller outing to learn about local wildlife and ecosystems.

Charity Navigator Rating: 4 Stars

Rocky Mountain Institute

fan energy plant workers
 Martin Barraud, Getty Images

 As one of the newer organizations on our list, Rocky Mountain Institute has made notable achievements in its comparatively short history. In 2017, RMI worked with India’s leadership and government to plan for 100% vehicle electrification by 2030. They also provided research that resulted in new U.S. fuel-efficiency standards for trucks, projected to cut over one billion tons of CO2 emissions.

Rocky Mountain Institute is showing no signs of slowing down; their five-year plan to accelerate low-carbon energy transition was published in early 2018. By expanding their organization’s reach and increasing their impact, RMI plans to help businesses, governments, and markets embrace clean energy and slow global warming over the next five years. Almost 100% of RMI’s donations come from nearly 2,000 donors representing 28 different countries around the world.

Charity Navigator Rating: 4 Stars

Greenpeace Fund

Pacific Ocean
Getty Images

Although Greenpeace tackles many environmental problems such as deforestation and sustainable food, it has worked to address issues with oceans for decades: plastic pollution, offshore drilling, saving the Arctic, and more. Greenpeace has grown from a small group of activists protesting nuclear testing in 1971 to an international organization with offices in over fifty countries.

Greenpeace relies solely on individual contributions from their 2.8 million members worldwide for funding. They do not endorse political candidates nor do they solicit donations from corporations or government. Current initiatives include protesting the use of palm oil, which aids in the destruction of rainforests and reducing the use of plastic to stop pollution.

Charity Navigator Rating: 4 Stars

Center for Biological Diversity

African savannah ecosystem
Nuria Camacho / EyeEm; Getty Images

Founded in 1989, the Center for Biological Diversity is the youngest nonprofit on our list but scored the highest in Charity Navigator regarding finances, accountability, and transparency. The Center for Biological Diversity uses biological data, legal expertise, and citizen petitions to obtain new protections for plants, animals and their habitats.

Their track record is impressive––93% of their lawsuits result in favorable outcomes––and they continue to grow by expanding their territory, staff, and outreach. Like Greenpeace, the Center’s initiatives are funded solely through donor contributions, gifts, and grants. CBD’s current initiative urges supporters to sign their petition to protect wolves and other essential predators to their ecosystems, from expulsion and neglect by the U.S. government.

Charity Navigator Rating: 4 Stars

National Parks Conservation Association: Conserving Environmental History

Redwood National Park
Images Etc LTD/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

The National Parks Conservation Association has worked to protect and preserve America’s national parks since 1919. The organization uses contributions from its million-plus members and fundraising events to fund their initiatives. Visitors to their website are encouraged to take action on various initiatives, such as unethical hunting practices, conservation funding, clean air in certain national parks, and more.

Those wanting to learn more can also check out their detailed and informative blog posts, many of which expand on current environmental regulations and what it means for the future of national parks.

Charity Navigator Rating: 3 Stars

The Nature Conservancy

McCarran Ranch Preserve, Truckee River, Nature Conservancy, Reno, Nevada, NV
Photo © Stan White

Since its founding in 1951, The Nature Conservancy has protected over 120 million acres of land and thousands of miles of rivers worldwide. The Nature Conservancy has more than one million members and more than 600 scientists on staff. The organization has an impressive reach; they protect habitats in all 50 U.S. states and more than 30 countries.

To achieve a mission of conserving land and water, The Nature Conservancy works with governments, partner organizations, and other influencers to make a change in conservation. The bulk of their revenue consists of contributions, gifts, and grants, followed by federated campaigns. Those wanting to volunteer for The Nature Conservancy in the U.S. can join a local TNC chapter; there’s one in each of the fifty states.

Charity Navigator Rating: 3 Stars