Five unusual charities worth your money

Supporting innovative ways of making the world a better place

South Africa schoolgirls
(Image credit: Frances M. Ginter)

An increasing number of charities are going beyond traditional models of fundraising and distribution to come up with creative ways to improve the lives of those in need, both at home and abroad.

Facing cuts to their government grants, more social initiatives are going "back to the drawing board" to make up the shortfall, says Huffington Post - and the results are "cause for optimism".

If you've got some money to put towards a good cause, and you'd like to support truly innovative philanthropy at the same time, here are five charities that break the mould:

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Microloan Foundation

Microloans are becoming an increasingly popular form of charitable donation. Platforms like Microloan Foundation provide business training and small start-up loans to women in Africa who want to turn their skills into a means of raising their families out of poverty, be it as market trader, a seamstress or an artisan.

Using donations to nurture small businesses lets families develop an independent, sustainable income instead of being reliant on handouts.

Heifer International

Another charity with an emphasis on sustainability and self-reliance, Heifer International lets you donate livestock to a family in a developing country where a single goat or cow could be the difference between making ends meet and going without.

The core principle behind Heifer International is 'Passing On The Gift' - families who have received a heifer, goat or buffalo through the charity pass on their animal's first female offspring to another local family in need.

Mary's Meals

Not only are food and education two of the most precious resources for children in developing countries, they are also often entwined - malnutrition makes it hard for pupils to concentrate, while some may be forced to abandon school altogether to help their families when food is scarce.

With that in mind, Mary's Meals combines the two necessities, providing school lunches in areas experiencing food scarcity so that no pupil has to choose between food and education. The scheme, founded in 2002 by Scottish brothers Magnus and Fergus MacFarlane-Barrow, now feeds 1.2 million schoolchildren every day.

Humble Bundle

We all know that 'virtue is its own reward', but that doesn't mean it's not nice to get something in return for your generosity.

Enter Humble Bundle, a platform where indie game developers offer their content for download in return for a donation, which is split between the developers and a number of charities. Gamers not only decide how much they will pay for the games, they can also decide how to split their donation between the charities on offer.

The 'pay what you want' model might sound easy to exploit, but as of May 2017 the scheme has raised more than $95m (£73m) for 50 charities.


Founded as the Tower Hamlets Summer University, Futureversity has changed its name to reflect its expansion across London.

It runs a "summer university" for young people in the capital, offering free courses and workshops to educate and empower 10 to 19-year-olds, as well as under-25s with learning disabilities.

Enrollees can attend one of dozens of free courses to learn anything from cake-making to parkour to samba drumming, as well as practical seminars on life skills such as preparing for university or building a CV.

As well as financial support, the charity also seeks out "in-kind" donations, such as venue space to hold workshops or help from professionals willing to donate their time and expertise.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.