We’ve compiled a short list and briefly described some of the most powerful social change organizations in the world. We have selected organizations that are both accessible to a wide number of people and are doing good work in a number of very important areas. You can find a more comprehensive list, The Best of the Rest, directly after.


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

With over 600,000 members, PETA is the world’s largest animal rights group. Their philosophy is simple: "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment." Using nonviolent direct action, research, education, legislation, investigation, animal rescue, and celebrities, PETA focuses its efforts on factory farms, the fur trade, laboratories, and the entertainment industry. Members receive an informative newsletter, Animal Times, which includes actions and campaign updates.

Humane Society of the United States

Working primarily through legislation and education, HSUS is a massive animal protection organization with a variety of programs. Pet overpopulation, animal sheltering, circus cruelty, dissection, fur, animal research, factory farming, and wildlife are just some of their concerns. HSUS continually monitors legislation at the state and federal levels, including the Endangered Species Act. They also work closely with animal shelters to provide healthy environments for the animals.


Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Boys and Girls Clubs have provided a safe, empowering place for over 3 million kids to spend their free time. Clubs encourage kids to develop their athletic, artistic, and scholastic abilities to their full potential. Gang prevention, alcohol/drug prevention, health education, and leadership development are just a few of the amazing programs clubs offer. The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked B&GCA the #1 youth organization five years in a row. The clubs serve many inner city youth from low income and single parent households, making them an excellent investment in these kids’ futures.

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)

Formed by a group of welfare mothers, ACORN is a coalition of community groups dedicated to standing up for the poor and powerless. Living wages, jobs, affordable housing, better schools, and environmental justice are among ACORN’s many struggles. Community members lead this grassroots group in filing lawsuits, lobbying, organizing petitions and nonviolent direct actions such as sit-ins and marches.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

Since 1904, BBBSA has created powerful relationships between millions of kids and positive adults. This unique mentoring program links "Littles" one-on-one with "Bigs." Bigs and Littles usually get together several times each month for sporting events, a trip to the park, visiting a museum, or just to hang out and talk. Research shows that BBBSA is one of the most effective efforts to reduce delinquency, drug use, school absence, and violence. There is perhaps no better way to impact a child’s life than individual mentorship.

Habitat for Humanity International

Since 1976, Habitat volunteers have built over 90,000 houses for families around the world. Habitat is an ecumenical Christian organization that utilizes volunteer labor and donated materials to eliminate homelessness and poverty housing. The receiving families help build their homes and then buy them with no-interest, affordable financing. Habitat makes no profit from the houses they build. To find your local affiliate, check their website or give them a call. Building homes with people in your community and donating resources to people around the world are amazing actions.


United for a Fair Economy

UFE works to narrow the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us. They report that the wealthiest 1% of the population controls more wealth than the bottom 95%. Through education and policy campaigns, UFE hopes to create a more fair economy where families are not struggling to get by. UFE can teach you how to educate and organize your community around both local and global economic disparity. Their publications and workshops will rock your world.

Co-op America

Co-op America offers a wide range of phenomenal services and information for businesses and individuals who want their money to make the world a better place. Co-op helps you support local environmentally friendly businesses, invest in socially responsible companies, and make informed decisions on how you save and spend your money. Membership includes the Co-op America Quarterly magazine, National Green Pages, and a financial planning handbook. Learn how to live sustainably!



Greenpeace uses a variety of nonviolent direct action tactics to raise awareness and protect the environment: blocking ships filled with genetically engineered corn, observing whaling vessels, and hanging protest banners on toxic refineries. Greenpeace is an independent organization that refuses donations from governments, companies, and political parties, instead relying completely on donations from its 2.5 million supporters. Toxic waste, genetic engineering, climate issues, and forests are among the many issues Greenpeace takes on.

Sierra Club

For over 100 years, Sierra Club has lobbied at the local, state, and national levels for environmental reform and wilderness protection. In 2000, SC will challenge factory farm pollution, urban sprawl, logging in national forests, and wildland destruction. Chapters in every state promote local issues and involvement; members can even attend locally sponsored Sierra Club Outings, retreats, hikes, and other events. Members also receive the superb Sierra magazine.

World Wildlife Fund

WWF is the largest independent conservation organization in the world with almost 5 million members in 100 countries. WWF works with governments, corporations, landowners, and local citizens to preserve wildlife habitat and endangered species and address global threats such as climate change, forest destruction, and ocean degradation.

Rainforest Action Network

Rainforest Action Network "works to protect the Earth's rainforests and support the rights of their inhabitants through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action". Since their founding in 1985, RAN has challenged corporate giants such as Burger King (and its use of rainforest beef) and Home Depot (over its use of old-growth wood). Current campaigns include campaigns against: Occidental Petroleum's Columbian project on the ancestral land of the U'wa people and Citigroup’s financing of destructive projects in the Amazon, China, and Indonesia.


Human Rights Campaign

HRC’s fundamental mission is equal rights and safety for gays and lesbians. Their full-time lobbying team is the largest working for gay and lesbian issues such as eliminating workplace discrimination, demanding protection under federal hate-crime laws, fighting for AIDS related and other health issues, blocking anti-gay legislation, and electing open-minded politicians. HRC lobbies, educates the public, recruits and organizes volunteers, takes part in elections, and conducts trainings and outreach at the local level.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Since 1973, NGLTF has struggled for lesbian, bisexual, transgender and gay rights at the local state, and national levels. It provides vital information, funding, and resources for grassroots organizations. Key NGLTF issues include fighting Radical Right anti-gay legislation, ending job discrimination, and demanding improved government action on the AIDS crisis. They also create essential publications and organizing materials.


Amnesty International

The world’s largest human rights organization, AI puts pressure on countries to abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. AI works to free prisoners of conscience, ensure fair and prompt trials for political prisoners, abolish the death penalty, torture, and other degrading treatment, and end "disappearances" and extrajudicial executions. They utilize a variety of tactics, including "Urgent Actions," or letter campaigns on behalf of political prisoners, lobbying, investigating and exposing human rights violations, and promoting youth activism.

Human Rights Watch

HRW exposes government abuses and human rights violators in the international community. Using the influence of the US government, World Bank, United Nations, Tokyo, and the European Union, HRW pressures countries to abide by international human rights law. They interview victims and witnesses directly and meet with a variety of government, church, labor, and local human rights leaders. By publishing reports and holding perpetrators accountable, HRW creates a more humane world.


Global Exchange (GX)

GX is "a non-profit research, education, and action center dedicated to promoting people-to-people ties around the world." They educate Americans to injustices, urging governments to support humane, fair, and sustainable development, and promote Reality Tours, a program that takes people to struggling countries. GX craft stores and online shopping are part of a growing international fair trade movement, offering goods created under fair labor standards. Their books, videos and speakers educate grassroots organizations about political and economic rights.


Oxfam builds partnerships with poor communities around the world, helping them become self-sufficient for the long term. Oxfam works to alleviate the root causes of poverty and hunger, end social injustice, and improve health programs. They also support community activism, encourage governments to adopt long-term development plans, and promote education around social justice issues. The 11 branches worldwide have earned enormous respect for helping local grassroots groups help their people rather than dictating programs.

United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEF’s struggles for the protection of children's rights and basic needs and tries to expand kids’ opportunities to reach their full potential. As the only UN organization exclusively focused on children, they help fund health care, education, safe water, and sanitary sewage conditions through programs in 161 countries. UNICEF advocates raising the minimum military age, eliminating child sex trafficking, and increasing child immunization.


Peace Action

Formerly SANE/FREEZE, Peace Action is the nation’s largest grassroots peace and justice organization with a membership of 55,000, 27 state affiliates, and over 100 local chapters. Through national and grassroots citizens' action they promote global nuclear disarmament, significant military budget reductions, and ending the international arms trade. Peace Action also produces voter guides to educate the public on candidates’ voting history and current stands on peace and human rights. They also promote campus organizing through the Student Peace Action Network.

War Resisters League

Beginning in 1923, members of the WRL have insisted that war is a crime against all humanity, and thus a top priority for making the world better. WRL uses education, lobbying, nonviolent direct action, and demonstrations to "work for peace within a framework of social justice." They support war tax resistance, publish Nonviolent Activist magazine, and use their Youthpeace program to create a culture of peace by resisting war toys and military recruiting.

Witness for Peace

WFP is a politically independent, grassroots organization that raises awareness about injustice in the Americas through letter writing campaigns, publications, nonviolent direct actions, and speaking tours. WFP has sent over 7,000 US citizens to Central and South America, Cuba, Mexico and Haiti. The delegations’ goals include education, exposure to alternative economies and cultures, and creating momentum for advocacy campaigns at home. Their current Stop the War Against the Poor campaign challenges US sponsored terrorism and economic exploitation in the Americas and Caribbean.


WILPF’s broad agenda includes world disarmament, women’s rights, racial and economic justice, and challenging corporate power. They advocate lesbian and gay rights, freeing political prisoners, and shifting defense spending to social campaigns. Through demonstrations, education, lobbying, writing resolutions, organizing, and media WILPF peacefully promotes its agenda at the local, national and international levels. Groups in 44 countries share resources and information making this a powerful feminist organization.


20/20 Vision

20/20 Vision’s mission is to make grassroots political action easy for busy people who care about peace and environmental issues. Members receive information each month on how they can make the most difference in 20 minutes. 20/20 provides up to date research and timely action notices for contacting your legislators. They campaign on issues of air and water pollution, military waste, campaign finance reform, and arms control. 20/20 offers you a unique way to stay informed and politically active month to month. Voice your opinion!

Global Response

Global Response empowers people of all ages and many nationalities to protect the environment by creating partnerships for effective citizen action. At the request of indigenous peoples and grassroots organizations, Global Response organizes international letter-writing campaigns to help communities prevent environmental destruction. Global Response involves young people as well as adults in these campaigns, to develop in them the values and skills for global citizen cooperation and earth stewardship.


Public Citizen

PC is the ultimate Washington watchdog working on consumers' behalf. Since Ralph Nader founded the organization in 1971, they have fought for safer drugs and medical products, fair trade, a cleaner environment, and a more democratic government. The Congress Watch branch lobbies and monitors lawmakers to protect public safety and end corporate welfare. The Global Trade Watch branch works for government and corporate accountability. PC helps you protect your own rights as a citizen.

Public Interest Research Groups

State PIRGs work in 26 states to protect their citizens' interests. They fight for greater democracy, the environment, and consumer safety. The PIRG website offers a Congressional scorecard system where you can evaluate your lawmakers' voting record on public interest issues. They also have action alerts explaining simple actions you can take to make a difference. Visit their website to learn how your safety, rights, and your own backyard are threatened in your own state. Then take action!


National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

The NAACP’s main goal is "to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of minority group citizens of the United States." Over 2,200 branches of the NAACP press for change using nonviolent strategies including petitions, court struggles, voter organizing, demonstrations, and press releases. As the largest U.S. civil rights organization, the NAACP uses its resources to create stay in school programs, economic development, and health care outreach.

National Council on La Raza

NCLR seeks to eliminate poverty and discrimination and provide opportunities to Hispanic Americans. Their research and advocacy branch provides Hispanics a powerful voice in national policy decisions. Their community support branch assists local groups in economic development, local governance, and resource management. Health care, immigration, housing, education, and welfare are just a few of NCLR’s many issues. Their blend of national policy goals and local development is especially crucial as the number of Hispanic "working poor" grows.

Native American Rights Fund

NARF provides "legal representation and technical assistance to Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide." Their goals include protecting human rights, tribal resources, and tribal existence. By educating Native Americans and the public about Indian rights, NARF seeks to hold the government accountable for its actions. NARF monitors court cases, legislative action, and activist campaigns, sending updates to concerned individuals and issuing press releases to inform the public.


Christian Peacemaker Teams

CPTers’ faith compels them to put their bodies on the line for peace and justice and mobilize their communities when they return home. CPT is a faith-based group supported by the Mennonite Churches, Church of the Brethren, and Friends United Meeting. Local groups send trained delegates to be a peaceful presence in hot spots such as Gaza, Haiti, Hebron, Bosnia, and Chechnya. CPT accepts invitations from nonviolent grassroots organizations for longer stays as well, providing delegates committed to a 3 year service term in emergency situations such as the Israel/Palestine conflict.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation

FOR is the largest and oldest interfaith organization dedicated to peace and justice. FOR not only pushes for an end to war, it seeks to create a just and loving world. Members appreciate all forms of diversity and use nonviolent means to challenge racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious persecution. Programs include demilitarization, peacemaker training, education, the lifting of sanctions on Iraq, monitoring human rights abuses in Latin America, and much more. FOR tactics include nonviolent demonstrations and direct actions, sending delegations to distress areas, and pressuring political leaders.

American Friends Service Committee

AFSC is a Quaker organization working for social and economic justice around the world. Members belong to a variety of faiths, but all believe in the fundamental worth of every human being. Through relief work, funding, education, and lobbying, AFSC pushes to create a new culture based on peace and justice rather than war and exploitation. They are involved in almost any progressive cause you can name. AFSC has a vibrant youth program that brings young people of different nationalities together for service work.


Center For A New American Dream

CNAD’s motto, "More fun, less stuff," reflects their dedication to "reduce and shift consumption to enhance quality of life and protect the environment." Debt, bankruptcy, overworking, neglected relationships, and environmental degradation are all consequences of our insatiable desire to buy more and more stuff. CNAD’s educational campaigns such as ‘Kids and Commercialism’ and ‘Simplify the Holidays’ have reached millions of people overwhelmed by materialism. Their newsletter Enough! provides you amazing information about what you can do to create a culture of simplicity.


The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

HC pushes for more sensible gun laws at every level of government. Thanks to their hard work, legislators have passed an assault weapon ban, child access prevention laws, and waiting periods and background checks on handgun purchases. HC also monitors enforcement of current laws and resists making concealed weapon permits easier to obtain. The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence is the educational and research branch of HC. A variety of professional researchers fight the spread of gun violence in the US.


National Organization for Women

For over 30 years, NOW members have struggled for women’s rights. Their campaigns include ending violence against women, supporting abortion rights, advocating for rape, harassment, and abuse survivors, ending racism, sexism, and homophobia, and electing feminist legislators at every level of government. Their tactics include massive marches, lobbying, education/conferences, litigation, organizing, and nonviolent civil disobedience.

National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL)

NARAL’s mission is "Securing and Protecting Safe, Legal Abortion & Making Abortion Less Necessary -- Not More Difficult or Dangerous." While the majority of Americans are pro-choice, a very vocal minority continues the fight to eliminate a woman’s right to choose. Through public education, lobbying, public policy research, and grassroots organizing, NARAL resists anti-choice violence, campaigns to restrict abortion rights, and promotes pregnancy prevention programs and reproductive healthcare.

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood is a national organization dedicated to sexual and reproductive health. Their mission is to provide: comprehensive reproductive health care services, empowering sexuality education, and advocacy for public policies that ensure reproductive health, freedom, and research. Planned Parenthood provides reproductive health care to over 5 million women, men, and teenagers annually at over 850 health centers.


Here is a list of more incredible organizations working to build a better world on a daily basis. Be sure to contact them to find out more about each organization.


Center for Campus Organizing

Direct Action Network

Ruckus Society

Student Environmental Action Coalition

United Students Against Sweatshops

Animal Rights


Farm Animal Reform Movement

In Defense of Animals

Vegetarian Resource Group


Center for Community Change

Institute for Community Economics

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

South West Organizing Project

Economic Justice

Council on Economic Priorities

Jobs with Justice

National Labor Committee


Community Coalition for Environmental Justice

Earth First!

GrassRoots Recycling Network

Indigenous Environmental Network

National Resource Defense Council

Sea Shepherd

The Wilderness Society

Union of Concerned Scientists

Zero Population Growth

Gay & Lesbian

ACT UP (Aids Coalition to Unleash Power)

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)

Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG)


National Coalition for the Homeless

Human Rights

American Civil Liberties Union

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Prison Activists Resource Center


50 Years is Enough

FINCA (Foundation for International Community Assistance)

International Development Exchange

International Forum on Globalization

Jubilee +

Voices in the Wilderness


Center for Defense Information


Peace Brigades International

School of the Americas Watch


Project Vote Smart

Common Cause

League of Women Voters

Public Campaign

Public Interest

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Race & Ethnicity

Anti-Defamation League

Cultural Survival

Center for Third World Organizing

First Nations Development Institute

Southern Poverty Law Center


Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

Interfaith Alliance

Mennonite Central Committee

Pax Christie


Center for Commercial-Free Public Education

Commercial Alert

Northwest Earth Institute

Seeds of Simplicity

Women’s Rights

Feminist Majority Foundation


National Organization of Men Against Sexism (NOMAS)

9 to 5 National Association of Working Women


THE NONVIOLENCE WEB is a great resource for issues and organizations built around nonviolence, direct action and peace. Members include many of the religiously based peace groups that established the peace movement.

IGC is the largest community of progressive activist organizations on the internet. IGC's four subgroups (PeaceNet, EcoNet, WomensNet, & Anti-RacismNet) provide everything from job listings, to headline news to events calendars to extensive listings of social change organizations.

Canadian Organizations


The Council of Canadians

Ecumenical Coalition for Economic Justice

Halifax Initiative



Sierra Club of Canada

For web links to hundreds of Canadian activist organizations, check out: Web Networks Community