NGOs operate in virtually every corner of the world. While exact numbers are impossible to know, there could be millions of them working to eradicate poverty, protect children, empower women, achieve gender equality and make the world a better, safer place for everyone. In this article, we’ll explore 15 of the biggest and most influential NGOs in Canada.
#1. CARE Canada
Established in 1945, CARE is a global confederation investing in women and girls.. CARE Canada is based in Ottawa, but it works with the global community and women’s rights organizations. The NGO’s work focuses on safety, health, livelihood, advocacy and emergency response. In 2022, CARE reached over a million direct participants, 60% of which were women and girls. The NGO was also active in 30 countries with 50 projects and initiatives. You can find annual reports on CARE Canada’s website, as well as information on donations, fundraising, partnerships and careers.
The Canadian Cancer Society is Canada’s largest national cancer charity. It was first formed in 1938, and today, its work includes funding research, educating the public, running support services and providing information on cancer. The NGO’s goal is “uniting and inspiring Canadians to take control of cancer.” The Canadian Cancer Society also works on health equity; it has a 5-year goal to reduce health inequities in underserved communities such as young adults, Indigenous communities, older adults, racialized communities and others. The NGO’s website offers annual reports and resources about events, donations, fundraising and careers.
Check out our article on the 15 biggest NGOs in the world.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection is a national charity focused on children’s safety. It was founded in 1985 following the disappearance and murder of a 13-year-old child. The child’s mother and several volunteers started the organization to provide services they did not have. The Centre’s goal is to reduce the sexual exploitation and abuse of kids, help locate missing children and prevent child victimization. Its programs include critical assistance, as well as education and prevention. Every year, the NGO supports over 3,000 survivors, youth and caregivers and distributes over 1 million education and prevention resources. You can find research, resources, donation links and career information on the NGO’s website.
Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a partnership of 15 Canadian Christian churches and church-based agencies. This partnership focuses on ending global hunger with locally-based organizations in developing countries. Founded in 1983, the NGO has expanded to over 30 countries with over 100 international partners. The NGO also benefits from community-growing projects. To start these projects, a group of people buy a plot of land together, grow a harvest, sell it on the Canadian market, and donate proceeds to the Foodgrains Bank. Canada currently has over 200 growing projects. The NGO’s website has information about donations, additional resources, financial accountability and careers.
Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning network founded in Canada in 1971. It’s now headquartered in Amsterdam, but it’s made up of 26 independent national/regional organizations across 55 countries. Its goal is to protect life on Earth, so it focuses on climate change, deforestation, nuclear weapons, overfishing and other environmental issues. As an independent organization, it does not accept funding from governments. It has a general consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Activities include direct action, research, and advocacy. For more information on the NGO’s work, campaigns, petitions, volunteer opportunities and careers, please visit the website.
For over 60 years, the Heart and Stroke Foundation has been a leading funder of research into heart health. With the help of volunteers, donors, researchers, healthcare professionals, governments and others, the organization works to reduce deaths from heart disease, stroke and related conditions. Its areas of focus include equity, transparency and curiosity. The foundation’s goals include protecting kid’s health through a nutrition plan, improving the health of Indigenous communities, educating Canadians on what strokes look like, partnering with survivors and funding stroke recovery research. You can find resources for the media and patients on the website, as well as information about donations, financials, leadership and careers.
The NGOs on this list deal with many social issues affecting Canada. Here’s our article on 15 examples of social issues.
Islamic Relief is an international relief organization founded in 1984. It has since grown into the world’s largest Islamic NGO. It now works in 40 countries around the world and has 100 offices. Priority areas include water, food, shelter, education, healthcare, economic empowerment and emergency relief. In 2022, Islamic Relief reached 3.3 million, funded over 170 projects, sponsored 22,000 orphans and helped provide sustainable food, clean water and livelihoods to 1.3 million people. You can find information on charity events, volunteer opportunities, donation links, emergency campaigns and more on the Islamic Relief Canada website.
Founded in 1971, this French-based organization, which is also known as Doctors Without Borders, has national offices around the world. The Canadian office is based in Toronto. According to the website, MSF Canada contributes to medical humanitarian activities and provides leadership in climate environment and health, transformation and innovation, telemedicine, the safety of project staff and medical advocacy. Like all MSF offices, MSF Canada works in areas like disasters, conflict and war, disease, epidemics, pandemics and people on the move. The website has information on ways to take action, career opportunities, impact and accountability, and more.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada is a nongovernmental group representing Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, and transgender and gender-diverse people in Canada. NWAC was established to “enhance, promote and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being” of all Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. They have a series of programs (such as the NWAC National Apprenticeships Program), a magazine, a journal, scholarships, and a Knowledge Centre. The group works in policy areas like economic development, social development, health, legal affairs and more. You can find more information on NWAC’s advocacy, education and careers on their website.
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#10. Oxfam Canada
Oxfam Canada is an affiliate of the International Oxfam Confederation, which is present in 87 countries. Canada has been involved with Oxfam since 1963. The NGO works directly with communities, partners and women’s rights organizations to end poverty with a focus on empowering women and girls. It works on ending violence, women’s economic justice, humanitarian assistance, climate justice and much more. The NGO’s website offers resources and information on donations, volunteer opportunities, a policy hub, careers and other ways to take action.
Plan International Canada is part of a global organization dedicated to children, especially girls. Plan operates in more than 80 countries and partners with children, families, supporters, local organizations and governments. The NGO works in education, health, protection from violence, youth leadership, economic empowerment and humanitarian response. Because girls are among the most vulnerable groups, Plan also focuses on girl’s education, child marriage and gender-based violence. In 2022, Plan reached 1.3 million children, adolescents and adults with healthcare and education, as well as 382,996 children and adults with food support. You can find resources on fundraising, active campaigns, donations and financial opportunities on the NGO’s website.
#12. SickKids Foundation
The SickKids Foundation began in 1875 with a commitment to fight for the health and well-being of children. Their principles are collaboration, integrity, excellence, innovation and inclusion. The NGO partners locally and globally through the integration of care, research and education. Its approach is based on Precision Child Health, which seeks to diagnose faster, treat conditions faster and predict illnesses before they begin affecting kids. Their website includes information on fundraisers, events, donations, volunteer opportunities and careers.
Interested in working for an NGO in Canada? Check out our article on 10 organizations offering jobs in Canada.
Established in 1921, the Winnipeg Foundation is Canada’s first community foundation, which are organizations based on pooling and permanently investing gifts. The interest from these investments provides sources of support for charitable projects. As a Winnipeg group, it focuses mostly on that area in areas like education, employment, health, environment, heritage, arts and culture, recreation and more. In 2022, the foundation distributed $85 million to the community based on $50 million in gifts. You can find information on the foundation’s grant programs, leadership, youth programming and more.
United Way is a worldwide nonprofit, but within Canada, it operates in over 100 countries. Each United Way raises support locally and is governed by an autonomous Board of Directors. It focuses on ending poverty through philanthropy, grants, convening, research, and public policy and mobilization. Poverty is complex, so the United Way works on food security, early learning and parenting, inclusive employment, mental health, youth development and much more. The website has information for donors, volunteers, community agencies and media.
#15. World Vision Canada
World Vision is an international NGO with over 70 years of experience. Globally, the NGO reached 13 million people in 2022. That same year, Canada’s branch reached over 17,000 people through its programs that focus on emergency relief, transformational development and the promotion of justice. World Vision is a Christian organization, but serves everyone in the communities it operates in. You can find information on accountability, sponsorships and careers on the NGO’s website.