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Best Anti-Poverty Nonprofits in San Francisco Bay Area

Updated on February 17, 2011

Poverty charities, but which ones?

So poverty is your issue. You believe that the problems that often come with poverty — hunger, homelessness, failure to graduate from college, difficulty obtaining part time or summer jobs while in school — these all feed into the cycle of poverty that holds down far too many people.

Poverty is your issue. And you want to do something about it.

But what can one person who doesn't have $1 million to give away do? We can't all be Bill Gates or Warren Buffets, setting side $30 million to solve the world's problems. Yet we want to do something with what we have, even if it is just $10, and we want to give money on top of our time as volunteers and community supporters.

It's essential to spend our philanthropic dollars wisely, at effective nonprofits that are measuring and achieving impact.

Small Groups Doing Big Work

  • EARN: This nonprofit helps low income people set up savings accounts, and it matches every $1 saved with $2. Most savers make under $30,000 a year, yet they still manage to save $2,000, which becomes $6,000. That money is for "asset building" and has to be used to start a small business, for education or to buy a house.
  • Kiva allows kitchen table donors anywhere to be microlenders like the Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank. Users can log on and make a donation of just $25 to help entrepreneurs on the other side of the globe — or even here in the U.S. — start or invest in their business and increase their income as they head to a better life.
  • Donors Choose: Teachers who can't afford needed school supplies or interested in a class trip or project that i beyond their means post their project on the Donors Choose website. Donors who log on can search for the kind of project they want to support, be it a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Flip Cameras for a journalism class or even basic classroom supplies. Donors can fund the whole request or part of it, and they receive thank you notes from the class.
  • WAGES: Stands for Women's Action To Gain Economic Security. Low-income immigrant women also end up in domestic or housekeeping jobs and are exploited by low pay and poor conditions. WAGES helps low-income workers star, green business cooperatives, often cleaning companies, then provides operations training and support. Women in these cooperatives earn at least 50 percent more than the industry average and receive benefits.
  • La Cocina: This nonprofit runs a commercial kitchen and is an incubator for entreprenreuial food businesses, most owned and operated by low-income women of color and immigrant women. Many of the businesses started in La Cocina sell goods at San Francisco farmers markets, Bay Area regional farmers markets and national stores, including Whole Foods. Some La Cocina companies to find retail success are Clairesquares and Kika's Treats.
  • New Door Ventures: This group's mission states it best: It helps at-risk youth in San Francisco get ready for work and life by providing jobs, job-readiness and supportive community.
  • Stride Center: Stride Center is a nonprofit that helps people with high barriers to employment train for and keep jobs, and it operates a technology consulting business called Relia Tech. Relia Tech employs program graduates, students and interns who have been trained for careers as Information Technology (computer)  professionals.

Bigger Groups Doing Big Anti-Poverty Work

  • Goodwill: Good will is not just a thrift store where you can get rid of old clothes or score a cheap couch! Well, it is, but it is so much more. Goodwill is perhaps the original "social venture" — a business that is set up to achieve a social rather than a financial gain. Almost every worker at a Goodwill store is actually receiving job training so they can get a better paying job in a mainstream retail outlet like Macy's. Many Goodwill participants come from families that have relied on welfare for multiple generations and do not have histories of good=paying jobs; others are aged out foster youth or ex-convicts with limited work experience and hugs barriers to getting jobs. Goodwill trains them in retail, logistics, merchandising, sales, management and other useful skills. Goodwill in San Francisco also operates a truck driving school whose graduates make $25 an hour or more.
  • Delancey Street: Delancey Street has set up businesses — a restaurant, a moving company, Christmas tree lots — around San Francisco to train ex-convicts and recovering addicts for secure, gainful employment. It also provides housing and counseling services to provide its clients with a solid foundation for success.
  • Tipping Point Community: This new nonprofit is 100% funded by its board so that every donation, from $25 to $1 million from Google Founder Sergei Brin and his wife, goes straight to poverty fighting nonprofits. It supports a portfolio of over 30 Bay Area charities, giving them cash and also consulting services free of charge.
  • REDF: This organization provides money and training to other nonprofits like Rubicon Programs and Juma Ventures, that start and run businesses expressly to create necessary, in-demand and well-paying jobs for low-income people. It received money from the federal Social Innovation Fund to expand across California.
  • Women's Initiative for Self Employment: This microlender helps female entrepreneurs start businesses. It primarily serves low-income women, and has had remarkable success helping women improve their incomes and create other new jobs for members of their community. It now has several locations around the Bay Area.
  • Jewish Vocational Services: This is a classic job training program. It helps clients write resume, prepare for job interviews, learn necessary computer skills, attend job fairs, and it also has relationships with local employers to train them for specific jobs.


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    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 6 years ago from Colorado

      Very interesting and useful information. I'm glad to know there are programs out there that provide skill training, rather than just handouts.

    • s.carver profile image

      s.carver 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks, ndnfoodie530. I hope this information helps, and good luck!

    • ndnfoodie530 profile image

      ndnfoodie530 6 years ago from Nothern California

      Great hub! This is really helpful information; I am currently homeless in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco and plan to utilize some of these resources tomorrow.