News & Politics

The List: Great Charities

Want more ways to do good? Check out our full charity package.

Save a Life

Arlington Free Clinic

Seventy percent of the 1,500 low-income, uninsured patients who got help at the Arlington Free Clinic last year had serious chronic illnesses. The clinic is staffed by volunteer doctors and offers primary care as well as specialty medicine including surgery, oncology, and neurology. A small pharmacy dispenses free medicine.

How to help: Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other medical professionals can work once or twice a month for a few hours at a time.

Giving: $250 buys a patient’s blood-pressure medication for two months; $1,500 pays to coordinate the care of ten patients with serious conditions for a year.

3833 N. Fairfax Dr., Suite 400, Arlington; 703-979-1425;

Columbia Road Health Services

A 30-year-old clinic in DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, Columbia Road Health Services provides medical, dental, mental-health, and social services. Costs are based on a patient’s ability to pay; many are living in poverty, and some are homeless. The clinic enrolls people in public insurance when possible and refers them to specialists.

How to help: Read to kids in the waiting room.

Giving: $125 pays for a child’s checkup; $480 puts one patient through 12 sessions of mental-health counseling.

1660 Columbia Rd., NW; 202-328-3717;


This group’s motto is “when crisis calls, we answer.” CrisisLink runs a 24-hour hotline for people contemplating suicide or facing other desperate situations. It makes daily phone calls to check in on elderly and disabled people and operates 2-1-1 Virginia, a hotline to help callers navigate Northern Virginia’s social services. Last year, it answered nearly 30,000 calls for help.

How to help: Become a hotline volunteer.

Giving: $100 covers one week of checkup calls to a senior citizen; $1,000 pays for suicide intervention for 20 people.

2503-D N. Harrison St., Suite 114, Arlington; 703-527-6603;

Mary’s Center

A 20-year-old organization, Mary’s Center for Maternal & Child Care was started to provide prenatal care to women from Central America. It grew with their children—first expanding to provide pediatrics, then a program for teens, then services for families. Today Mary’s Center offers medical, social, and vocational services to 10,000 families a year—many of whom are immigrants—and it has staff members from 33 countries. Many patients have no insurance, and they pay for care on a sliding scale.

How to help: Entertain children in the waiting room with stories or an activity.

Giving: $300 provides an initial prenatal-care visit; $500 pays for home visits for a new mom for a month.

2333 Ontario Rd., NW; 202-483-8196; Other locations in DC’s Brightwood Park and Silver Spring.

Metro TeenAIDS

“Our goal is to end the HIV epidemic among youth in DC,” says Molly Singer, deputy director of Metro TeenAIDS. Last year the group taught all of DC’s public- and charter-school tenth-graders about prevention and treatment. It trains adults to talk with teens about HIV, provides counseling to teens with the disease, and does advocacy work.

How to help: Staff the group’s table at a health fair.

Giving: $150 provides counseling for a teen with an HIV-positive parent; $1,500 pays for counseling and care for an HIV-positive youth.

651 Pennsylvania Ave., SE; 202-543-8246;

Mobile Medical Care

A network of 23 clinics in Montgomery County, Mobile Medical Care provided primary and specialty care to more than 7,000 uninsured adults this year, many of them homeless. The network charges by clients’ ability to pay and doesn’t turn away patients who can’t pay. It recently opened a heart clinic at Suburban Hospital.

How to help: Doctors and nurses are needed, as are interpreters and volunteers with professional skills.

Giving: $250 pays for one patient to participate in a yearlong fitness program; $1,000 pays for a patient’s care for a year.

9309 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda; 301-493-2400;

Share a Love of the Arts

Joe’s Movement Emporium

This Mount Rainier nonprofit hosts artists who perform Thai, Balinese, Middle Eastern, and African dance as well as aerialists, percussionists, and others. The pros do residencies in schools, and World Arts Focus hosts afterschool programs, summer camps, and youth ensembles. The organization is a force for revitalization in Prince George’s County and runs lots of community events.

How to help: Lend a hand at the afterschool program or chaperon a weekend field trip.

Giving: $110 pays for one low-income individual to take ten movement classes; $1,100 provides a semester’s scholarship for one child.

3309 Bunker Hill Rd., Mount Rainier; 301-699-1819;

Levine School of Music

The Levine School is well known for its high-caliber music lessons. Less well known is that it offers tuition assistance to about 900 students a year, including many at its Southeast DC branch. Levine also offers free performances and master classes with the likes of cellist Yo-Yo Ma and soprano Elizabeth Futral.

How to help: Work at performances.

Giving: $400 allows a student to attend a semesterlong class; $2,500 buys a year’s worth of 45-minute private lessons for one student.

2801 Upton St., NW; 202-686-8000; Additional locations in Southeast DC, North Bethesda, and Arlington.

Life Pieces to Masterpieces

“We are creating Renaissance men—gentlemen, scholars, artists, athletes,” says Mary Brown, executive director of Life Pieces to Masterpieces. The organization serves 150 boys and young men from east of the Anacostia River in DC. They do painting, storytelling, rap, and poetry—plus homework, sports, leadership training, and meditation—up to seven days a week, three to five hours a day. Almost none gets in trouble with the law or has children before marriage. In the past two years, all of the program’s high-school seniors graduated and enrolled in postsecondary education.

How to help: Tutor a boy in the homework center or help chaperone field trips.

Giving: $25 covers two weeks of snacks for one boy; $1,000 pays for one young man to participate in the program three days a week for a year.

5002 Hayes St., NE; 202-399-7703;

Sitar Arts Center

Research shows that arts education improves a child’s self-esteem, academic success, and behavior. Sitar brings artists from the Corcoran Gallery, Washington Ballet, National Symphony Orchestra, and other organizations to teach classes. It costs Sitar $1,000 to provide a semester’s enrichment for one child, but most kids come from low-income families and pay only $15.

How to help: Artists can lead classes in music, dance, drama, and visual and digital arts.

Giving: $75 buys dance supplies for one student; $1,500 pays for costumes for a summer musical.

1700 Kalorama Rd., NW, Suite 101; 202-797-2145;

Help Someone Get a Job

Alexandria Seaport Foundation

The foundation takes men and women ages 17 to 21, many of whom have been in trouble with the law, and uses boat-building to teach them academics and carpentry. Participants—called apprentices—get paid and earn their GEDs and driver’s licenses. Graduates get tools, assistance in purchasing a used car, and a full-time job in a building trade.

How to help: Help staff the workshop.

Giving: $100 pays for a day in the workshop for one apprentice; $250 buys a set of tools.

0 Thompson Alley (on the waterfront), Alexandria; 703-549-7078;

Computer C.O.R.E.

It’s hard to get a good job if you can’t use a computer. This group gives low-income Northern Virginians free training in computer basics. Students also write résumés and cover letters and practice job interviews. In a class of 48 that ended last year, one-quarter got new jobs, another quarter got promotions, and nearly half enrolled in college courses.

How to help: Teach a six-month class or refurbish computers. Nontechies can prep students for job interviews.

Giving: $195 covers the cost of refurbishing a computer; $800 pays for the group’s Web services and Internet access for a year.

3846 King St., Alexandria; 703-931-7346;

DC Central Kitchen

“Food is never going to stop hunger,” says DC Central Kitchen CEO Michael Curtin Jr. His organization provides meals for the poor, but it also addresses root causes of hunger and poverty through a culinary job-training program. More than 650 graduates are working in the food-service industry, some at DC Central Kitchen’s revenue-generating catering company. The group also provides 11⁄2 million free meals a year to partner agencies so that they can focus on other needs.

How to help: Help prepare meals or harvest produce from local farms.

Giving: $125 buys culinary textbooks and training materials; $1,150 buys a pallet of fresh produce that will make 12,000 salads for seniors.

425 Second St., NW; 202-234-0707;

Red Wiggler Community Farm

This 12-acre Montgomery County farm gives stable, meaningful employment to adults with autism, Down syndrome, mental retardation, and other developmental disabilities. It also supplies produce to paying customers, a food bank, and group homes; teaches kids about agriculture and the environment; and practices organic farming. The adults with disabilities typically stay in their jobs for at least two to three years.

How to help: Lend a hand on the farm. You’ll interact with the growers and learn about sustainable farming.

Giving: $25 pays for a delivery of produce to a group home; $500 buys a quarter of the group’s vegetable seeds for a year.

23400 Ridge Rd., Germantown; 301-916-2077;

Urban Alliance Foundation

In 1996, Urban Alliance founder Andrew Plepler, then a Justice Department lawyer, asked students in an Anacostia classroom what they needed. The answer: “a real job.” Plepler found internships for six of the kids. Since then, Urban Alliance has placed more than 1,000 teens in paid internships at such organizations as the Carlyle Group, the Washington Post, and the World Bank. It provides job- and life-skills training and college and career counseling. All of the high-school seniors who participated last year graduated; more than 90 percent got into college or job-training programs.

How to help: Have your company sponsor a student.

Giving: $150 pays for a computer-training session for 150 students; $1,000 gives those kids a week of job-skills training.

600 New Hampshire Ave., NW; 202-266-5722;

Spread Learning

Center for Inspired Teaching

“We believe that teachers are the solution to every challenge in a classroom,” says Jenna Fournel, of the Center for Inspired Teaching. The group mentors and trains teachers and principals to better engage students and boost achievement. There are staff retreats and classes for parents.

How to help: If you have a business or technology consulting background, you can help this nonprofit expand. Or tutor a child or participate in school cleanup days.

Giving: $35 buys classroom supplies; $3,000 pays for one teacher to go through the yearlong program.

1436 U St., NW, Suite 400; 202-462-1956;

Child and Family Network Centers

This network of free preschools helps get low-income minority children on track for academic success. It also runs a family literacy program and provides social services to parents. Kids in the program have shown almost twice the gains over the course of a year as their peers nationwide.

How to help: Read to kids. Help parents learn English.

Giving: $250 buys library books for a classroom; $1,020 provides a month of full-day preschool for one child.

3701-A Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-836-0214; Other locations in Arlington and Alexandria.

Higher Achievement Program

Research shows that middle school is a make-or-break time. Higher Achievement—a 33-year-old effort started at DC’s Gonzaga College High School—gives year-round academic enrichment to talented, underserved middle-school students in DC and Alexandria. The goal is to raise their grades and test scores and get them into college-prep high schools. In the 2007–08 school year, 100 percent went on to college-prep high schools, including Georgetown Day, Madeira, and Banneker.

How to help: Tutor middle-school students one evening a week from 6 to 8.

Giving: $100 recruits and trains six mentors; $2,500 pays for one student’s afterschool and summer enrichment for one year.

317 Eighth St., NE; 202-544-3633;

SEED Foundation

Ten years ago, SEED opened its first urban boarding school in DC’s Anacostia. The idea: Put kids in a setting where they can focus on school. “Twenty-four hours a day is a much more effective educational model than eight hours a day,” says cofounder Eric Adler. Ninety-eight percent of students get into college; 70 percent of alumni have graduated from college or are on track to graduate. SEED opened a second school, in Baltimore, this year and plans to expand beyond our region.

How to help: Tutor students during evening study hall.

Giving: $50 buys a year’s worth of art supplies for one student; $1,000 pays for one student’s SAT prep, college visits, and financial-aid workshops.

1776 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Suite 600; 202-785-4123;

Washington Middle School for Girls

This private Catholic school in DC’s Anacostia neighborhood has a reputation for academic rigor. The school day lasts until 5:30 pm. Tuition costs just $25 a month. In a city with a 68-percent high-school graduation rate, 96 percent of alumnae are in high school or have graduated.

How to help: Help girls with their homework after school.

Giving: $300 pays for a bus for a field trip; $1,500 buys a laptop for a teacher.

1901 Mississippi Ave., SE; 202-678-1113;

Give a Kid a Chance

Asian American LEAD

“We’re trying to debunk the myth that all Asians have high degrees and are financially stable,” says Rick Chen of Asian American LEAD. “Those who are not are being ignored.” The organization has offices in DC and Maryland, where 9,000 Asian-Americans live in poverty, and it serves children and teens. Programs include afterschool enrichment, tutoring, mentoring, and social services for families.

How to help: Become a mentor.

Giving: $500 covers food and supplies for a holiday party or other event for 75 kids and their parents; $2,500 buys two computers and a printer for student use.

1323 Girard St., NW, 202-884-0322; 11141 Georgia Ave., Suite 515, Wheaton, 301-942-9333;

Bright Beginnings

Bright Beginnings gives homeless DC children structure and constancy. A childcare center for kids six weeks to five years old, it incorporates therapeutic and educational programs to ensure they reach developmental milestones and to prepare them to succeed in school. The organization also runs a job-training program for parents.

How to help: Become a teacher’s aide or read to kids during literacy nights.

Giving: $100 pays for nutritious lunches and snacks for a preschool class for a week; $2,500 buys winter hats, mittens, and jackets for 90 children.

128 M St., NW, Suite 150; 202-842-9090;

Latin American Youth Center

This network of youth centers and charter schools serves mostly Latino and African-American teens in DC and Maryland. It runs a range of programs—from summer camp to gang prevention—to help young people make good choices. Seventy-seven percent of participants in its job-training program got jobs or went back to school in 2006–07, and in the latest figures, a program for kids in the juvenile-justice system kept 97 percent of them out of trouble.

How to help: Tutor or mentor a child. Consider becoming a foster parent.

Giving: $500 helps a college student pay for books; $1,000 puts a student through a yearlong GED language class.

1419 Columbia Rd., NW; 202-319-2225; Other locations: three in Northwest DC plus Hyattsville, Riverdale, and Silver Spring.

Northern Virginia Family Service

Founded by volunteers in 1924, NVFS addresses just about every need low-income families encounter. Services include healthcare, housing, early-childhood education, foster care, and more.

How to help: Hold infants and play with older children. Lend a hand in an early-childhood classroom. Become a foster parent.

Giving: $500 gives a family a refurbished car through a subsidized program; $1,000 provides four children with dental care for a year.

10455 White Granite Dr., Oakton; 703-385-3267; Other locations in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, Sterling, Manassas, McLean, and Woodbridge.

Safe Shores

Before Safe Shores–The DC Children’s Advocacy Center opened in 1994, abused children in DC had to tell their stories over and over to representatives from different agencies. Safe Shores coordinates interviews to minimize the trauma and provides therapy, meals, and clean clothes in a kid-friendly environment.

How to help: Play with kids waiting for appointments.

Giving: $25 pays for meals for ten children; $100 buys clothing, toiletries, and a book or toy for a child going into foster care.

300 E St., NW; 202-638-2575;

Build Community

Casa de Maryland

This nonprofit provides Latinos and immigrants with advocacy, training, legal representation, and social services. Casa de Maryland has placed people in 17,000 jobs and helped 1,200 learn English. It recently worked with Montgomery County to pass a Domestic Worker Protection Bill—the first of its kind in the country—and teaches clients how to make their voices heard.

How to help: Teach English or citizenship-preparation classes.

Giving: $100 provides a domestic worker with ten weeks of English classes; $1,000 pays for staff time to organize one town-hall meeting with a police chief.

734 University Blvd. E., Silver Spring, 301-431-4185; Other locations in Baltimore, Germantown, Rockville, Takoma Park, and Wheaton plus a second Silver Spring office.

DC Appleseed

An advocacy organization, DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice works behind the scenes on public-policy issues in DC. Current projects address lead in drinking water, voting rights, affordable housing, and other challenges. The group doesn’t shy from controversy: It argued that DC should have local control to decide gun laws.

How to help: If you have expertise on one of its issues, the group could use your help.

Giving: $100 convenes a focus group to discuss children’s health issues; $1,000 helps cover the cost of publishing a report.

1111 14th St., NW, Suite 510; 202-289-8007;

Impact Silver Spring

This organization aims to engage a more diverse group of leaders in Silver Spring. “It’s important that the people who are experiencing the problems are the ones designing the solutions,” says executive director Frankie Blackburn. In its network of more than 1,000 people from 19 cultures, 450 have completed an intensive leadership program. They organize grassroots efforts on affordable housing, public safety, education, and other issues.

How to help: Lead a kids’ art class or other activity during meetings.

Giving: $450 pays for training for low-income or immigrant parents to become more engaged in their children’s education; $1,800 trains a low-income tenant in a large apartment complex to speak out on neighborhood issues.

1313 East-West Hwy., 301-247-0283; 501 Sligo Ave., 240-247-0283; Silver Spring;

Tenants and Workers United

This group of community organizers teaches low-income minority people to advocate for themselves. It recently got Inova Health Care in Northern Virginia to give low-income patients a 35-percent discount on services, and it helped Alexandria taxi drivers create a driver-owned cooperative, now worth more than $2 million.

How to help: Help legal permanent residents file naturalization applications and study for citizenship tests.

Giving: $250 provides materials and facilitators for a leadership-development course for 20 people; $1,000 pays for a teacher for an eight-week computer course.

3801 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-684-5697;

Give Food and Shelter

Capital Area Food Bank

Twenty million pounds. That’s how much food the Capital Area Food Bank distributes each year. It supplies 700 agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens, and senior centers. It also does nutrition education, runs an afterschool program, and sends urban kids to summer camp.

How to help: Sort food in the warehouse.

Giving: $150 feeds a family of five for a month; $1,000 sends three kids to camp.

645 Taylor St., NE; 202-526-5344;

Carpenter’s Shelter

This organization works hard to ensure that residents of its 80-bed shelter get back on their feet. It requires them to attend classes in life skills such as anger management and budgeting, and they must have or seek jobs and save 70 percent of their income. “No longer are people using our door like a turnstile,” says executive director Fran Becker. Ninety percent of those who enroll in a continuing-support program when they check out remain in stable housing for at least a year. Carpenter’s also operates a clinic, day shelter, winter shelter, and scholarship fund.

How to help: Serve meals or teach adult literacy.

Giving: $100 pays for two winter coats; $1,000 buys the shelter’s milk for three months.

930 N. Henry St., Alexandria; 703-548-7500;

Food & Friends

This group began 20 years ago when the Reverend Carla Gorrell started bringing lunch to a friend who was sick with AIDS. Now the organization prepares and delivers 3,000 free meals a day to people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses. The majority of clients, from Fredericksburg to Hagerstown, live in poverty. The group employs chefs and dietitians and offers 14 specialized diets.

How to help: Help prepare meals or sign up for a delivery route.

Giving: $100 buys a month’s groceries for one client; $400 gives ten clients an hour of one-on-one nutritional counseling.

219 Riggs Rd., NE; 202-269-2277;

Manna Food Center

Requests for help from this Montgomery County food bank are up 35 percent over last year. “Lots of people are coming here for the very first time,” says Amy Gabala, executive director. Manna provides food to 675 families a week and gives 600 kids backpacks of food every Friday. It supplies emergency shelters, group homes, soup kitchens, and other charities, freeing up $1 million a year for those groups to put toward other services.

How to help: Sort boxes in the food pantry.

Giving: $25 gives a family of four five days of food; $150 allows Manna to deliver bread to 25 low-income communities.

614 Lofstrand La., Rockville; 301-424-1130;

Miriam’s Kitchen

A hot, healthy breakfast brings about 200 people—most of them homeless—to Miriam’s Kitchen each weekday. While there, they can meet with a lawyer, psychiatrist, or doctor. Case managers help individuals find housing, obtain identification, or get treatment for mental illness and addiction. After breakfast, there are therapeutic groups in art, poetry, and other creative outlets. The organization runs a transitional home for formerly homeless men and hopes to start a dinner program.

How to help: Cook and serve breakfast on a weekday morning from 6 to 8:30.

Giving: $100 pays for one person to spend 24 hours in transitional housing; $1,000 covers a day’s breakfast for all 200 people.

2401 Virginia Ave., NW; 202-452-8926;

Reston Interfaith

Self-sufficiency is a big theme at Reston Interfaith. The charity helps people in Reston, Herndon, and surrounding areas who have immediate needs such as food and housing. Once those are covered, it focuses on long-term stability. “We ask, ‘What’s going to get you to the next level of income?’ ” says Amanda Andere, vice president for external affairs. The organization provides affordable childcare and offers training to help people get higher-paying jobs. One client earned her nursing degree and is now on the charity’s housing corporation board.

How to help: Cater a meal or organize and distribute donated winter coats.

Giving: $100 prevents a family’s utilities from being shut off; $500 covers expenses when a family moves to a transitional home.

11150 Sunset Hills Rd., Suite 210, Reston; 571-323-9555;

Top Banana

Top Banana Home Delivered Groceries is a lifeline for more than 500 homebound seniors and people with disabilities in Maryland and DC. Its weekly grocery drop-offs ensure that clients have fresh food. Volunteer drivers check in with seniors and help with such tasks as changing light bulbs and taking out the trash. “People wait all week long for that one visit,” says founder Jean Guiffré. The group keeps prices low, accepts food stamps, and charges for service on a sliding scale.

How to help: Deliver food to a senior once a week.

Giving: $100 covers the weekly charge for 20 low-income clients; $750 buys gas for two weeks of deliveries.

14100 Brandywine Rd., Brandywine; 301-372-3663;

Aid a Woman in Trouble

Doorways for Women and Families

Doorways runs the only domestic-violence safe house in Arlington. Only 5 of the 40 women who stayed there last year returned to their abusive partners. The organization recently helped bring together 25 public and private partners to coordinate the county’s domestic-violence response. Doorways also operates a shelter for homeless families and provides housing subsidies, training, and services for two years after they leave.

How to help: Help at one of the shelters, answering phones or supporting families in crisis.

Giving: $250 supplies perishable food for one shelter for a week; $1,000 pays for 60 hours of financial counseling for one woman.

Arlington; 703-522-8858;

My Sister’s Place

DC’s oldest domestic-violence shelter, My Sister’s Place housed 38 families last year in its emergency shelter, answered 2,000 calls to its crisis hotline, and provided counseling and services to more than 1,000 victims of domestic violence, many of whom are homeless.

How to help: Answer calls on the hotline.

Giving: $150 provides meals for one month for a family of three; $550 gives that family shelter and services for one month.

Northwest DC; 202-529-5261;

N Street Village

A full-service center for homeless and low-income women, N Street Village runs an overnight shelter, a wellness center, and a place where women can go during the day for a meal, shower, or social services. The organization specializes in helping women with mental illness and addiction.

How to help: Assist at the shelter overnight or serve breakfast at Bethany Woman’s Center.

Giving: $250 provides 90 hours of adult basic education; $1,000 pays for three weeks of housing and services for one woman in an addiction-recovery program.

1333 N St., NW; 202-939-2076;

Tahirih Justice Center

Tahirih’s founder, Layli Miller-Muro, was a law student when she took the case of a 17-year-old girl who fled genital mutilation in Togo. Upon landing, the girl was taken into custody and held for 17 months. Miller-Muro won the case, setting a precedent for gender-based violence as grounds for asylum. Tahirih, which she founded in 1997 to help women in similar situations, has a 99-percent litigation success rate and helped draft legislation to protect mail-order brides who are abused.

How to help: Host a client while her claim is in the legal system or help clients with shopping and errands.

Giving: $120 pays for training for a pro bono attorney; $1,600 provides a week of legal representation.

6066 Leesburg Pike, Suite 220, Falls Church; 703-575-0070;


A group of American University law students founded Women Empowered Against Violence Everywhere in 1997 to provide a single group to which domestic-violence survivors could turn for legal aid, counseling, and help finding housing, childcare, and public assistance. One of only a few domestic-violence organizations in the country that take this holistic approach, it draws from a network of pro bono attorneys to handle cases and staff a walk-in legal clinic.

How to help: In the office, answering phones or doing bookkeeping is always needed, as are pro bono lawyers.

Giving: $50 allows a woman to change her locks; $1,500 helps a woman and her children move from a shelter to a transitional home.

1111 16th St., NW, Suite 200; 202-452-9550;

Protect Our Environment

Anacostia Watershed Society

“We’re focused on restoring the Anacostia River to a swimmable and fishable condition,” says executive director James Connolly. The organization does hands-on restoration, environmental education, and advocacy. It won lawsuits against the DC Water and Sewer Authority and the Navy, forcing them to clean up the Anacostia. WASA has since reduced the amount of sewage going into the river by 40 percent.

How to help: Plant trees, pick up trash, and remove invasive plants.

Giving: $100 buys three new native trees; $1,200 pays for 30 kids and their teacher to learn about environmental science while canoeing on the Anacostia.

4302 Baltimore Ave., Bladensburg; 301-699-6204;

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

The foundation advocates for laws and enforcement to protect the health of the bay, does restoration work, and educates the public. This summer it helped secure $188 million in federal funding for conserving the bay’s watershed. It also worked on state laws that promise to improve water quality.

How to help: Help raise oysters at a restoration center in Shady Side, Maryland, or work at a tree nursery in Upper Marlboro.

Giving: $50 pays to raise and transplant 1,000 oysters; $1,500 provides a one-day field experience for several dozen students.

6 Herndon Ave., Annapolis; 410-268-8816; Other locations in DC, Salisbury, Richmond, Norfolk, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Coalition for Smarter Growth

“We want to help Washington be the most sustainable region in the world,” says coalition executive director Stewart Schwartz. The antisprawl, antigridlock group advocates for public transportation, mixed-used development, land conservation, and affordable housing. The coalition isn’t popular with everyone; in 2002, it helped defeat a Northern Virginia transportation-sales-tax referendum that didn’t incorporate smart-growth principles.

How to help: Write letters to editors, stuff envelopes, or call supporters at a volunteer night.

Giving: $500 pays for publication of a report; $1,000 covers production of a professional DVD.

4000 Albemarle St., NW, Suite 310; 202-244-4408;

Piedmont Environmental Council

Dedicated to preserving scenic landscapes in Virginia’s piedmont, which stretches from Charlottesville to Washington, this organization has helped get conservation easements on more than 300,000 private acres. It also does advocacy: Last year the council mobilized thousands of people to oppose uranium mining in the state, and it’s fighting a proposed high-voltage transmission line that would pass through seven counties on 15-story towers.

How to help: Work as a pro bono lawyer or public-relations pro. Help with stream monitoring and advocacy campaigns.

Giving: $105 preserves three acres; $850 keeps a local office running for a month.

45 Horner St., Warrenton; 540-347-2334;

Potomac Conservancy

This group worked with Montgomery County to improve the collection of storm water—a major source of pollution in the Potomac River—and promotes best practices such as keeping cows out of streams that feed the river. It does restoration work—rebuilding eroded stream banks, planting native trees—and preserves headwaters areas in the Shenandoah Valley.

How to help: Help plant trees or collect seeds for native hardwoods that state foresters can then plant.

Giving: $35 pays for five trees to be planted along a stream; $1,000 buys 250 feet of fencing to keep livestock out of streams.

8601 Georgia Ave., Suite 612, Silver Spring; 301-608-1188;

>>Want more ways to do good? Check out our full charity package.