Which international development charity should I donate to?

This analysis reflects our 2018 recommendations. Subscribe now for updates.



There are people in many parts of the world who suffer unimaginable hardships. This is often a result of birthplace, and other circumstances outside of their control. We often wonder how we can help; how do we know which charities actually help pull these people out of poverty?

The Good Cause Co. has evaluated nine of Australia’s largest international development charities to help answer this question:

Which ones are the best?

Overall, the charities we evaluated in this sector are of an extremely high standard. Five achieve our ‘Donate with Confidence’ recommendation, which means they clearly demonstrate they are trustworthy, and effective at achieving their mission. The remainder of charities we assessed achieve our ‘Donate’ recommendation, which means they are probably trustworthy and effective, but they need to provide more information before we can recommend them with confidence.

At the top of our list are:

  • Oxfam Australia

  • World Vision Australia

  • The Fred Hollows Foundation

  • Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia

  • CARE Australia

How do I choose between these?

Choosing which international development charity to donate to will largely depend on your values. They are all very different organisations with different management structures, funding models, and strategic goals. Here are some things to consider when making a decision:

  • Do I want to change lives in the short-term or long-term? Some charities focus on alleviating immediate suffering, whereas others will focus more on running programs that address the systematic problems that lead to poverty. Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia delivers immediate medical assistance to those in crisis. Similarly, The Fred Hollows Foundation deliver programs that treat curable blindness now. On the other hand, Oxfam, World Vision Australia or CARE Australia deliver a broad suite of programs that focus on addressing the various root causes of poverty, as well as providing immediate disaster relief when needed.

  • Do I like a centralised or decentralised organisation? Aside from The Fred Hollows Foundation, organisations in the list are generally a ‘chapter’ or ‘member’ of a larger international organisation. In some cases, the Australian charity focuses mostly on fundraising, and directs money to an international secretariat for distribution. In other cases, money collected in Australia is used at the discretion of the Australian member charity. The work of Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia and CARE Australia is largely directed by an international sectretariat. In contrast, Oxfam Australia and World Vision Australia set their own agenda, in cooperation with their international compatriots. The Fred Hollows Foundation is the only Australian-based charity in the list.

  • Do I think the government helps or hinders development? Most international development charities work closely with the Australian government to achieve development goals. But some, like Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia, work independently of government. This reduces their dependence on unpredictable government funding to deliver the work they think is important.

  • Do I like that a charity has a religious motivation? World Vision Australia are committed to the poor “because they are Christian”. Other charities recommended here have do not have a religious motivation.

The Good Cause Co.’s “Should I Give To…” provides independent evaluations of Australia’s largest charities. We will be publishing over 50 critical reviews of charities that are seeking your donation. It’s time to find out which Australian charities are the star performers!