In the U.S., the third Monday of January is the National Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service (or MLK Day for short).

On MLK Day, most schools and businesses are given the day off—but not for a day of rest.

Instead, citizens are expected to use this time to serve others either by volunteering in their communities, or helping out in other ways.

Here are 5 civil rights nonprofits we think you’ll be interested in—whether you are looking to volunteer for a day or be a part of the momentum to bring about real change for human rights.

Nonprofits that Support Civil Rights

1. Amnesty International USA

Amnesty International Logo

What they do
Amnesty International is the largest grassroots, global human rights organization of its kind with more than 7 million people serving as the voice for those whose fundamental human rights are denied or abused.

The nonprofit has successfully changed laws in many countries that involve free speech, the death penalty, refugees, reproductive rights, and LGBT equality.

How to help
Amnesty International’s “Write for Rights” letter-writing campaign is an excellent way to participate in MLK Day of Service. You can change someone’s life with a simple letter, as well as get involved with petition signatures, emails, Tweets, and Facebook posts.

  • Donate directly here
  • Support them with your shopping here.

2. Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity Logo

What they do
Habitat for Humanity hosts many MLK Day of Service events nationwide where volunteers help build affordable, energy-efficient homes for a family in need.

You can also help construct a home without picking up a hammer—donate your time to Habitat ReStores—these independently-owned reuse stores accept physical donations (like sinks, wood, and tools) and sell home improvement items to the public at a fraction of retail cost.

Habitat for Humanity ReStores raise more than $1 million annually.

How to help
Spend your MLK Day of Service helping out a ReStore team by processing donations, cleaning up the store, stocking items, organizing merchandise, or tackling a special project.

Got your own home improvement shopping to do? Use Giving Assistant to raise money for Habitat for Humanity while saving money at The Home Depot, and other big name home improvement brands.

3. Youth Service America

Youth Services America logo

What they do
Youth Service America (or YSA) is a nonprofit that partners with thousands of organizations committed to enhancing the quantity and quality of opportunities available to young people, ages 5-25, who are interested in local, national, and global volunteerism.

YSA encourages youths to celebrate MLK Day of Service by empowering individuals, strengthening their communities, and helping to create solutions to social problems.

The organization’s “Be Fearless Be Kind” pledge inspires young people to make a difference through service projects and kind acts, like the following:

  • Organize a clothing drive or canned food drive
  • Join a youth-driven program that benefits the community
  • Help a low-income family connect to low-cost (or free) social services
  • Start a voter registration drive in your neighborhood and/or school

How to help
Kids got Monday off from school? Kick off your 3-day weekend with a family brainstorm, gathering ideas for ways your family can serve the community (or each other) during their “day on,” using Youth Service America’s idea page as a starting point. Take it a step further by getting started early and volunteering to speak to your kids’ classes about the Day of Service, or encourage their teachers to. What matters most is getting kids talking, thinking, planning, and doing.

  • Donate to Youth Service America directly here
  • Support them with your shopping here

4. The Salvation Army

Salvation Army logo

What they do
The Salvation Army is an international charitable organization that creates local programs developed to address a community’s specific need for immediate support, short-term care, or long-term services—from addiction-recovery programs to housing and homeless assistance.


How to help
The Salvation Army offers many volunteer opportunities and MLK Day activities, such as:

  • “Street Store” programs where students act as personal shoppers to the homeless and help them select and try on garments from a collection of free clothes.
  • Repainting the iconic red Salvation Army barrels and organizing the Angel Tree Toy Shop for the next holiday season.
  • Offering a safe space for children on their day off from school, which includes crafts centered on Martin Luther King Jr. and an “I am the Dream” essay contest.
  • Donate to the Salvation Army directly here.
  • Support your local chapter with your shopping by searching for them here.

5. Southern Poverty Law Center

SPLC logo

The Southern Poverty Law Center (or SPLC) is a civil rights organization that uses education, litigation, and other forms of activism to advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable in society—such as children, domestic violence victims, the disabled, immigrants, and prisoners.

Just a few things this nonprofit is behind:

  • The Intelligence Project, which tracks and exposes the activities of hate groups
  • The Teaching Tolerance program, which produces and provides free anti-bias books, lesson plans, and other materials to schools nationwide
  • The construction and maintenance of the Civil Rights Memorial and Center in Montgomery, Alabama (located in the “birthplace” of the modern civil rights movement). 

Interesting MLK Fact: The Memorial is found right around the corner from the very church Dr. King served as pastor during the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

How to help
Talk. For inspiration, start here. Commit to a conversation with your kids about hate: what it means, and how to stand up to it. Learn about the role this nonprofit plays in your community, and consider supporting efforts to provide free legal help to local citizens, either by organizing events at your local library, or even providing some pro bono services yourself if you’re an attorney.

Support Civil Rights Every Day with Charitable Shopping

Support your favorite civil rights nonprofit every time you shop online (and earn cash back) with Giving Assistant.

Download our Giving Assistant button to make it all 100% automatic, so you can help these critical causes do just a little more this year—and not just on the third Monday in January.