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Start Your Business Success Stories

8 Unique and Inspiring Nonprofit Organizations

8 Unique and Inspiring Nonprofit Organizations
Credit: Rawpixel/Shutterstock

When it comes down to it, for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations ultimately do the same thing: They aim to solve a problem by providing goods or services. Plus, it takes a lot of creative problem solving and marketing to raise awareness and funds to keep a nonprofit running, so there's a lot businesses can learn from nonprofits.

Whether you need business inspiration or you're just feeling charitable, here are eight nonprofit organizations that help some truly worthy causes through their unique business models.

For those who want to lend a helping hand, but aren't quite sure how, Do Something offers users an opportunity to connect with any number of campaigns. From get out the vote initiatives to providing clothing for homeless youth, this non-profit is like the Google for good samaritans. Geared toward younger volunteers, Do Something allows users to select their interests and designate the amount of free time they are able to donate towards any given cause and will then come up with suggestions of projects or events that require assistance. Do Something's goal is to harness the power of the youth's desire for involvement and altruism and focus it into practical campaigns; whatever your passion, there is likely a project that needs your help.

Shirts For A Cure (SFAC) is a project backed by the Syrentha J. Savio Endowment, a nonprofit organization established in 2002 by Mark Beemer, a punk-rock photographer. Savio, the main organization's namesake and Beemer's wife, died of breast cancer, and in her honor, the organization helps cover medical expenses for women with breast cancer who can't afford treatment. SFAC works with rock bands to help the organization raise money and awareness. Participating bands donate their T-shirt designs, and the organization sells them for around $15 each.

The Give Back Yoga Foundation is a national nonprofit that aims to make yoga available to people who can benefit the most from it but may not have the resources to take classes. The organization has several yoga programs, including one for prison inmates, to help them learn nonviolent problem resolution; one for first responders, to help them cope with the intense stress of their jobs; one for at-risk youth; one to help veterans cope with PTSD; and one to help people struggling with body-image issues and eating disorders. These programs don't just teach participants how to do yoga; they can also train participants to become certified yoga teachers. Donations go toward providing participants of these programs with free tools and resources, yoga mats, training sessions, certification scholarships and more.

Want to help empower struggling students and entrepreneurs? Kiva is a nonprofit that provides microloans to impoverished people who don't have access to traditional banking systems. Many of these people are looking for money to go to school, or to start or grow a small business. Lenders can choose a borrower based on their story, and then get updates on their borrower's progress until they are eventually able to repay the loan. Kiva provides the borrower with their loan through local organizations like microfinance institutions and schools, which they call Field Partners. When a loan is repaid, lenders can choose to put that money toward a new loan, donate it to Kiva or withdraw it. The organization puts 100 percent of the money you lend toward loans and does not charge Field Partners interest.

The Cary Creative Center, located in Cary, North Carolina, is a nonprofit organization that takes the old adage "one man's trash is another man's treasure" to a whole new level. The organization promotes "reuse art" or upcycling, which means they encourage people to use discarded materials that would otherwise be considered trash to create art. People can go to the Cary Creative Center to take adult and children's craft, sewing and art classes, as well as shop for materials and supplies at their material store, or online at their Etsy and eBay stores. The organization also accepts donations of everything from sewing equipment and fine-art supplies to cigar boxes and old and broken costume jewelry.

Heifer International is a nonprofit organization inspired by the "teach a man to fish" philosophy that aims to end world hunger and bring communities together by giving families in need a sustainable source of food and income: livestock. Donors can contribute funds to give impoverished families goats, sheep, cows, chickens and even honeybees, among other creatures. These animals provide families with food and agricultural products like milk, eggs and honey that can be sold or traded. Heifer International also operates on a pay-it-forward business model that the organization calls "Passing on the Gift." This ensures that families who are provided with livestock will pass on their animal's first female offspring to another family in need, as well as share the training they've received from the organization.

Patriot Paws, founded in 2005 in Rockwall, Texas, is a nonprofit that trains puppies and provides service dogs to veterans and other Americans with disabilities, to help them regain their independence. Patriot Paws trains puppies for anywhere between 18 months and two years. First, they're trained by carefully selected inmates via a program with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and then are trained and socialized by volunteer puppy raisers who take the dogs into their homes. The organization's staff makes sure to address any behavioral issues and can tailor training to fit different special needs. Veterans and Americans with disabilities can apply to get a service dog through the organization, which then conducts interviews with qualifying applicants and tries to find them a compatible pup.

No, this isn't the smart-thermostat maker owned by Google. Rather, this nonprofit's goal is to help artisans around the world build businesses from their craft in order to empower women, alleviate poverty, promote peace and transform local communities. The nonprofit works directly with artisans, and offers leadership training, design mentorship, language classes and marketing lessons. It also helps to construct new facilities for artisans and give them access to upgraded equipment. Nest believes that by helping these artisans become successful leaders in their communities, they're making an even bigger change. According to the organization's website, "Nest estimates an additional 20 lives touched for every one Nest artisan employed."

Learning Ally is a national nonprofit that helps blind and visually impaired students, as well as students with learning disabilities like dyslexia, get the best education possible. The organization, which initially started in 1948 to record audio books for veterans, now makes audio books and other solutions specifically to help students. It also offers a community support system for parents, teachers and students from kindergarten to 12th grade. In addition, Learning Ally provides resources to help students make the transition to college, so they can succeed on campus. 

Additional reporting by Brittney Morgan (Helmrich).

Adam C. Uzialko

Adam received his Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Journalism & Media Studies at Rutgers University. He worked for a local newspaper and freelanced for several publications after graduating college. He can be reached by email, or follow him on Twitter.