Is there a word besides humanitarian which we could use to describe any organization (non-profit, charity, volunteer, or otherwise) whose explicit purpose is to help people? Is that precisely what humanitarian is for?

I associate the phrase humanitarian organization with things like UNICEF and the Gates Foundation, and other big organizations that do their work at a large scale; I do not know if it should or should not apply to smaller organizations, or even to individuals who work towards goals that might be considered humanitarian.

What are your thoughts?

  • How broadly do you want to define "help people"? And what do you find inadequate about thesaurus suggestions like charitable or philanthropic? Note too that some terms have legal definitions in different countries.
    – choster
    Mar 26, 2015 at 20:58
  • 1
    charitable also works. Mar 26, 2015 at 22:26
  • 1
    Pretty much all "NGOs" fall into this category.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 27, 2015 at 0:11

3 Answers 3


Any work marked by humanistic values and devotion to human welfare, regardless of its size and impact, could be termed "humanitarian".

A humanitarian is a person concerned with the welfare of mankind.

As an adjective, humanitarian is used to describe something or someone who displays the characteristics of someone concerned with human welfare.

  • "The humanitarian project was developed to help women become self-sufficient in third world countries."



Best resource, bar none, for finding and separating synonyms, IMO:

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms: A Dictionary of Discriminated ...

See "charitable" and related synonyms on pp. 140-141

  • Since links are unstable, it's best to provide an excerpt or summary of the external resource. This is true across StackExchange.
    – choster
    Mar 27, 2015 at 0:03

I would suggest "service organization".

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