Quilters, as a group, are generous people, and historically, there have been women’s organizations whose mission has been to supply quilts for those in need. They provide protection and warmth for those who need it, and they are reminders that someone, somewhere is thinking of the recipient.
During the past two centuries, much of women’s charitable work has emerged from involvement in church groups, which have been a socially sanctioned venue for women’s engagement with the larger world. Protestant churches have well-documented charitable quiltmaking traditions. Ricky Clark highlighted charity programs of the Ladies' Aid Societies in 19th-century Ohio in Quilts in Community: Ohio’s Traditions. Not only did quilts serve as raffle and fundraising projects to benefit the physical church, women’s groups used quilts to raise money for the church's mission work at home and abroad. Many also made quilts for victims of social injustice. The Dorcas Society made quilts for the poor.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, quiltmakers developed secular organizations with a charitable focus as well. They have made quilts to support relief societies during war time and to help the needy. Over the last twenty years, charitable quiltmaking has exploded. Projects range from making quilts regularly for neonatal units and women’s shelters to short-term efforts providing for the victims of natural tragedies like hurricanes, tsunamis, and tornadoes.
Opportunities to participate in charitable quiltmaking come from many avenues. Quilt guilds have committees to guide their charitable giving. Quilt shops create charity projects for their customers. Fabric companies have created special lines of fabric highlighting particular medical issues such as breast cancer or ovarian cancer. A portions of profits go to support medical research while quiltmakers are encouraged to use the fabrics for quilts donated to raise additional funds or provide comfort to patients. Quilt magazines have also sponsored charitable causes and launched their own charitable projects.