How to Choose a Charity

January 14, 2008

Choosing a charity should be easy. You find a cause you support, and you send you in your check. However it is a little more complicated than simply picking a group for your donation.

Unfortunately, like everything else in this world, unscrupulous people are out there taking advantage of kind hearted individuals. For example, anybody can build a web page and set it up to take charitable donations. But, what you read is not necessarily so. While claiming to be a foundation for helping underprivileged kids, a person can rake in a ton of money-until they get caught. Yes. The scoundrels usually get caught, but will it be before they take advantage of your pocket?

I am in no way suggesting that people cease to give to those less fortunate. But, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure your money gets where you expect it to go.

First, check out the charity. Although it can profess to be a non-profit organization, it must be registered with the Federal government. If you can claim your gift as a tax deduction, it first needs to be recognized as such. If the charity is not registered with the IRS, be leery, unless it is a community fund-raiser for an individual in need. Then, you just have to trust the people collecting the monies to spend it wisely-which bring me to my second point.

Even government-recognized charitable organizations do not always spend your donation wisely. In fact, some administrator at the top may be getting rich at the expense of the needy. Before donating to a particular charity, ask to see how your donation dollar is spent. Does only 20 cents on the dollar actually get to the needy, and the rest go for a plethora of administration costs? (Personally, I would rather send my money directly, in that case).

Of course I understand that administration costs are necessary. But, why not 20 cents on the dollar go for expenses and 80 cents actually spent on the purpose for the charity. It can be done.

For example, as a former recipient of the Shriners, I know that people who donate to their burn centers and orthopedic hospitals can expect 100% of their money to go to the children needing medical attention. Shriners pay for their own expenses.

Recently, I saw an organization on the news that sends care packages to soldiers in Iraq. I am not being in any way political here. No matter how you stand on the war, there are people who are in harm’s way, missing their families, in order to do their duty. One mother thought to start a group. Now, there are 1000s, and the workers donate out of their own pockets as well. If money is an issue, they sit down and write millions of cards or help box goods.

In short, charities are a wonderful thing and kudos to you if you give. Simply be careful.

Do you know of other charities that will spend our money wisely?



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7 Responses to How to Choose a Charity

  • Michael Nichols

    Please consider giving to your local churches. There are many ministries that are headed by people who volunteer their time and resources. The Knights of Columbus is a Roman Catholic organization with 1.8 million members worldwide dedicated to good works and informed by the principles of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism. The primary mission of the Knights of Columbus has been to protect families from the financial ruin caused by the death of the breadwinner.

  • Nicole

    I also use to find charities. Last year I gave to World Vision, Oxfam, and World Wildlife Fund. They are all rated highly. Another thing I like about them is you can donate money in other people’s names as gifts to them. I did a lot of my christmas “shopping” and charity donations at one time by making charitable gifts on behalf of many of my friends. WWF is great for that because you can adopt an animal for someone, and WWF will send them a package with a stuffed animal version of their adoptee, along with an adoption certificate. People really loved that.

  • Tina

    Thanks for all the great advice. Finding a good charity has just become a lot easier than those late night infomercials.

  • leefr

    One useful resource in locating a charity that’ll spend your money wisely is Charity Navigator . According to their website Charity Navigator is “America’s premier independent charity evaluator, works to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the financial health of over 5,300 of America’s largest charities.”
    In addition, several states also have a Charities Review Council that evaluates how well charities spend their money.

  • Donna

    Our company,, LLC, designs and manufactures greeting cards with patriotic and military themes. Many of our customers engage in troop support or veteran support efforts. As a service to our customers at, we offer links to a variety of charitable organizations engaged in such efforts.

    Arguably the most important link on our Links page, however, is to That website provides a rating feature for charities (0-5 stars) and comprehensive information about them. You can search by topic or charity name. You can learn about a charity’s mission statement, revenue and expenses, the leadership’s compensation, and, importantly, the proportion of funds going to programs versus fundraising and administrative expenses. And, you can compare charities involved in similar missions. Some charities do very well in directing funds to programs, others spend most of their funds on fundraising and/or administrative expenses.

    Whether someone wants to donate to a charity that supports troops or veterans, or to any other charity, we would suggest a visit to that site first.

  • lyndsey

    i was just reading a book i got online this week and it had a part in it about donating old stuff for tax savings and to get rid of all the clutter in the closets. it was at if you want to have a look. I am going to be doing this within the next week or so. if for no other reason than to get rid of some of the junk, and to help out others.


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