Many of the so-called charities that solicit you for donations are scams, or most of the money raised actually goes to the telemarketers and not to the charity. So how do we know that the money we donate is spent as we intend? There are several websites that can help you be a savvy contributor.
One of the most comprehensive websites to help you give wisely is Charity Navigator at http://www.charitynavigator.org/, which only analyzes and reports on public charities.
TIME Magazine has called the Charity Navigator website "One of America's 50 Coolest Websites for 2006", the site is a two-time Forbes award winner for "Best of the Web", was selected by Reader's Digest as one of the "100 Best Things about America", and was chosen by PC World as "One of America's Top Websites". In 2007, Business Week inducted Charity Navigator into its "Philanthropy Hall of Fame" for "revolutionizing the process of giving." Charity Navigator was singled out in 2006 and 2007 by Kiplinger's Financial Magazine as "One of the Best Services to Make Life Easier" and Esquire Magazine recently told its readers that using their service was one of "41 Ways to Save the World".
The website rates nonprofit charities across the country, uses pie charts and bar charts to summarize their financial data for the amount they spend on fundraising, administrative costs, and for the charity's programs, and gives the charity up to a 4-star rating. It provides tips for gift-giving, identifies the best and worst charities (you'd be surprised at some of those getting low ratings), provides guides for giving and volunteering, and allows you to look up the charity you are considering supporting, and much more, including informative videos.
As of December 2007, Charity Navigator recommended donors' support concerns that meet six criteria:
In December of 2008, President and CEO Ken Berger announced that the organization will be expanding its rating system to include measures of the outcomes of the work of charities it evaluates. This was described in further detail in a podcast for The Chronicle of Philanthropy in September of 2009. The plan for a revised rating system will also include measures of accountability (including transparency, governance and management practices), as well as outcomes (the results of the work of the charity).
The following websites are worth visiting and are invaluable in determining which charities are worthy of your support and help. Use them in good health and with an open heart, especially during this holiday season. Open your wallets, but donate to real charities (don't be scammed) and charities that are well managed, where most of your donations go to the programs you care about and want to support.