Make Charity Donations Count

For many, the holiday season is a time to give not only to friends and family but also to those in need. In fact, 40 percent of charitable contributions are made in the last few weeks of the year. Consumer Reports has found that some charities spend very little on the causes they promote. How can you determine whether a charity is worthy of your hard-earned dollars?

Another increasingly common way to give is buying from companies that donate part of the sales to charity. The downside—the company gets the tax deduction, not you. And it can be hard to determine how much money from the sales actually will go to the charity.

Consumer Reports says to do some homework before donating. Two reliable watchdog websites that are free—CharityNavigator.org, and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, at give.org—let you know how much money charities give to the services and programs they support, and how much goes for administrative costs and fundraising.

Some of your favorite charities might not be rated on those national sites because they’re too small or too local. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give to them. You just should do more research.

First step: Check out the charity’s website to see its mission and accomplishments. And consider volunteering first. It’s a great way to ask questions and get to know the charity from the inside.

Another way to go is to give through a nonprofit fundraising federation, such as United Way, that checks out the charities it represents before allowing them to participate.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on ConsumerReports.org.

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