Charity Navigator

There is such a huge array of non-profit organizations and charities, each of which desperately needs volunteers and donations, but it can be awfully hard to determine where you can invest your dollars and/or hours most wisely. Anyone can build a website and call themselves charitable. In the United States, a 501(c)(3) company has gone through the necessary steps to be registered and recognized as a non-profit organization (and your donations and volunteer time are most often tax-deductible to these charities).

Non-profit status is not the only benchmark for validity, and there are some for-profit organizations, or newer ones that have not yet been granted non-profit status, that do amazing work. For over 5,000 charities registered in the United States, there is a terrific resource to help you navigate the philanthropic terrain out there. Charity Navigator is a website that allows you to look up the history of a charity’s giving and their effectiveness. Charity Navigator’s rating system examines two broad areas of a charity’s financial health — how responsibly it functions day to day as well as how well positioned it is to sustain its programs over time. Each charity is then awarded an overall rating, ranging from zero to four stars. To help donors avoid becoming victims of mailing-list appeals, each charity’s commitment to keeping donors’ personal information confidential is assessed. The site is easily navigable by charity name, location, or type of activity and also features opinion pieces by Charity Navigator experts, donation tips, and top-10 and bottom-10 lists that rank efficient and inefficient organizations in a number of categories.

There are plenty of tools to help you vet an organization that has inspired you, and this is a great tool to have in your box. Always make sure you know where your hard-earned dollars and even harder to come by hours are going, and that it makes you proud to be giving.

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