Check Your Charities, Then GIVE

678948_33343200SO there are all sorts of philanthropic pitfalls and landmines out there, difficult to navigate at times…when you think you are giving to a good cause but the money goes to something beyond what you bargained for, and perhaps something in which you don’t believe or can’t support (hello Salvation Army!)

Since so many of us have the holiday spirit of giving front and center these days, and perhaps a few more of us are thinking ahead to April 15 and want to be sure we get charitable donations handled for the tax season…be sure you know where your hard-earned dollars are going. Use a little filtering before you hit SEND on your computer, or sign that check (if anyone still has checks), or drop your change into the bell ringer’s bucket.

Use charity evaluation agencies who oversee the publicly required reports and practices of non-profit and charitable organizations, and give ratings based on their criteria (not all agencies share the same categories for their report cards…it can’t hurt to cross-reference). Make sure you feel good about doing good, this year and every year.

Find a great list of websites after the jump to help you make these important decisions…

Charity Navigator is the largest charity evaluator in the United States, used by millions of donors, and they have lots of lists and categories so you will probably find a few new organizations with which you share your passions.

The American Institute of Philanthropy has a “Charity Rating Guide and Watchdog Report” that covers about 600 organizations and how they use the funds they raise.

The Better Business Bureau has a rating category for charities, searchable by name or category…make sure there are no complaints against the groups you support.

GiveWell has a thorough research and ratings system for the charities they explore, with plenty of confidence-building transparency in the criteria they use to reach their findings.

GuideStar has a deep database of non-profits, and updates frequently as organizations come into better (or slip away from) compliance with their mission statements.

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