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How Do You Determine Which Charities to Donate To?

It seems like everyone has their favorite personal charity. I’ve spoken about the need to donate more to charity, but this takes it a step further in the process. It may be because of an illness to a family member or a personal cause we’re attached to, but once we donate to our first choices, how do we determine what we should give our money to?

There are a lot of deserving charities, but how to we sift through them all and figure our who should get our hard earned money?

We could give to something like Love Drop, but how do we know if they use the money properly? (I know J$ puts the money to good use and has been doing some AWESOME stuff over there)

One great source for judging charities is Charity Navigator. They give ratings of zero to four stars to charities based on their operational efficiency and their financial well-being. It can be a great way to find out whether the charity you’re giving to is doing a good job of keeping costs low and putting your money to good work. With all things being equal, Wouldn’t you rather give money to a charity that puts the largest percentage of your money to good use?

Readers, how do you determine which charities to donate money to? What research do you do to find out if charities are using your donations properly?



  1. We pick causes that we are passionate about and that we get a tax receipt for. I figure if they give receipts they should be legit.

  2. If I have personal experience with the charity, if someone I know promotes it or speaks highly of it, I will consider it. I always use Charity Navigator to make sure everything is on the up and up.

  3. I investigate a charity before I donate. I am a longtime supporter of Smile Train because they are very aware and want every penny to go to helping children. I think most charities mean well, but sometimes things slip throught the cracks. To counter this, Smile Train meets with an independent medical board through out the year just to be sure there are no new developments or ways to improve. I feel completely comfortable donating to an organization like that.

  4. I give to the charities that I feel passionate about when I can afford to. Eventually, there will be a “charitable donations” section built into my budget.

    The way that I research the charities that I give to is to be involved. I volunteer for causes that speak to my passions, things that I think will be fun. By the time I start giving money, I’ve been intimately involved in the organization and know how things work.

    Volunteering is an awesome way to give back, meet people with the same interests, gain experience, and have fun doing it.

  5. I also promote charities by forwarding emails, posting flyers on my Facebook, and telling friends about it. I can’t always afford to give when there’s a need, but oftentimes friends will be able to.

    • @Amy Lou, That’s a great idea, that even if we aren’t fortunate enough to donate at that moment, we can do our part to spread the word. If someone donates to a cause because we put it out there, isn’t that just as good?

  6. I donate based on emotion. Helpless animals and people get most of my donated money and time (via the HSPCA, Pughearts, and Meals on Wheels). NPR gets a membership amount from me every year as well since they are who I listen to during my commutes.

    My husband thinks that Alzheimer’s is the scariest common disease, so he donates to the Alzheimer’s Association.

  7. CharityNavigator. Awesome resource. I used to donate to Susan Komen until I heard they were spending money on sending their lawyers on anyone using the pink ribbon sign! Seriously? So that’s how my money is being spent, on lawyers?

    And the sad thing is when they got called out, they were not even repentent.

    Some of the CEO salaries of ‘so called’ charities are outrageous!

    Sad and disappointing actually. These days I stick to local soup kitchens. Atleast I can ‘see’ my money being put to good use.

  8. I typically try to donate to something that I can personally see the effects of – so I try to stay away from large national organizations. I focus on people who are doing good in my community, and try to support them with whatever they need.

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