Donating money to a charity in someone’s name is an excellent way to spread the warm fuzzies at Christmas. And in these tough economic times, when everyone’s feeling the squeeze, that gift could mean more than ever.
Giving to a large charity like the Ronald McDonald House or a local program, like a community food bank, is always a safe bet. But what about a lesser-known charity? How can you be sure your money’s really going to help the cause?
Just a few clicks on these easy-to-use Web sites makes checking out a charity a breeze. Here’s where to look before writing that check:
Charity Navigator is an independent evaluator that ranks more than 5,300 charities based on their financial health. The site ranks charities based on a number of factors, among them how much money is spent to raise money and how effectively charities retain talented fundraisers. You can use this site to help determine how well charities are using donations, as well as to find out whether they’re in danger of going under.
The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance doesn’t rank charities. Instead, it pulls together information, such as the charity’s expenses for a year, its fundraising methods and financial summaries to help you make an informed decision.
Guidestar doesn’t rank charities either, but it does provide a wealth of information. It compiles all of the financial documents that charities are required to file with the federal government and puts them online for easy access.