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Giving to charity is worthwhile as a way to help those less fortunate or support an important cause.  But it's not always easy to know that your hard-earned money is going to the intended cause and being used wisely.  Here are some helpful sites to reference when giving to charity.

Better Business Bureau

The BBB has created accountability standards that charities must meet in order to be included in their list.  Criteria includes: 

  • No more than 10% of board members can be compensated, the rest must be volunteer
  • At least 65 percent of funds must be spent on program activities
  • Willingness to disclose information (such as annual financial statements, including a breakdown of expenses)
  • Accuracy of solicitation and informational materials

GuideStar

GuideStar offers information about the programs and finances of more than 1.8 million IRS-recognized nonprofits. GuideStar promotes public disclosure for and about tax-exempt organizations in order to help people connect with information about America’s nonprofit community. With this information, donors of all kinds can benchmark your nonprofit's performance, research the sector, and make more informed giving decisions.

American Institute of Philanthropy

AIP is a leading charity watchdog that issues letter grade (A+ to F) ratings of nonprofit groups. These charities receive a grade based on the portion of their budget going to program services and their fundraising efficiency but also identifies wasteful or questionable practices.

Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator provides an unbiased, objective, numbers-based rating system to assess the financial health of over 5,000 of America's best-known charities. Its 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 which rank efficient and inefficient organizations in a number of categories.

You work hard for your money, so be sure to check out any charity before parting with any of it.  Also, don't forget to save your receipts, too, since charitable donations may be tax deductible.