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Giving Tuesday (or any day): How to check out a charity

You don't have to sift through a lot of paperwork. This is a quick 2-minute check.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Whether it’s Giving Tuesday or any day, you want your money to be used in a way that gives the most to the people or pets or “thing” you’re giving to.  

"Charities differ a lot in how much of the money they raise goes for programs instead of covering the expense of raising money. Effective charities devote much more of their operating budget to the services they provide than to their other expenditures, like salaries and marketing costs,” said Margot Gillman, Consumer Reports Editor.

You can find charities that meet those benchmarks on several websites including Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. There are different benchmarks to look for on each site. But the basic rule of thumb is any charity that spends 75% or more on services or programs, is using their money efficiently.

Charity Navigator:

you'll put in the charity name, and since we're doing another story with the Interactive Resource Center, this is our example.

 When you get on the page for the charity, you'll see an overall score. The IRC gets a 100 out of 100. There are several criteria, the main one is financing. Scroll down on the page and you'll see a finances breakout and overview, click on Programs and it gives you a handy pie graph to look at. Again, the most efficient charities spend at least 75% on services and you can see the IRC meets that threshold.

The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance works similarly. 

You will see which categories the charity met the criteria for Governance, Finances, Effectiveness of the charity, and the Board make-up. You can read about each more in detail on their site.

One last tidbit here. Watch for frees. 
Online giving platforms and crowdfunding websites often charge payment processing fees, perhaps 3% or
more, and that money that isn't going to charity.
Instead, consider giving the old fashioned way with a check.