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Best and Worst Charities for Your Donations

Cancer Cells Helping-Others

This is the season for charitable giving. Before you write a check you need to do a charity check up. A sad reality is that not all nonprofits put their money into their mission. This year at the Federal Trade Commission from every state charged for cancer charities with defrauding consumers of more than 187 million. Instead of helping cancer patients, the heads of Cancer Fund of America common Cancer Support Services, Children's Cancer Fund of America, and the Breast Cancer Society allegedly funnel donations into luxury cruises, college tuition for family members, gym memberships, sport and concert tickets, and even dating website memberships.

The president of the Better Business Bureau warns consumers about solicitations for humanitarian help. There is also the concern that without being fraudulent, many charities routinely spend a larger amount of their donors’ dollars on administrative costs than on the programs that benefit people in need.

It is important to make smart decisions on your gifts. Before you donate, check out organizations you're considering which charity watchdogs where you can tell if your dollars will have the greatest impact. The three major ones are: the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and Charity Watch. These three evaluate charities by looking at a number of factors, which includes how much of your donation actually reaches the cause.

To get the approval of the Wise Giving Alliance, an organization must spend at least 65% of their donations on the charitable program activities and the fundraising costs cannot exceed 35%. Charity Watch gives his top rating to only a third of the more than 600 charities it evaluates. Charity Navigator looks at 8000 organizations and rates them. It provides easy-to-follow lists as the 10 top and the 10 lowest rated charities. We looked for agreement on the positive and negative traits among these three major watchdogs. Sometimes there was only agreement by two. We left out highly rated charities that obtain income from the government such as Save the Children.

To be able to detect charity scams is not always easy. It is difficult to tell when the solicitation comes either through email or by the phone weather is legitimate. The Federal Trade Commission says these signs should make you suspicious:

  1. The charity cannot provide details about how donations are used.
  2. The caller cannot provide proof like a federal tax ID number that it's a qualified charity and your donation is tax-deductible.
  3. You’re pushed to donate immediately.
  4. You're asked to wire a donation.
  5. You’re thanked for a pledge you never made to convince you, you already agreed to donate.
Be especially skeptical of charitable solicitations that come by email if you haven't signed up to receive electronic communications from the organization the email comes from. Many scams use the names and logos of legitimate charitable entities to trick you into giving money. Even when you see a heart-wrenching picture of a wounded warrior or a mournful -looking animal, do not automatically click through to any link. Respond with your head, not your heart and check the organization out with a charity watchdog website. If the organization is real but poorly rated, there's no need to investigate further, just don't give. Here are some of the best and the worst charities:
Cause High-rated Low-rated
Animal welfare Pet Smart Charities, Phoenix Animal Welfare Institute, Washington, D.C. SPCA International, N.Y. Tiger Missing Link Foundation, Tyler, Texas
Blind and visually impaired Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Smithtown, N.Y. Seva Foundation, Berkeley, Calif. American Council of the Blind, Arlington, Va. Heritage for the Blind, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Cancer Cancer Research Institute, N.Y. Breast Cancer Research Foundation, N.Y. American Association for Cancer Support, Knoxville, Tenn. Cancer Survivors' Fund, Missouri City, Texas
Child protection Children's Defense Fund, Washington, D.C. Prevent Child Abuse America, Chicago The Committee for Missing Children, Lawrenceville, Ga. Find the Children, Santa Monica, Calif.
Environment Earthworks, Washington, D.C. Environmental Defense Fund, N.Y. Gaia-Movement Living Earth . Green World Action USA, Chicago
Health Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, New York. American Kidney Fund, Rockville, Md. Heart Center of America, Knoxville, Tenn. Childhood Leukemia Foundation, Brick, N.J.
Human services American Red Cross, Washington, D.C. Farm Aid, Cambridge, Mass. Shiloh International Ministries, La Verne, Calif. Children Charity Fund, Sarasota, Fla.
International relief and development American Refugee Committee, Minneapolis, Minn. International Rescue Committee, N.Y. Planet Aid, Milford, Mass. Salesian Missions, New Rochelle, N.Y.
International relief and development American Refugee Committee, Minneapolis, Minn. International Rescue Committee, N.Y. Planet Aid, Milford, Mass. Salesian Missions, New Rochelle, N.Y.
Mental health and disabilities Alzheimer's Foundation of America, N.Y.  American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, N.Y. Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation, Schererville, Ind. National Caregiving Foundation, Alexandria, Va.
Police and firefighter support Concerns of Police Survivors, Camdenton, Mo. FDNY Foundation, Brooklyn, N.Y. Disabled Police Officers Counseling Center, Niceville, Fla. Firefighters Charitable Foundation, Farmingdale, N.Y.
Veterans Homes for Our Troops, Taunton, Mass. Operation Homefront, San Antonio National Veterans Services Fund, Darien, Conn. National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, Washington, D.C.