What Are The Best And Worst Charities To Donate To?

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Person holding ball of moneyLooking to get a charity tax deduction? How do you know which are the best and worst charities to donate to? It’s not so much which are the best causes (as that could be highly debatable and subjective), but rather what’s the best use of your hard-earned money and return on your dollar? Is your money going to have a large impact and make a difference in the cause or will it go to waste on expensive overhead or unnecessary spending? We’ll share with you a little more about charitable donations tax deductions and our top picks for the best charities to give to (as well as those not to give to).

Most Effective Charities To Donate To

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of worthwhile causes all over the world that need financial support. Whether it be a call from your alma mater, a radio ad for a veteran’s hospital or a postcard from your local pet shelter.

So many good causes are attempting to tug at your heart strings and fight for a piece of your wallet. But with so many options, how do you know which are the most efficient charities and best bang for your buck?

Do Your Research Before Donating

Some organizations have catchy names that make them seem like they’re legit but be careful. A little homework can go a long way. You can do your own digging around but to save time here are a few reputable websites you can reference:

  1. CharityWatch
  2. Charity Navigator
  3. BBB Wise Giving Alliance

These three sites tell you everything from how they raise (and spend) money, to their transparency with the public and governorship within the organization. They examine charities regularly and give them a grade or rating that can be used to evaluate whether or not they are worthy of your money.

Guidestar is another useful database that gives you financial data of nonprofits (on their 990 form required by the IRS), board and operations staff listings, and results. You can search for information on a specific organization or use it to get ideas by putting in criteria including geography and cause type. It’s free to create an account to see details, and you can upgrade if you’re interested in additional features.

We’ve researched these resources, and additional sites like Consumer Reports, to compile a list of the best charities to donate to for you.

Best Charities To Donate To

Below are our top picks for good charities to donate to based on what we consider to be the most efficient charities (ie. they make the best use of your hard-earned dollars).

These organizations are selected for their high ratings and the large percentage of money spent on programs and the communities they serve (versus administrative costs and salaries, for example, dollars the charities themselves never see). So, you can be confident that your donation will be put to good use.

These groups came up consistently as best, A-rated companies, but if you’re looking for a more comprehensive list by category of best (and worst) check out this list from Consumer Reports from December 2016.

Worst Charities To Donate To

And now here’s our list of worst charities. What makes them so bad? Many factors including how little they actually contribute back to their mission and cause.

Some of these give a measly 2% towards those efforts and upwards of 70% on salaries, professional fundraisers and marketing. These came up on nearly every list we found, so be careful before you fork over dollars (more like pennies) to these groups.

  • American Breast Cancer Foundation
  • Association for Firefighters & Paramedics
  • Children’s Wish Foundation
  • Firefighters Charitable Foundation
  • Kids Wish Network
  • The Veterans Fund

Many of the lowest-rated companies we found are very vague and involve children, cancer/illness, veterans or firefighters. And be cautious of scams and knock off charities of more well-established, successful organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Are Donations Tax Deductible?

Tax deductible donations and how much you get back depends on a number of factors including your tax bracket. However, charitable giving can be a wise decision not only for moral but financial reasons as well. However, don’t just assume a charity is a non-profit. Unless they are registered as a 501(c)(3) they are not technically tax-exempt and therefore your donation is not tax deductible.

Video: Giving Tips For Tax Deductible Donations

The end of the year is often a popular time to give money and make a charity tax deduction. Watch this quick minute and a half video from Time that shares some things you should keep in mind when doing charitable donations for tax deductions.

Don’t forget to include charitable donations when preparing your budget for the year. Need a little help with your finances? Check out our online finance tracking article to easily and affordably keep your books straight.

What charities are you considering donating to and why?

About The Author:

Sadie has a bachelor’s in communications and minor in business from the University of Texas at Austin. She has been writing about, researching and a user of security and smart home technology since 2012. As an early adapter and avid user of gadgets, she’s not only well-versed in how to use them but also passionate about helping others integrate them into their lives and homes.

Having lived in various urban neighborhoods in major cities, she has experienced her share of property crimes over the years; from car break-ins to stolen bikes. As a result, she’s extra cautious when it comes to protecting herself and her property.

Her expertise has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Forbes, People, Reader's Digest, Apartment Therapy, and other regional news organizations.

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Julia Koehler
March 25, 2018 3:46 pm

I just want to tell as many people as possible that I am so disgusted with the marketing for charities that I have decided not to donate at all to any of them. The buying and selling of names and addresses dis more than tolerable and also disgusting I have enough address labels to paper my whole house and most mail is on line. Get with the times!!! I am disgusted with all of the waste of resources. I get as least 3 or more requests for donations per day, If I sent only $1.00t o each I would not pay my bills or eat my self. The only people profiting at this are the marketing folks who bill the organisation that it has convinced to employ them. I have only 2 or 3 causes that i will support and I will just through away all of the many requests I receive daily. This so abusive that I just cannot say enough about it. Stop the abuse of resources!!!

Ghanshyam Parikh
November 25, 2019 6:21 pm
Reply to  Julia Koehler

So true. However, as long as most goes to the right people and causes, it is worth it to donate. I will take a loss on few (crooks). So I do my hoem work and donate to about 10-12 organizations.

Kimberly Alt
March 26, 2018 9:06 am
Reply to  Julia Koehler

We completely understand where you are coming from. Personally, I would prefer organizations to use that money to help with its cause instead of send out all the junk mail and address labels. But to be fair, I haven’t researched that enough to make a fully informed decision and perhaps that’s a profitable way for them to obtain more donations. I would be frustrated too if I were receiving three or more requests for donations per day.

My favorite charity to donate to is the ALS Association. I am passionate about the cause since my mother died from ALS in 2017 and I agree with the way the organization conducts donations. (You can read more about ALS on our sister site, Exploring Life’s Mysteries.)

I think it’s important for everyone to find a charity they can rally behind and donate money or time to periodically as they are able to. For me personally, it feels good to give to others and know that my donations could help find a cure for a terrible disease. I hope to see a cure in my lifetime so no more families have to watch a loved one suffer from ALS.

December 8, 2017 5:15 pm

If you happen to have an older car that you’d like to donate I would recommend Donate Car Online. They’re super experienced with vehicle donations of all sorts. They are readily available to answer any questions you might have. They typically fix up the vehicles they receive and they donate them back to the communities they serve. If you’re interested visit their website to learn a bit more about them.

Mike Rickard
December 3, 2017 12:19 am

So all the other sites I checked say that the Salvation Army is one of the best charities but you say they are one of the worst because you believe they are homophobic. Keep your personal beliefs out of it and rate them on their merit. Let’s see if you keep this comment up since you apparently deleted my first one.

Kimberly Alt
December 4, 2017 9:46 am
Reply to  Mike Rickard

Hi Mike, thanks for your comment. First, we didn’t delete your previous comment, it was pending moderation. We require moderation of comments to make sure spamming comments aren’t made and to ensure no one is being bullied or inappropriate language is used. Both this comment and your first comment were pending, so we chose to publish only one of them since they were nearly identical.

As for Salvation Army, I’m a bit confused where you’re coming from with your comment. We don’t mention Salvation Army in our article, so we aren’t sure where the context behind your comment is coming from. Perhaps you read another company’s article and accidentally commented on our’s?

November 26, 2017 5:50 pm

its not enough information , why isnt there a list with those 3 charity watchers signing off on them ? And why is it legal to steal ?

June 23, 2017 6:42 pm

So crazy (and sad) that some charities are scams! Thanks for sharing