The holiday season is a favorite time for charitable giving. However, when embracing the spirit of the season, be sure to choose your recipient wisely. To ensure that your gifts go where they will do the most good, keep the following in mind:

  1. Make sure that the charity is the one you think it is

Many less ethical organizations take advantage of unsuspecting givers by using names that are similar to better known charities. Additionally, some charities that benefit groups local to them will canvas out of state. You may get a call from a police athletic league, for instance. However, further examination of the group may reveal that they are a league in a state far from yours that does not benefit your local community.

  1. Find out about the charity’s expenses

Some charities spend so much on salaries and daily administration that little money is left to accomplish the group’s stated goals. An efficient group will spend at about 65% of the funds collected on the charity; upon request the charity is required to provide information on how they spend their donations. Watchdog groups like Charity Navigator monitor charities to ensure that they are not spending excessive amounts on administrative costs. Even if it means delaying your gift, time spent looking into the group can help you assure that your funds are going to where they can do the most good.

  1. Ask if your gift is tax-deductible

Not all of the groups that reach out looking for donations around the holidays are properly registered charities. This will mean that any gift you make is not tax deductible. You can double check a charity’s legitimacy through either the Internal Revenue Service or with your state’s attorney general’s charity regulator. Both should maintain lists of registered charities and can provide a great deal of information about which groups are worthwhile.

  1. Ensure that you understand the charity’s work

It’s not enough to know what the charity’s mission is. You should also make sure that you agree with the way that they go about it. A group that aims to reduce homelessness, for instance, may go about their task in a way that you think is ineffective and unhelpful. Your money would be better spent supporting groups whose methods you think can make a difference.

It can take a little bit of extra time to check each group thoroughly. However, researching before you commit can help you make sure that your charitable holiday gifts can truly help those who need it.

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