Best and worst charities for your donations


Best and worst charities for your donations

Before giving to a charity, find out how your donation will be used

Published: December 15, 2014 04:30 PM

It's great to give during the holidays but make sure your donation will be well used.

'Tis the season for charitable giving. But some nonprofits with great-sounding names don’t put enough of their money toward their mission. To be sure your generosity counts, do some homework before you make a donation. Look for reports or commentary at the three major charity watchdogs: the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and CharityWatch. Read the reviews and comments from donors and charity professionals, such as the ones you'll find at Charity Navigator and GuideStar.

Also, check a charity’s website for information about the group’s mission and achievements and read the donor privacy policy.

For more advice on giving to charity, read "Make Sure Your Donation Counts" and "Don't Donate Blindly to Police and Fire Groups."

Below are examples of high- and low-rated charities in various categories. We looked for agreement—on positive and negative traits—among the three major watchdogs. Because not every group is evaluated by all three watchdogs, we relied in some cases on agreement by just two. In some categories, we could not find two high-rated or low-rated charities that the watchdogs agreed upon, or we had to include local groups. We also left out highly rated charities that CharityWatch says obtain a considerable amount of income from the government (such as Save the Children).

Cause High-rated Low-rated
Animal welfare

PetSmart Charities, Phoenix


RedRover, Sacramento

SPCA International, New York


Tiger Missing Link Foundation, Tyler, Texas

Blind and visually


Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Smithtown, N.Y.


Foundation Fighting Blindness, Columbia, Md.

Heritage for the Blind, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Cancer Research Institute, New York


The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, Norwalk, Conn.

American Breast Cancer Foundation, Baltimore


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.


Earthworks, Washington, D.C.


Environmental Defense Fund, New York


Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research,
New York


Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, New York

Defeat Diabetes Foundation, Madeira Beach, Fla.


Childhood Leukemia Foundation, Brick, N.J.

Human services

American Red Cross, Washington, D.C.


Catholic Charities USA, Alexandria, Va.

Shiloh International Ministries, La Verne, Calif.


Children’s Charity Fund, Sarasota, Fla.

International relief

and development

Grameen Foundation USA, Washington, D.C.


Lutheran World Relief, Baltimore

The Aidmatrix Foundation, Irving, Texas


Children’s Lifeline, Clay City, Ky.

Mental health

and disabilities

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, New York


American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, New York

Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation, Schererville, Ind.


National Caregiving Foundation, Alexandria, Va.

Police and firefighter support

New York City Police Foundation, New York


FDNY Foundation, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Disabled Police Officers Counseling Center, Niceville, Fla.


Firefighters Charitable Foundation, Farmingdale, N.Y.


Homes for Our Troops, Taunton, Mass.


Operation Homefront, San Antonio

National Veterans Services Fund, Darien, Conn.


National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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