~ helpful hints for holiday giving from charity navigator ~

From their website:

America's charities, and more importantly, those they serve, need your support. And, as you can tell when you open your mailbox at this time of the year, they aren’t afraid to ask for it. But your support will do little to improve our world unless we all commit to pursuing responsible and informed philanthropy.

We offer the following 5-step checklist to help you maximize your holiday donations:

  • Review last year’s charitable investments: Before making new plans, take a look at the charities you supported last year to find out what they’ve accomplished. You’re not looking for a list of itemized expenses, but instead a progress report. If a charity in your giving portfolio can’t tell you what kind of results they created from your investment, then replace it with one that will.
     
  • Be specific: As you consider which charities to support this year, remember that there are roughly one million of them. That means you don’t have to settle for an organization that isn’t a perfect match for your beliefs and goals. No matter what cause you want to support — whether it is providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian refugees, helping our returning troops find work or finding a cure for a particular disease — there’s a charity out there that matches your intentions. Take the time to find it and confirm (not just assume) it offers the programs and services that match your charitable interests.
     
  • Look under the hood: Before you give to any charity this holiday season, be sure to check that the charity meets these three criteria..
    • Examine the charity’s finances: Financially healthy organizations - those that are both financially efficient and sustainable - have greater flexibility and freedom to pursue their charitable mission..
    • Ensure the charity is accountable and transparent: Charities that are an open book and that follow good governance practices less likely to engage in unethical or irresponsible activities.
    • Look for signs of effectiveness: The charity's ability to bring about long lasting and meaningful change in the world is the key reason for their existence so make sure you find evidence of its impact.   
  • Donate online: If you want to deduct your charitable contributions on your 2015 tax return, you have until December 31st to make your donations. Online giving at Charity Navigator offers the luxury of waiting until the last minute and the convenience of maintaining your giving records in one place, making your life easier at tax time.
     
  • Concentrate your giving: Diversification isn’t an important consideration when giving, like it is when investing in stock. A few well-placed larger donations go farther and have the potential to do more good than a wide array of smaller gifts. Besides, the bigger your gift, the more motivated you will be to do the necessary due diligence.

Learn more.

~ read the charity navigator "nice list" ~

Civil Rights and Advocacy

Highest Rated
Physicians for Reproductive Health
(New York, NY)

Animal Rights, Welfare, and Services

Highest Rated
PAWS Chicago
(Chicago, IL)

Botanical Gardens, Parks, and Nature Centers

Highest Rated
Friends of Acadia
(Bar Harbor, ME)

Children's and Family Services

Highest Rated
Forever Young Foundation
(Mesa, AZ)

Community Foundations

Highest Rated
Community Foundation of New Jersey
(Morristown, NJ)

Development and Relief Services

Highest Rated
Meds & Food for Kids
(St. Louis, MO)

Diseases, Disorders, and Disciplines

Highest Rated
FSH Society
(Lexington, MA)

Environmental Protection and Conservation

Highest Rated
Fauna & Flora International
(Chevy Chase, MD)

Food Banks, Food Pantries, and Food Distribution

Highest Rated
Midwest Food Bank
(Bloomington, IL)

Foreign Charity Support Organizations

Highest Rated
India Development and Relief Fund
(North Bethesda, MD)

Fundraising

Highest Rated
Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment
(Oakland, CA)

Homeless Services

Highest Rated
Upper Valley Haven
(White River Junction, VT)

Housing and Neighborhood Development

Highest Rated
Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties, Florida
(North Fort Myers, FL)

Humanitarian Relief Supplies

Highest Rated
Books For Africa
(St. Paul, MN)

International Peace, Security, and Affairs

Highest Rated
Synergos
(New York, NY)

Libraries, Historical Societies and Landmark Preservation

Highest Rated
The Seattle Public Library Foundation
(Seattle, WA)

Medical Research

Highest Rated
The Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research
(Bethpage, NY)

Multipurpose Human Service Organizations

Highest Rated
Higher Ground Sun Valley
(Ketchum, ID)

Museums

Highest Rated
Metropolitan Museum of Art
(New York, NY)

Non-Medical Science & Technology Research

Highest Rated
Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences
(Jamaica, NY)

Other Education Programs and Services

Highest Rated
Step Up For Students
(Jacksonville, FL)

Patient and Family Support

Highest Rated
Camp John Marc
(Dallas, TX)

Performing Arts

Highest Rated
Houston Ballet
(Houston, TX)

Private Elementary and Secondary Schools

Highest Rated
Epiphany School
(Dorchester, MA)

Private Liberal Arts Colleges

Highest Rated
Davidson College
(Davidson, NC)

Public Broadcasting and Media

Highest Rated
WYEP
(Pittsburgh, PA)

Religious Activities

Highest Rated
International Messengers
(Clear Lake, IA)

Religious Media and Broadcasting

Highest Rated
Lamb & Lion Ministries
(McKinney, TX)

Social and Public Policy Research

Highest Rated
Middle East Forum
(Philadelphia, PA)

Social Services

Highest Rated
Boca Helping Hands
(Boca Raton, FL)

Treatment and Prevention Services

Highest Rated
Community Volunteers in Medicine
(West Chester, PA)

Universities, Graduate Schools, and Technological Institutes

Highest Rated
University of Tulsa
(Tulsa, OK)

Wildlife Conservation

Highest Rated
Wildlife Conservation Network
(San Francisco, CA)

Youth Development, Shelter, and Crisis Services

Highest Rated
Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix
(Phoenix, AZ)

Zoos and Aquariums

Highest Rated
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
(Clearwater, FL)

See who made the naughty list.