Charitable giving

Before you give to a charity, do some research. Every charity spends donations differently. There are great databases to let you know if it’s a charity that spends its money wisely.

Charity Navigator

This is a great resource that you can search for free. The organization uses a star system and gives you a good financial snapshot of the charity without registering.

This is a more in-depth tool.  You are able to view the IRS tax forms for yourself and make your own independent decision on giving. Registration is free and the tax forms will tell you the top salaried positions and their wages along with other detailed information on how the organization spends and invests its money.

Better Business Bureau logo.

Image via Wikipedia

Better Business Bureau Charity Guide

The Better Business Bureau also has a charity rating system. The BBB sets standards to be considered an accountable charity. It’s a searchable database similar to the BBB’s complaint database. You simply type in the charity, and you get a snapshot of the financial expenses, highest paid salary, and whether they meet any or all of the BBB charitable standards.

State Registration
In some states, charities have to register and offer copies of their tax forms. Some states make this registration easy to access with databases. While it doesn’t give you a lot of information, the database in Missouri and Kansas lets you know if the charity is registered. The information provided online is often basic in nature.

Missouri Check a Charity
Note: In Missouri a charity does not have to register.

Kansas Charity Check

The organization may also be searchable in the database provided by the Secretary of State.

Many organizations are exempt from filing IRS forms and registering so don’t assume the charity is not legitimate if the company is not included in these databases.

At the very least, ask the organization how it spends its money and be leery of organizations that spend a significant amount of its revenue on fundraising rather than the mission of the organization.


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