How to Find Good Charities to Donate to During the Holidays

Updated: March 15, 2019
Whether you’re a lifelong donor to charities or are just finding your footing to donate wisely, there are resources to help. These are the best resources in your city.
young boy making holiday donation

Aside from gifting to family and friends during the holidays, giving back to strangers can be just as much, if not more rewarding. However, it can be overwhelming at times to pick the right charity to donate your money or goods to, and even more so one that will put your monetary donation toward the cause and operations you are trying to help.

Whether you’re a lifelong donor to charities or are just finding your footing to donate wisely, there are resources to help.

More: How to Become a Charitable Family

GuideStar

GuideStar is the world’s largest database for those who are part of a nonprofit and for those looking to donate to charities. With comprehensive breakdowns for thousands of charities including a summary, list of programs, financials, and operations information, GuideStar provides statistics, IRS tax documents, and self-reported impact statements, to make deep diving into every charity understandable and digestible.

There are additional resources available on the website that aim to help increase your understanding of different nonprofits and the causes you care about, including reports on the financial health of the United States nonprofit sector, veteran-focused organizations, and more.

Philanthropedia

As a division of GuideStar, Philanthropedia breaks down charities by the different causes you care about most, as rated by nonprofit experts. With over 3100 experts surveying 780+ nonprofits across 36 causes, they determine the high-impact nonprofits you should be donating to, by cause.

These causes are broken down by category: disaster relief, local and domestic causes, national causes, and international causes, so you can narrow down which organization is best based on what you are most passionate about.

Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator works with you to help you gift intelligently, and shine light on charities that disperse donations directly and effectively. The methodology behind their brand uses a ranking system that factors in financial health based off of IRS documents, and accountability and transparency to assess whether or not the charity is putting out accurate and clear critical information.

The site is clear and easy to navigate, giving you the ability to search through an alphabetical listing of all the charities on their site, which have the state they are based in next to the name for easy state-by-state searching.

They have a variety of top ten lists on their website to further categorize, including top ten celebrity-related charities, charities relying on private contributions, charities worth watching, and more.

If there is a specific local or international crisis that you’d like to directly donate to, such as the California wildfires, Hurricane Michael or the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, you can explore the hot topics tab.

Additionally, if you are interested in donating non-cash items including cars or personal belongings, volunteering locally, or are not sure how to navigate tax season after making these donations, Charity Navigator has just about everything covered for you.

GiveWell

Instead of classifying charities into categories of “good” or “bad,” GiveWell has a curated list available on their website of charities they currently recommend donating to, based on the following criteria: evidence of effectiveness, room for more funding, transparency, and cost-effectiveness.

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While the focus of the recommended charities are on interventions in developing countries overseas, it is backed with robust evidence on their website that your dollar goes further overseas addressing the need for direct aid over root causes of poverty.

CharityWatch

Formerly known as the American Institute of Philanthropy, CharityWatch provides information about a charity’s accountability, fundraising, governance, financial efficiency and more.

The website offers an easy to follow A+ to F grading scale to rate nonprofits, and breaks down how your money will be used, while also advocating for donor interests and abuses in the nonprofit sector. They also have a blog with featured topics including holiday-specific donating, how to protect your private information when donating, and more.

You can easily search for charity by category or name and learn more about each one including press mentions and media, notes from analysts about their overall transparency, and more.

While it can definitely be overwhelming to figure out what charities you’d like to donate to, it’s generally best to start with narrowing down how you’d like to make your impact. Are you passionate about animal welfare or consumer protection? Are there charities in your area that could directly benefit from noncash donations such as canned foods and clothing? Or maybe there’s a charity you’re passionate about locally that you can give your time to, such as serving food or teaching a course at a women’s center.

Your donation can have a big impact with the right research into your different interests. Happy holidays and happy donating!

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