How to Find the Best Charities

If you're looking to donate money to charity, especially after the devastating tornadoes that hit Joplin, Mo., there are a number of online services that can help.

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For the first in my life, I’m beginning to donate money to charity. But it’s been tough to find organizations that match my ideals. Plus, I’m never sure which groups will make the best use of my money. Fortunately, there are some handy web-based tools to help folks find great causes to support.

For instance, Charity Navigator evaluates over 5,000 U.S.-based charities, providing mission statements, ratings of financial efficiency, donor reviews, and current news. You can search for charities by name or keyword, or you can browse a variety of top 10 lists. Charity Navigator also gives info on timely topics, like lending assistance to victims of the Joplin, Mo., tornado. [time-link title=”(See photos of devastating tornadoes ripping through Joplin)” url=,29307,2067604,00.html]

Elsewhere, Givewell also offers charity reviews and recommendations. They list their top-rated charities, categorize charities by cause, and provide a primer for people like me, who are just beginning to donate their time and money to charitable causes. One outstanding feature at Givewell is a list of mistakes the company has made. This sort of transparency is refreshing.

Good Intentions is a different kind of site. Rather than help users find charities to support, it tries to teach people how to donate. From the promo material:

If assistance is done poorly it can hurt the very people it is supposed to help. Accurate information and sound practices are also crucial to smart aid. This website provides readers with the knowledge, tools, and resources they need to ensure that their donations match their good intentions.

The American Institute of Philanthropy also offers charity ratings and tips for giving wisely.

By using these tools, and by talking with friends and colleagues, I’ve tracked down a few causes I can support, including Charity: Water, Room to Read, and Edge of Seven. My donations may be small to begin with, but I hope to give more as time goes by.

For more on this subject, check out Nicholas Kristof’s “Getting Smart on Aid” at The New York Times. [time-link title=”(See photos of signs from Joplin)” url=,29307,2074202,00.html]