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Laura Mego

The beginning of December usually means one of several things to most people:

1. Yes!  Great Lakes Christmas Ale season is here again!  (oops, is that just us…?)

2. Crap, now I have to think about what Great Aunt Edna wants for Christmas.

3. Ermahgerd! Menorahs! Eggnog!  Mistletoe!

4. Wow, I should squeeze that charity donation in before the end of the year…

If you’re inclined to put off your charitable giving until the end of the year, you need to check out

Charity Navigator is 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping others evaluate charitable organizations.  They assign each charity a score from 0-4 stars based upon their financial health, accountability, and transparency.  The financial health score  is based upon several factors, including total administrative costs, the organization’s fundraising effectiveness (how much they spend to fundraise v. how much they actually make when they do) and even a breakdown of top officers’ salaries in the organization.  Accountability and transparency scores for a charity are based upon it’s willingness to share data regarding the effectiveness of the organization and it’s financial decisions.

These are great if you already know an organization you’d like to check up on, but the genius of lies in its search tools.   They curate numerous Top Ten lists of charities and offer the ability to search for an organization by star rating, location, or services provided.  For example,  you can search for a 4 star charity that focuses on literacy in the New York City area.

Lastly, their Tips and Resources section is a wealth of information.  For those who don’t donate frequently, they provide information about the tax benefits of donation, and they have guides for donating larger items like cars or other noncash goods.  Post-Sandy, their tips for giving in times of crisis are particularly relevant.

Check out their website for more details, and enjoy that eggnog!

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