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Holiday Giving Guide
  • Getting Started
  • Giving Tips
  • Highest and Lowest-
    Rated Charities
  • Giving Facts
  • Holiday Calendar
Giving is Good. Smart Giving is Great!

The year-end holidays are a time of religious and moral reflection that inspire many people to reach out to those who are in need. Less altruistically, but still just as important, donors need to make their end-of-year giving decisions by December 31 to qualify for a tax deduction in this calendar year. As a result, a tremendous amount of charitable giving occurs between #GivingTuesday and the end of the year.

If you choose to participate in the year-end charitable giving season, then we encourage you to take the time to ensure that your donations are doing the most good for the causes you care about. To assist you in conducting your due diligence, we’ve created this Holiday Giving Guide. In it you will find a set of five questions that donors should ask themselves before giving, a special top/bottom charity list and a set of interesting facts about charitable giving.

We wish you nothing but the best in all of your charitable endeavors this holiday season. Happy Holidays from Charity Navigator!

Did the charity get lost in the
election funding crunch?
Does the charity match your passion?
Is the charity fiscally responsible,
ethical and effective?
Does the charity have strong leadership?
Do you trust it enough to give
without strings attached?
Read our tips
The average annual household charitable donation is $2,974.
Highest and Lowest-Rated Charities by Cause

We offer the following list as a quick reference guide to the highest and lowest-rated charity in each cause that we evaluate. In providing this list, our goal is to help you navigate the crowded charitable marketplace and make intelligent giving decisions.

View the List
In its first year, Charity Navigator's Giving Basket facilitated over $7.5 million in donations, by over 18,000 donors to over 6,000 charities.
Giving Tips
 
Did the charity get lost in the
election funding crunch?

Billions of dollars were spent in the 2016 election. Unfortunately, some of this money was diverted from charities that were expecting it when their donors decided to invest in the campaigns instead. Some charities – those that are able to capitalize on the issues – actually benefit from contentious campaigns. But others suffer, including those with missions that are not forefront in the political issue discussions. Find out if your charity took a hit this year, and if so, see if you can help.

 
Does the charity match your passion?

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.

 
Is the charity fiscally responsible,
ethical and effective?

Before you give to any charity this holiday season:

 

  • 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 follow good governance practices are 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 and for your donation, so make sure you find evidence of its impact.

 

 
Do you trust it enough to give
without strings attached?

Donors sometimes like to designate their contributions for specific projects and purposes. While this may be ideal for disaster giving (such as with Hurricane Matthew), don’t be the roadblock in your favorite charity’s quest to do good work. Take the time to research your charity so that you can trust them. Then give an unrestricted gift so the charity has the flexibility to respond to changing demands for its services and to spend the money where it is most needed to continue their day-to-day good work.

 
Does the charity have strong leadership?

Good charities usually have formidable leaders, more so even than in the private sector. Look for a charity with a dynamic, proven leader. Organizations with high turnover usually struggle, and the inability to retain quality leadership is often a red flag for instability.

 
Highest and Lowest-Rated Charities
Botanical Gardens, Parks, and Nature Centers

Highest Rated

Houston Parks Board
(Houston, TX)

Lowest Rated

Venture Outdoors
(Pittsburgh, PA)

Youth Development, Shelter, and Crisis Services

Lowest Rated

California Police Youth Charities
(Roseville, CA)

Libraries, Historical Societies and Landmark Preservation

Highest Rated

American Society for Yad Vashem
(New York, NY)

Lowest Rated

CEC/Seabee Historical Foundation
(Gulfport, MS)

Wildlife Conservation

Highest Rated

California Waterfowl Association
(Roseville, CA)

WildAid
(San Francisco, CA)

Wildlife Conservation Network
(San Francisco, CA)

Lowest Rated

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
(Indian Shores, FL)

Development and Relief Services

Highest Rated

American Himalayan Foundation
(San Francisco, CA)

Asha for Education
(Walnut, CA)

Hope for Haiti's Children
(Cincinnati, OH)

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

Lowest Rated

Worldserve International
(Erie, PA)

Social and Public Policy Research

Highest Rated

Atlas Network
(Washington, DC)

Lowest Rated

Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research
(Washington, DC)

Community Foundations

Highest Rated

Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation
(Incline Village, NV)

Lowest Rated

Christian Ministries Foundation
(Brunswick, GA)

Environmental Protection and Conservation

Highest Rated

Amazon Conservation Association
(Washington, DC)

Environmental and Energy Study Institute
(Washington, DC)

Rainforest Trust
(Warrenton, VA)

Southern Environmental Law Center
(Charlottesville, VA)

Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation
(Dallas, TX)

Wild Earth Allies, Inc.
(Chevy Chase, MD)

Lowest Rated

Iditarod Trail Committee
(Wasilla, AK)

Humanitarian Relief Supplies

Highest Rated

Amigos for Christ
(Buford, GA)

Direct Relief
(Goleta, CA)

MAP International
(Brunswick, GA)

Youth Education Programs and Services

Highest Rated

Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO)
(New York, NY)

Lowest Rated

Readers Are Leaders Foundation
(Houston, TX)

Children's and Family Services

Highest Rated

Hour Children
(Long Island City, NY)

Lowest Rated

Bayith Lepleitot
(Brooklyn, NY)

Education Policy and Reform

Highest Rated

The NEA Foundation
(Washington, DC)

Lowest Rated

Partnership for Learning
(Seattle, WA)

Adult Education Programs and Services

Highest Rated

The Education Foundation of Collier County
(Naples, FL)

Lowest Rated

The Forte Foundation
(Austin, TX)

Early Childhood Programs and Services

Highest Rated

Spread the Word Nevada
(Henderson, NV)

Lowest Rated

The Child and Family Network Centers
(Alexandria, VA)

Non-Medical Science & Technology Research

Highest Rated

North Carolina Agricultural Foundation
(Raleigh, NC)

Lowest Rated

APhA Foundation
(Washington, DC)

Medical Research

Highest Rated

Arthritis National Research Foundation
(Long Beach, CA)

Cure Alzheimer's Fund
(Wellesley Hills, MA)

Foundation for the National Institutes of Health
(Bethesda, MD)

Lowest Rated

National Cancer Center
(Plainview, NY)

Animal Rights, Welfare, and Services

Highest Rated

Greenville Humane Society
(Greenville, SC)

Last Chance for Animals
(Los Angeles, CA)

Nevada Humane Society
(Reno, NV)

PAWS Chicago
(Chicago, IL)

Puppies Behind Bars
(New York, NY)

Lowest Rated

SPCA International
(New York, NY)

Jewish Federations
Religious Media and Broadcasting

Highest Rated

Hosanna/Faith Comes By Hearing
(Albuquerque, NM)

Lowest Rated

Bibles for America
(Irvine, CA)

Public Broadcasting and Media

Highest Rated

Friends of KSPS
(Spokane, WA)

Lowest Rated

Foundation for Cultural Review Inc.
(New York, NY)

Special Education

Highest Rated

Little Light House
(Tulsa, OK)

Lowest Rated

Gateways: Access to Jewish Education
(Newton, MA)

International Peace, Security, and Affairs

Highest Rated

Just Detention International
(Los Angeles, CA)

Lowest Rated

American Jewish Congress
(New York, NY)

Treatment and Prevention Services

Highest Rated

Family Health Partnership Clinic
(Crystal Lake, IL)

Lowest Rated

Just One Life/Nefesh Achat B'Yisrael
(New York, NY)

Scholarship and Financial Support

Highest Rated

Step Up For Students
(Jacksonville, FL)

Lowest Rated

The Rusty Staub Foundation
(Peabody, MA)

Homeless Services

Highest Rated

Upper Valley Haven
(White River Junction, VT)

Lowest Rated

Warren Family Mission
(Warren, OH)

Diseases, Disorders, and Disciplines

Highest Rated

GBS/CIDP Foundation International
(Narberth, PA)

Lowest Rated

Friends of MS Charities
(Salt Lake City, UT)

Housing and Neighborhood Development

Lowest Rated

Emmaus H.O.M.E.
(Orland , ME)

Multipurpose Human Service Organizations

Highest Rated

The Armory Foundation
(New York, NY)

Lowest Rated

Disabled Police Officers of America
(Niceville, FL)

Zoos and Aquariums

Highest Rated

Clearwater Marine Aquarium
(Clearwater, FL)

Lowest Rated

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo
(Omaha, NE)

Patient and Family Support

Highest Rated

Give Kids The World
(Kissimmee, FL)

Lowest Rated

Wishing Well Foundation USA
(Metairie, LA)

Advocacy and Education

Lowest Rated

American Civil Rights Union
(Alexandria, VA)

Performing Arts

Highest Rated

Lyric Opera of Kansas City
(Kansas City, MO)

Lowest Rated

Alabama Contemporary Art Center
(Mobile, AL)

United Ways

Highest Rated

United Way of Denton County
(Denton, TX)

Lowest Rated

United Way of Mercer County
(Hermitage, PA)

Religious Activities

Highest Rated

International Christian Concern
(Washington, DC)

International Messengers
(Clear Lake, IA)

The Outreach Foundation
(Franklin, TN)

Lowest Rated

American Friends of Lubavitch
(WASHINGTON, DC)

Food Banks, Food Pantries, and Food Distribution

Lowest Rated

Willmar Area Food Shelf
(Willmar, MN)

Social Services

Highest Rated

Army Emergency Relief
(Arlington, VA)

Barnabas Center
(Fernandina Beach, FL)

Boca Helping Hands
(Boca Raton, FL)

Fuel Fund of Maryland
(Baltimore, MD)

Memorial Assistance Ministries
(Houston, TX)

Navy SEAL Foundation
(Virginia Beach, VA)

Trenton Area Soup Kitchen
(Trenton, NJ)

Lowest Rated

Children's Charity Fund, Inc.
(Sarasota, FL)

Museums

Highest Rated

Museum of New Mexico Foundation
(Santa Fe, NM)

Lowest Rated

Museum of Wisconsin Art
(West Bend, WI)

Giving Facts
Last year, 700,000 donors contributed
more than 116 million dollars on #GivingTuesday

to their favorite charities.

In its first year, Charity Navigator's Giving Basket facilitated over $7.5 million in donations, by over 18,000 donors to over 6,000 charities.

Total giving to charities has held

steady at around

2% of GDP
for the last 40 years.

91%

of donations processed via Charity Navigator's Giving Basket

go to 4 and 3-star charities.
62.8 million

Americans volunteeredbox in 2015 for a total of 7.9 billion hours which was worth worth an estimated value of $184 billion.

Unrated charities receive 5.7% of donations

via the Giving Basket.

The average annual household charitable donation is

$2,974.
Last year, total online giving increased by 9%,

greatly outpacing the 2% overall growth in giving.

1.4 billion people worldwide donate to NGOs.

By 2030, the number is expected to

grow to 2.5 billion.
Volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate

to charity than non-volunteers.

  • Taxpayers who are at least 70½ can directly contribute up to $100,000 from a traditional or Roth IRA to a public charity without having to count the gift as taxable income. The so called "IRA Charitable Rollover" was made permanent in 2015.
  • Roughly 2.5 charities are supported per checkout through Charity Navigator's Giving Basket.
  • The average donation to a charity through Charity Navigator's Giving Basket is $119.93.
  • Historically, Religious groups have received the largest share of charitable donations. This remained true in 2015, with 33% of all donations ($119.3 billion) going to Religious organizations. Much of these contributions can be attributed to people giving to their local place of worship.
  • You must keep a bank record or written communication from a charity including the charity's name, along with the date and amount of your contribution, in order to deduct a cash contribution.
  • Charity Navigator's data shows that 7 out of 10 charities we've evaluated spend at least 75% of their budget on the programs and services they exist to provide. And 9 out of 10 spend at least 65%.
  • Contributions are deductible in the year they are made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2016 count for 2016. This is true even if the credit card bill isn't paid until 2017. Also, checks count for 2016 as long as they are mailed in 2016.
  • In Ask Your Target Market's latest survey, 38% of those who donate to charity said that they are more likely to do so during the holiday season.
  • Giving to charity rises about one-third as quickly as the stock market.
  • 58% of people share information about charities on social networking because they feel it makes an impact.
  • $265 billion, or 71 percent of the 2015 charitable donations, was given by individuals according to Giving USA.
  • People born between 1945-1964 donate most often to places of worship while people born between 1965-1997 donate most often to children and youth development
  • 56% of all the donations that flowed through Charity Navigator's Giving Basket in November and December of 2015 occurred in the last 5 days of the year. And 25% took place just on New Year's Eve.
Holiday Calendar

1.

1

People born between 1945 and 1964 donate most often to places of worship while people born between 1965 and 1997 donate most often to children and youth development.

2.

2

Before you give, examine the charity’s finances. Financially healthy organizations have greater flexibility and freedom to pursue their charitable mission.

3.

3

Send a care package to our troops.

4.

4

Zakat (alms) is the name for what a believer returns out of his or her wealth to the neediest of Muslims. Muslims are encouraged to assess and pay their Zakat during the month of Ramadan.

5.

5

Check that a charity is accountable & transparent. Charities that are an open book & follow good governance practices are more likely to behave ethically.

6.

6

Donate a useful noncash item to a local charity of your choice.

7.

7

In its first year, Charity Navigator's Giving Basket facilitated over $7.5 million in donations by over 18,000 donors to over 6,000 charities.

8.

8

Concentrate your giving. Spreading your money among multiple organizations diminishes the possibility of any of those groups bringing about substantive change as each charity must allocate a part of your gift to processing expenses.

9.

9

Give canned and boxed goods to a local foodbank.

10.

10

Last year, total online giving increased by 9%, greatly outpacing the 2% overall growth in giving.

11.

11

Find a charity whose mission serves your passion. The fact that there’s over 1 million charities means you don’t have to settle for an organization that isn’t a perfect match for your beliefs and goals.

12.

12

Volunteer with a local charity that you love! Make a plan to continue volunteering with them throughout the year.

13.

13

62.8 million Americans volunteered in 2015 for a total of 7.9 billion hours. That service is worth an estimated value of $184 billion.

14.

14

Be inspired by social media, but still do your homework. Social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and blogs can deliver heart-wrenching images and information about a need to your computer and phone. While these applications can be a powerful tool to inspire you to help, don’t blindly give via these platforms. Take the time to investigate the groups to ensure you’re supporting a healthy nonprofit.

15.

15

Check out Charity Navigator’s blog.

16.

16

58% of people share information about charities on social networking because they feel it makes an impact.

17.

17

If you’re looking to deduct your donation in 2016, do it as soon as you can. Putting the check in the mail to the charity constitutes payment on that day. A contribution made on a credit card is deductible in the year it is charged to your credit card, even if payment to the credit card company is made in a later year.

18.

18

Spread the word about your favorite charity on social media.

19.

19

The average annual household charitable donation is $2,974.

20.

20

If you’re thinking of donating a large item, like a car, consider selling it and donating the proceeds instead. This takes the burden of selling the item off of the charity and allows them to get right to work with the funds you’ve provided.

21.

21

Donate to a 4-star charity.

22.

22

Volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to charity than non-volunteers.

23.

23

Never give out credit card, bank account, or other personal information over the phone. If the caller represents a charity you like, politely decline and hang up. Visit Charity Navigator to research the charity before donating.

24.

24

Pay it forward. Buy the coffee or meal for the person behind you in line.

25.

25

91% of donations processed via Charity Navigator’s Giving Basket go to 3-star and 4-star charities.

26.

26

Intelligent donors support their favorite charities for the long haul. They see themselves as a partner in the charity's efforts to bring about change. Let the charities you support know about your commitment so they know they can rely on you.

27.

27

Donate food and toys to your local animal shelter.

28.

28

During Hanukkah, it is traditional to give children gelt, or chocolate coins, as presents along with real money. Children are then encouraged to give a portion of their money to charity.

29.

29

Donate to charities without strings attached. Designated donations, while well intended, can serve as a roadblock in your favorite charity’s quest to do good work. Take the time to research your charity you can trust. Then, give an unrestricted gift so the charity has the flexibility to respond to changing demands for its services and to spend the money where it is most needed.

30.

30

Check if your employer has a matching gift program. If they do, use it! It’ll double the donations your making to your favorite charities.

31.

31

The average donation to a charity through Charity Navigator's Giving Basket is $119.93. Use the Giving Basket to support charities you love, including us, before midnight tonight so that you can take advantage of the tax benefits of giving!

 
 
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