These days, it's more important than ever to choose the causes you support wisely. If you're going to give your hard-earned cash, you better do your research. Start by finding out how much of a charity's income goes to programs, as opposed to overhead. This is called the program ratio, and the higher it is, the better job a charity typically does deploying your money. You can find out how particular organizations are doing by going to CharityNavigator.org or by looking over the IRS form 990, which is available at GuideStar.org or on the charity's site.
Once you have this information in hand, you can make comparisons between groups, but just make sure you're comparing apples to apples. An organization with less administrative costs—say, a food bank—shouldn't be compared to a museum, which has to pay multiple employees.
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Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.
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