Giving to charitable organizations is a great thing, but there are so many organizations out there that it can be overwhelming trying to find out which one is using your money in the best way. Many organizations have their financial statements online, but it can be time-consuming to research the organization you're giving to. Also, some of the financial information they provide online can be confusing. We took a look at the Charity Navigator website, which researches and compiles contribution and fund distribution information on charities, to see which five well-known charities get the most bang from your charitable buck.
All of the organizations below have the highest rating of four-stars from Charity Navigator. There are organizations that use even less of their donations for operating costs and fundraising than the ones listed here, but these are some of the best charitable organizations that many people have heard of worldwide.
MAP International's mission is "to advance the total health of people living in the world's poorest communities," according to its website. Map International began in 1954 and provides essential medicine, community health programs, disease prevention and disaster relief in more than 115 countries. According to the latest records on Charity Navigator, the charity received about $430 million in contributions in 2009 and 99.1% of it went to actual program expenses.
Direct Relief International
Direct Relief International's website says it, "provides medical assistance to improve the quality of life for people affected by poverty, disaster, and civil unrest at home and around the world." Since 1948, the charity has worked with healthcare providers across the world that have supported its mission by providing the charity with medicine and medical supplies. The organization now impacts more than 70 countries. In 2011, it received more than $400 million in contributions and 98.8% of it went to its charitable programs.
The Carter Center
The Carter Center works with other organizations to carry out its "commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering. It seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health." Carter Foundation has a partnership with Emory University that started in 1982. According to Charity Navigator, 93.3% of its contributions go straight to the center's programs.
Rotary Foundation of Rotary International
The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International gives health assistance, offers education and fights poverty worldwide. Contributions go to programs like ending polio and disaster recovery. In 2010, over $268 million was donated to the organization and 89.6% goes to fulfilling its mission. The charity began in 1917 and has more than 1.2 million business worldwide that are a part of the organization.
Teach for America
According to its website, Teach for America's mission is to "work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education." The charity places recent college graduate leaders in schools to help eliminate educational inequality. In 2010, it received more than $193 million in contributions and used 82.3% for its programs. Charity Navigator says that since 1990 the organization has helped over 3 million students in the U.S.
SEE: Donations: How To Maximize Your Tax Deduction
The Bottom Line
This is by no means an exhaustive list of reputable organizations to donate to. Many organizations have great programs and give the vast majority of their donations to helping others. These organizations listed above do represent a group of charities that people both recognize and that are using their funds to truly help people throughout the world.
If you're looking for an organization to give to and aren't sure where to start, or if you think "The Giving Pledge" may be a good idea, go the charity's website and find out more about its mission and what its money goes to. Read its public financial statements and then research the organization on sites like Charity Navigator. It's easier than ever to find out if a charity is spending your donation money wisely.