Sizing Up Charities

This is the time of year when many people make a contribution to charity.

Of course you want to give to a charity that doesn't waste a lot of money on huge salaries and elaborate fundraising campaigns.

Consumer Reports money adviser tells you how to check.

The water that flooded New Orleans also brought a flood of phony charities. Consumer Reports money adviser's Tony Giorgianni says there are good ways to check out a charity before you donate. Here's his advice on "how to make your donations really count. "The tax form, which most nonprofit groups have to file.. Has a wealth of information. It's called a nine-ninety.

You can find a lot of information, such as how much a company spends on its programs compared to fund-raising and administrative expenses. The 990 will also give you an idea of how much the executives are paid.

For example, the most recent 990 tax form for the cancer fund of America shows it spends 14 million dollars on fundraising expenses ,but only six million went to charitable programs. And the salary for the fund's president was $173,000. Several good websites make it even easier to check out charities, including charity navigator dot org. It gives that same cancer fund of America, a zero star rating.

Far better is the national breast cancer foundation. It spent 78 percent of its budget helping people and it earned charity navigator's top rating, four stars. By carefully checking out charities, you can ensure your hard earned money goes where it can do the most good.

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