There are so many great organizations out there. It's virtually impossible to pick three or four and say with any certainty they're the best.
When it comes to choosing, I think the amount of diligence you put into the decision-making process should correspond directly to the amount of money you're giving. There's no reason to spend hours in exhaustive study over a $20 donation. However, you'd want to put some time and thought into research if the amount is $2,000.
In situations like this, I'd want to see full disclosure. I'd like to know the expense ratios of the organization and how much money goes toward administrative costs. Every organization has bills to pay and salaries to consider, but you don't want overhead to eat up 90 percent of every dollar donated.
Helping a good cause is wonderful, but you've got to be reasonable and wise about these things. Don't feel bad about asking to visit a site and take a tour. Lots of times you can get a feel for what's going on by just walking around and gauging the people you encounter. Regardless, the bigger the gift, the more time you should spend investigating.
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