How to check out a charity

With so many non-profits soliciting contributions, how can you pick one to support? Try these resources.

By , Correspondent

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    Year-end solicitations and tax advantages raise the pressure to contribute before the year's end, but how can you decide from among so many deserving organizations? The resources below can help.
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Each year Americans are bombarded with solicitations from seemingly countless charities during the holidays. There's good reason: Giving in the last few months of the year can represent the lion's share of a charity's revenue. Picking one to support isn't easy, but a few resources exist to help. For an overview of the biggest charities, see this chart. For more information on a specific nonprofit, check these sources:

American Institute for Philanthropy (www.charitywatch.org): The group grades about 500 charities on a variety of factors, including their fundraising costs, percentage of funds that go to programs, and assets.

Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org): The group analyzes the financial data of more than 5,000 charities and compiles a rating based on performance in several categories, including fundraising and administrative expenses.

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• Great Nonprofits (www.greatnonprofits.org): This group doesn't rely on financial data for its ratings. Instead it encourages donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries to comment and rate their experiences. The website lists about 6,500 nonprofits.

• Guidestar (www.guidestar.org): The group maintains financial data from IRS records on virtually all nonprofits and presents information on their mission, executives, expenses, and programs.

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