SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's the time of year when many of us extend our giving to our favorite charities. In fact, about 20 percent of all charitable giving occurs in December.
But, how do you know which charity to choose? Consumer Reports reveals some simple ways to make sure your money is doing the most good.
Last year, Americans gave over $292 billion to charity. Whatever you wish to support, Consumer Reports says to research the charity before you donate.
Some might spend too much money on administrative costs or fundraising expenses, and a few could be outright scams.
Good charities are transparent and make it easy for you to learn about their values.
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Check the charity's website for information about its mission, a list of its board of directors, and its latest financial reports.
Look for the IRS form 990; most larger charities are required to file it. Accreditation by the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance requires charities to spend at least 65 percent of their total expenses on charitable missions and no more than 35 percent on fundraising.
And always be wary of unsolicited appeals, especially on social media.
If you're contacted by a professional fundraiser, consider giving directly to a charity instead. The fundraiser might keep 75 to 90 percent of the money.
Consumer Reports also says be on the lookout for "soundalike" charities. They might be trading on the reputation of a recognized charity without meeting the Wise Giving standards. You can go to Charity Navigator or Charity Watch for reviews and rankings so that you can feel confident you're picking a worthy group.
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Season of Giving: How to choose a trustworthy charity