There are over 5,500 charities in the U.S. alone.  With the economy still in a slump, unemployment rates high, you want to give something but which charity do you pick?  How much of the money you give actually gets to the mission of the charity?

Some decisions are easy.  If you have a family or friend with a particular disease like Cancer, Heart Disease, Parkinson ’s disease and Alzheimer’s.  Then there are catastrophic events like the Joplin, MO tornadoes, Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Indonesia.  You also have the charities right in your own back yard; the local Humane Society, your church charities, soup kitchen.

Fortunately there is a place you can go and check out most all of the US charities in one place .  Charity Navigator is America’s largest independent charity evaluator.  You may want to donate to a breast cancer charity but there are so many to choose.  Susan G Komen is by far the largest Breast Cancer charity, but have you heard of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation in New York.  They get a 4 out of 5 star rating.  Money goes to research to eradicate Breast Cancer.

Have a family member who has an autistic child?  Did you know that Autism charities are the fastest growing charity in the U.S.? There’s , and .  All of these get 4 stars.  Every major city has a local Autism charity.

So it’s tough to decide and weed out the good from the bad.  There are other sources to evaluate charities besides Charity Navigator.  You can try The American Institute of Philanthropy at even the Better Business Bureau   evaluates charities .

A note of caution; it is easy to mistake watchdog ratings for measures of organizational effectiveness, including financial efficiency.  A more appropriate measure of organizational effectiveness would measure the extent to which organizations are achieving their promised goals.

So as always, do your research.  The perfect charity is out there for you to help make a difference in research and individual lives.   Plus the bonus benefit to giving, no matter the donation amount, is that you’ll feel great!