Three Charities You’re Better Off Donating To

While charitable giving is a highly-endorsable act, not all charities are created equally. There are a wealth of metrics, statistics and scores to be considered before determining where your donations will go. A charity with high name recognition can be a good starting point, but the relative popularity of an organization doesn’t always indicate high levels of accountability on its behalf. Check out three nationally-recognized charities that you might want to avoid when you’re considering a donation, and three that are better options.

Consider Avoiding…

The Kids Wish Network

Sporting both a “Donor Advisory” notice on Charity Navigator and the number one spot in the “Worst Charities in America” rankings according to the Tampa Bay Times/Center for Investigative Reporting, the Kids Wish Network has been slammed for low direct cash aid numbers and high executive salaries. An estimated 2.5 percent of the money that is funneled into the Kids Wish Network is put towards direct cash aid, leaving sick children with less than 3 cents per dollar raised.

Instead, Donate To…

Make a Wish America

The organization that recently saw wrestling superstar John Cena grant his 500th wish to a sick fan, the Make a Wish Foundation presents a better option for donating to children in need. Charity Navigator gives Make a Wish America ¾ stars on its website, granting the national organization a score of 87.03 out of 100 in terms of financial proceedings and organization transparency. Last year over $56 million (or about 75 percent) of the organization’s expenses went directly to the program. What other charity can boast that it routinely surprises sick children with the likes of Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Lebron James or a trip to Disney World?

Consider Avoiding…

Kars4Kids

Despite an objectively catchy jingle and commercials featuring cute kids miming playing an instrument, Kars4Kids has come under fire for deceptive advertising. By accepting used cars as a tax write off, Kars4Kids typically raises somewhere in the realm of $35 million in revenue each year, a percentage of which goes to Oorah, another charity. According to its website, Kars4Kids exists with a mission of “addressing the educational, material, emotional and spiritual needs of Jewish children and their families.” While the ideology behind Kars4Kids is apparent in its online mission statement, it is nowhere to be seen in the commercial and radio advertising that has permeated many a listener’s ears. Unfortunately, when on charity funnels its funds into another, a portion of the proceeds are often lost to overhead fees. According to Charity Watch, a $100 donation to Kars4Kids would result in $35 going directly towards the children. A score of 70.30 on Charity Navigator indicates that even a slight drop in quality will put Kars4Kids into the dreaded one-star territory.

Instead, Donate To…

Doctors Without Borders

A name that popped up frequently following the Ebola outbreak of 2014–2015, Doctors Without Borders was given an incredible score of 95.17 on Charity Navigator, placed in the top ten list of “The Best Charities Everyone Has Heard Of,” and was given an A overall by Charity Watch. Almost 90 percent of the funds raised by Doctors Without Borders goes directly to program aid, and they have proven themselves to be efficient fundraises, spending just $12 for each $100 raised. During the peak of the Ebola crisis, almost 4,000 of its staff saw work in the high-risk countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Consider Avoiding…

The Susan G. Komen Foundation

Now a household name, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has come into controversy in recent years for high executive salaries and a tendency to sue other charities that petition for similar causes. A high percentage of the funds raised by the Susan G. Komen Foundation go towards awareness activities instead of cancer research. Despite earning a reasonable score from Charity Navigator (2/4 stars), the Susan G. Komen Foundation has been criticized for paying former CEO Nancy Brinker nearly $700,000, which Charity Navigator’s own CEO Ken Berger called “way outside the norm.”

The charity, known for its “For the Cure” advertising, has been known to sue other, smaller charities who use similar phrasing in their names, including “Kites for a Cure” and “Cupcakes for a Cure.” These lawsuits burn through roughly $1 million in donor funds each year, according to the Huffington Post.

Instead, Donate To…

Direct Relief

Direct Relief, which provides medical assistance to those in poverty, was rated as the best charity that everyone has heard of by Charity Navigator. Also given an A by Charity Watch, Direct Relief earned a nearly-perfect score of 99.94 out of 100 when it came to financial and accountability/transparency metrics. An unprecedented 99.4 percent of the money raised by Direct Relief goes towards its programs. According to its mission statement, “Direct Relief has responded to a wide range of urgent and ongoing health emergencies, by providing more than $3.4 billion in essential material resources — medicines, supplies and equipment, including more than $500 million in assistance in the United States.” When choosing a charity to donate to, it might be hard to beat Direct Relief in terms of efficiency, transparency and funding allocation.

Have a charity in mind but don’t see it on the list? Check sites like GiveWell orCharity Navigator to learn more about a charity, where its donations go, and a congregate of the scores and numbers used to rank charities.

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