8 Charities You Can Trust With Your Holiday Donations

'Tis the season for giving, and giving to charity is the perfect way to help those in need while also helping yourself to a tax break. But how do you know which charities are the best? There are thousands of great charities out there doing amazing things with donated money, but there are also shady charities that are just out to get your money.

Here we have collected some of the highest rated charities according to Consumer Reports and Charity Navigator. Whether you are an animal lover or want to help countries in need, there is a charity supporting that cause. Don't see a charity for you on the list? Check out Consumer Reports' full list of the highest and lowest rated charities in each category. (See also: Best Credit Cards That Give Back to Charity)

For Animal Lovers

Our furry friends need our help!

1. World Wildlife Fund

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) allows animal lovers to donate money to help species of wild animals. A $55 donation allows you to help wildlife while also earning you a small animal plush of your choice, photo, adoption of certification, species card, and gift bag. This charity is a fun one if you are looking to give a donation in lieu of a gift, since the WWF donation comes with a little gift.

2. Petsmart Charities

Petsmart Charities is very upfront with how they use donations to make an impact in pets' lives. The site says they save 400,000 pets each year. In 2015, more than $29 million went to animal welfare groups and 214,000 spay/neuter surgeries were performed. They also used 90 cents of every dollar donated to help pets directly. Individuals can donate money or volunteer with Petsmart Charities.

For Environment Protectors

Because the Earth needs us to protect it.

3. Amazon Conservation Association

The Amazon Conservation Association received a perfect score through Charity Navigator, a website devoted to helping individuals find legitimate charities and avoid inefficient charities. The charity has been around for over 15 years and conserves the Amazon. The site says a $50 donation can plant about 50 trees in a highland Andean community.

For Helping People in Need

Not everyone has a roof over their head or enough food to eat. 

4. Direct Relief

Direct Relief is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to help and improve the lives of those affected by poverty and emergency situations. It has been one of the top charities to help with Hurricane Matthew and Syrian refugees. It has been voted as a top charity by Forbes, Fast Company, and BBB. Direct Relief also has an option to donate in tribute to someone else, which is practical for holiday gift giving.

5. Compassion International

One of my favorite organizations to donate to is Compassion International because you are able to sponsor a child. Not only do you get to choose the child you sponsor and send money to, but you also can send letters, pictures, and small gifts to them. In return, you will be given a picture of the child, as well as updates, and sometimes thank you letters. Many donors have even had the opportunity to go and meet their sponsored child. (See also: 15 Ways to Give to Charity That Fit a Holiday Budget)

For Health Advancement

A cure is out there. We just need to give scientists the chance to find it.

6. Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research goal is to eliminate Parkinson's disease. Over $87 million went straight to research programs in 2015. Overall the foundation has funded more than $650 million to find a cure.

For Veteran Support

After protecting our freedom, our veterans should have everything they need.

7. Homes for Our Troops

Homes For Our Troops (HFOT) is a privately funded 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that builds mortgage-free homes for severely injured veterans. Since 2004, HFOT has spent 90 cents for every dollar donated on veterans. The organization has already built 226 homes and has another 80 projects underway nationwide.

8. Operation Homefront

Operation Homefront matches specific veterans needs with donors. Donors can donate money or in-kind gifts, such as services or items. Operation Homefront accepts donated in-kind services to include, but not limited to, legal support, automotive repair, heating and air conditioning services, roofing, and accounting services. Donated goods may be items such as gift cards, household items, children's books, furniture, computers, or any other non-monetary items that are new or like new.

How to Avoid a Charity Scam

There are several more amazing charities out there, so don't think that this list is the end all, be all. However, it is important that you know how to spot a charity scam. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind:

  • Charities should be upfront with what they are using the funds for.
  • Charities should have a federal tax ID number so you can write off your donations.
  • It's a huge red flag if they are pushing you for donations or ask you to wire the money.
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Guest's picture

Why are you recommending a christian charity for children? That's an agenda along with the help, and I would NEVER support that charity. UNICEF, Heifer, and other agencies are also rated very highly on Charity Navigator and are free of religious pressure on the children.