The 5 Charitable Donations That Do the Most Good

You don’t have to be as wealthy as Bill Gates to do good with your money. If fact, you can make quite a big splash in this world even if you can only afford to give a relatively small sum. The key is finding charity organizations that are using your money to the maximum effect. But with more than one million nonprofits registered in the U.S., it can be difficult to determine which ones will use your donation in a way that’s most impactful. Lucky for you, we’ve done the homework — read on for our roundup of the charities that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

1. Compassion International

In an in-depth analysis by Charity Navigator, this Christian child advocacy ministry earned the most consecutive four-star ratings, demonstrating fiscal excellence over time. That means the Colorado-based youth services charity is well-positioned to pursue and achieve long-term change; every dollar donated to Compassion International is well spent.

Founded in 1952, Compassion launched with a mission to provide Korean War orphans with food, shelter, education, and health care, as well as Christian training. Today, the organization aids more than 1.5 million children in 26 countries. You can donate in many ways, including via a $38 a month child sponsorship that provides health care, hygiene training, supplementary food, personal attention, guidance, and an opportunity to learn about Jesus. Compassion even organizes visitation trips for donors who want to see first-hand how their money is saving a life.

2. Carnegie Institution for Science

Ranking second in Charity Navigator’s four-star rating is Carnegie Institution for Science, which funds research in the earth, space, and life sciences. Headquartered in the nation’s capital, the 110-year-old nonprofit is dedicated to scientific discovery. Some of its greatest accomplishments include providing support to Edwin Hubble, who revolutionized astronomy with his discovery that the universe is expanding and that there are galaxies other than our own Milky Way, and the work of Andrew Fire, who won the Nobel Prize in 2006 for his and his colleagues’ discoveries related to gene silencing. Through Carnegie Science’s research support program, donors can choose to fund specific research projects, which helps make the giving process all that more personal.

3. Development Media International

Of the six million children under the age of five who die each year, two out of three could have remained healthy if their families made use of simple, inexpensive, or free interventions like hand-washing and anti-malaria bed nets. Development Media International is trying to fix this by using television and radio campaigns to spread these public service messages. So far it’s working — DMI’s media campaigns are actively reducing the global child mortality rate. In fact, the charity has the potential to prevent nearly 23% of all future child deaths, according to some forecast models, which has helped earn DMI a spot at the top of The Life You Can Save’s recommended charity list. Previous successful public service campaigns launched by DMI include those targeting leprosy, HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, and tuberculosis abroad.

4. Brother’s Brother Foundation

Since 1958, Brother’s Brother has delivered food, medicine, and educational supplies to people impacted by disease, poverty, and natural disasters — all from its humble headquarters in a run-down neighborhood in Pittsburgh. This family-run foundation is at the forefront of Forbes’ all-star list of the most committed, financially efficient charities in America. Over 99% of all donations to Brother’s Brother go to those in need, making this charity a great place to donate your hard-earned money. With just 16 full-time employees and $245M in annual donations, Brother’s Brother last year shipped 4,821,381 pounds of goods to 60 countries, including people affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

5. PetSmart Charities

When it comes to animal welfare charities, PetSmart is ranked highest by the three major charity watchdogs: the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and CharityWatch. That’s because the Phoenix-based charity has excellent ratings when it comes to financial efficiency, accountability, and transparency — the most important indicators of whether you should donate to a particular charity. In 2013, PetSmart used 90 cents of every dollar received to help save 400,000 animals by moving them out of shelters and into loving homes. PetSmart also spays and neuters about 285,000 animals annually, and funnels millions of dollars to animal welfare groups across the nation. As a donor, you can give money, or instead adopt a pet, thereby helping PetSmart achieve its goal of giving every animal a loving home.

What’s your favorite charity and why?

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The 5 Charitable Donations That Do the Most Good

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