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The best and worst charities for your donations

The end of the year is quickly approaching, and charities are scrambling to ask for year-end donations. Nearly 30% of annual charitable contributions are made in December, according to the Network for Good, and overall donations to charitable causes have been increasing since 2009, which is a great sign!

But unfortunately, the non-profit sector is a big industry that is ripe with scams and fraud — like many other industries. So how do you know what cause to give your hard earned dollars to? Is there a way to know which charities are legit? Yes, there is.

Know which charities are legitimate before you give

Before you give your hard-earned money to any charitable cause, Consumer Reports suggests you look for reports or commentary from the three major charity watchdogs (see below). You can also read the reviews and comments from donors and charity professionals on the charity you’re interested in helping.

Read more: 8 ways to give to charity that don’t involve dollars

The best and the worst

Consumer Reports chose 11 of the biggest non-profit categories to research, including animal welfare, the blind and visually impaired, cancer, child protection, environment, health, human services, international relief and development, mental health and disabilities, police and firefighter support and veterans.

Below is a short list of the best and worst charities by category. See the full list on Consumer Reports’ website here.

High-rated charities:

  • Animal welfare
    • PetSmart Charities, Phoenix
    • Animal Welfare Institute, Washington, D.C.
  • Cancer
    • Cancer Research Institute, New York
    • Breast Cancer Research Foundation, New York
  • Child protection
    • Ronald McDonald House Charities, Oak Brook, Illinois
    • Prevent Child Abuse America, Chicago
  • International relief and development
    • Charity:water, New York
    • Operation USA, Los Angeles
  • Veterans
    • Homes for Our Troops, Taunton, Mass.
    • Operation Homefront, San Antonio, Texas

Low-rated charities:

  • Animal welfare
    • SPCA International, New York
    • Tiger Missing Link Foundation, Tyler, Texas
  • Cancer
    • American Breast Cancer Foundation, Columbia, Maryland
    • Cancer Survivors’ Fund, Missouri City, Texas
  • Child protection
    • Committee for Missing Children, Lawrenceville, Georgia
    • Find the Children, Santa Monica, California
  • International relief and development
    •  Salesian Missions, New Rochelle, New York
    • World Villages for Children, Annapolis, Maryland
  • Veterans
    • National Veterans Services Fund, Darien, Connecticut
    • Help The Vets, Orlando

According to the Federal Trade Commission, these are some ways to tell if a charity is not legit:

  • The ‘charity’ can’t provide details about how donations are used.
  • The caller can’t provide proof—like a Federal tax ID number—that it’s a qualified charity and that your donation is tax-deductible.
  • You’re pushed to donate immediately.
  • You’re asked to wire a donation.
  • You’re thanked for a pledge you never made to convince you that you already agreed to donate.

RELATED: How to run a background check on that charity

In addition, there are other ways you can check up on a charity to see if they are above board. You can check out the charity on this list of charity watchdog websites:

These organization monitor whether your donation is going to the cause you actually want to support.

RELATED: Make the most of your charity donation

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