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When it comes to making donations, many of us have felt some angst in deciding where our money can do the most good. We often hear stories of 'charities' that are less than...  charitable. In a recent report by Adrienne Hill on NPR's Marketplace, Americans give more to charities, per capita, than any other developed country. In 2011, we gave $200 billion dollars.

Tampa Bay Times compiled a list of the Top 50 worst charities. Many names of the worst charities are very similar to legitimate charities. For instance, the number one worst charity, Kids Wish Network, sounds much too similar to, Make A Wish Foundation a legitimate respected organization, where donations go to helping very sick children see one of their dreams come true. With the Kids Wish Network, only 2.5% the $127.8 million they raised, went to direct cash aid. So where did the other millions go? $109 million of it went to paying solicitors to raise the money.

According to Kendall Taggart, of The Center For Investigating Reporting, many charities exist pretty much to pad the pockets and salaries of their founders. Often the value of goods that are shipped overseas cannot be verified. And then there are charitable goods shipped domestically that are outright insults to the recipients. One cancer victim in Knoxville, Tennessee, reached out to Cancer Fund of American to help with medical costs. He received a package containing paper cups, napkins and plates, along with children's toys, you know, things that help a cancer patient pay for medical costs. The patient's wife was so disgusted, she threw the entire package away.

Thankfully, there are a few reputable organizations online that can help us search charities to differentiate the good from the unscrupulous.

Here are the 50 of the worst charities, with the first being the worst. They are ranked by how much they raise, how much goes to pay the fund-raising solicitors, and how much goes to the actual charity. The title link above the list, will bring you to a page with an interactive chart and  more information about charities in general.

America's 50 Worst Charities

1.  Kids Wish Network
2.  Cancer Fund of America
3.  Children's Wish Foundation International
4.  American Breast Cancer Foundation
5.  Firefighters Charitable Foundation
6.  Breast Cancer Relief Foundation
7.  International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO
8.  National Veterans Service Fund
9.  American Association of State Troopers
10.Children's Cancer Fund of America

11. Children's Cancer Recovery Foundation
12. Youth Development Fund
13. Committee For Missing Children
14. Association for Firefighters and Paramedics
15. Project Cure (Bradenton, FL)
16. National Caregiving Foundation
17. Operation Lookout National Center for Missing Youth
18. United States Deputy Sheriffs' Association
19. Vietnow National Headquarters
20. Police Protective Fund

21. National Cancer Coalition
22. Woman To Woman Breast Cancer Foundation
23. American Foundation For Disabled Children
24. The Veterans Fund
25. Heart Support of America
26. Veterans Assistance Foundation
27. Children's Charity Fund
28. Wishing Well Foundation USA
29. Defeat Diabetes Found
30. Disabled Police Officers of America Inc

31. National Police Defense Foundation
32. American Association of the Deaf & Blin
33. Reserve Police Officers Association
34. Optimal Medical Foundation
35. Disabled Police and Sheriffs Foundation
36. Disabled Police Officers Counseling Center
37. Children's Leukemia Research Association
38. United Breast Cancer Foundation
39. Shiloh International Ministries
40. Circle of Friends For American Veterans

41. Find the Children
42. Survivors and Victims Empowered
43. Firefighters Assistance Fund
44. Caring for Our Children Foundation
45. National Narcotic Officers Associations Coalition
46. American Foundation for Children With AIDS
47. Our American Veterans
48. Roger Wyburn-Mason & Jack M Blount Foundation For Eradication of Rheumatoid  Disease
49. Firefighters Burn Fund
50. Hope Cancer Fund

One of the most disturbing aspects of this list, is that the names of most of these pseudo charities are designed to pull the heartstrings of donors who think their money is going to help very sick children, women with breast cancer, veterans... when very little, if any is actually going to those in need. Makes me want to scream out their names on the highest mountain. I'll have to settle with posting them here, as the best way to deal with this problem, is to become informed and ask charities questions like, "How much of my donation is actually going to this cause?." I'm grateful to all those who have taken the time to compile this information, which helps many of us to discern where, and where not, to place our donations.

Here are some reputable charity online navigators:

Charity Navigator
CharityWatch
GiveWell

For full story and audio: MarketPlace

Sources: Tampa Bay Times, Kendall Taggart/Center For Investigative Reporting, Adrienne Hill/NPR
 

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