BOSTON (CBS) – Happy Hanukkah!

Twenty-five percent of annual giving to charities is done between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

There are more than 600,000 public charities all wanting our support. When you decide to support a charity look beyond the razzle-dazzle.

You want to look at the program ratio. That’s the percentage of the charity’s income that goes to administrative costs and fundraising. The smaller that number the more money that goes to doing the work of the charity. Several good websites for checking on charitable giving: guidestar.org, www.give.org, www.charitywatch.org, www.charitynavigator.org.

Last year the Tampa Bay Times partnered with the Center for Investigative Reporting and CNN in an investigation of charities and their program ratios. The findings were disheartening. They came up with a list of the 50 Worst Charities in America. These are charities that pay the lion’s share of money raised to the fundraisers.

According to CNN, collectively the 50 worst charities raised more than $1.3 billion over the past decade and paid nearly $1 billion of that directly to the companies that raise their donations.

If that money had gone to charity, it would have been enough to build 20,000 Habitat for Humanity homes, buy 7 million wheelchairs or pay for mammograms for nearly 10 million uninsured women. Instead, it lined the pockets of the solicitors and made wealthy the folks heading up these charities. So if you get a phone call from any of the charities listed just hang up.

Data from this investigation show the worst charities devote less than four percent to direct cash aid. Some gave even less, and five on the list gave zero percent. The top 10 worst charities are listed in the following table, alongside the percentage each spent on direct cash aid. The complete list is at America’s Worst Charities.

 

  Name Total Raised by Solicitors Total Paid to Solicitors Percentage Spent on Direct Cash Aid
1 Kids Wish Network $127.8 million $109.8 million 2.5%
2 Cancer Fund of America 98 million 80.4 million 0.9%
3 Children’s Wish Foundation 96.8 million 63.6 million 10.8%
4 American Breast Cancer Foundation 80.8 million 59.8 million 5.3%
5 Firefighters Charitable Foundation 63.8 million 54.7 million 8.4%
6 Breast Cancer Relief Foundation 63.9 million 44.8 million 2.2%
7 International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO 57.2 million 41.4 million 0.5%
8 National Veterans Services Fund 70.2 million 36.9 million 7.8%
9 American Association of State Troopers 45 million 36 million 8.6%
10 Children’s Cancer Fund of America 37.5 million 29.2 million 5.3%
    Check out the charity before writing a check or giving them your credit card number this Christmas.

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