BOSTON (CBS) – Twenty-five percent of annual giving to charities is done between Thanksgiving and the New Year. This is also the period that much of the fund raising takes place.

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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 fund raising. The smaller that number the more money that goes to doing the work of the charity. There are several good websites for checking out charities: guidestar.org, www.give.org, www.charitywatch.org, www.charitynavigator.org

Last year at this time, I talked about an article that ran in the Tampa Bay Times about an investigation of charities and their programs. We even ran the list of the 50 Worst Charities in America.

In the spring of this year the Federal Trade Commission, along with officials from every state and the District of Columbia, filed charges alleging that four cancer charities misled donors and stole $187 million.

The FTC accused the charities of misleading donors about the services they provide and misusing millions of dollars. The four charities are the Cancer Fund of America, Inc., Cancer Support Services Inc., Children’s Cancer Fund of America Inc. and The Breast Cancer Society Inc.

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These were charities that paid the lion’s share of money raised to the fundraisers or the employees in large salaries and benefits.

So when it comes time to write a check to a charity this month be sure the charities are legit. Take the time to check them out. Choose local charities that you know where the money goes. Some place where you can volunteer your time and give your money.

My money and my time go to a local food pantry, Loaves & Fishes, and to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute that treated my son so well when he was sick.

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You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.

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