As we know it, charitable organizations should be the avenues to reach the unfortunate or those affected by adversities. Since not everybody can reach the affected areas, we entrust them with the responsibility of ensuring that those in need are shown compassion and help them move through the tough times. Do you remember the earthquake in Nepal where more than nine thousand people lost their lives, and more than 23,000 others were left with severe injuries? Not to forget the hundreds of thousands of people who were left without homes after the tragedy. As most are aware of the ongoing crisis in Syria which is regarded as the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. l07afrp10_1272Images and footage of refugees living in deplorable conditions are touching the hearts of every person. It is important to understand the nature of the organization you trust with your donations to get to the people that need them most. Hundreds of organizations mushroom after every tragedy aiming to milk the donors whose hearts are filled with love and compassion.

I addition to my list of top charities to donate to, and my vote as the best charity to donate to,  I want to highlight an additional list of some of the top charities to donate to along with the top 20 charities to give a second thought when sending in your donation.

Top charities to donate to

The following charitable organizations have earned the trust of people and institutions in the way they conduct their business. They have been ranked according to their scores by various charity watchdogs and other institutions which rank ‘non-profits’ according to their performance and their impact on the ground. The top charities to donate to are:

Doctors Without Borders

Doctors and journalist created this humanitarian organization in France way back in 1971. As of today, the organization’s impact is felt in over 70 countries across the globe. They provide independent and impartial assistance to victims of violence, neglect, catastrophe, epidemics, exclusion from health care and other natural disasters. The organization was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1999.

International Rescue Committee

International Rescue Committee responds to areas facing the worst humanitarian crisis to help victims survive and rebuild their lives. The organization was founded in 1993 at the request of Albert Einstein. IRC responds have set bases in over countries across the globe and in 22 U.S cities. They work with other stakeholders in the affected regions such as village health committees and governmental institutions to rebuild health sectors, combat infectious diseases and recover from the scourge of sexual violence.

Direct Relief International

It is ranked as one of the top charities to donate to and is also widely recognized by the independent organization such as Charity Navigator. It was founded in 1948 to provide medical assistance to communities without regard to their ethnicity, political systems or even religion.

Oxfam International

It is regarded as the power of people against poverty and ranks number four among the top charities to donate to. Oxfam International was founded in 1995 by a group of non-governmental organizations to provide solutions to communities hit by poverty.

Mercy Corps

The organization was formed in 1979 by Dan O’Neill to respond to the plight of Cambodian refugees fleeing famine, genocide and war in the ‘killing fields’. They have branched out to more than 40 countries trying to empower people to rebuild their lives after the crisis.

The above list of top charities to donate to focuses on the organizations whose aim is to respond to disasters by helping victims of war, hunger, and other natural catastrophes to rebuild their lives. These organizations have been in existence for a long time, and hence they have been able to respond to various situations over the years. The list only reflects the five in the list of top charities to donate to. They have been ranked according geographical regions they cover as well as the populations of the affected individuals they reach to in times of crisis.

There are other smaller charitable organizations that are doing a good job in the field to help those in need. Due to their small size, these organizations can touch the individual lives of the affected persons thereby changing their lives for good.

My Favorite Charity to Donate to

Orphans to Ambassadors

Orphans to Ambassadors is held close to my heart as an organization that works in post refugee-affected areas to empower organizations that serve displaced and vulnerable children in developing nations. They have a volunteer program that work with select institutions to install technology that saves money and improves the quality of life. They have been to various developing countries in the pearl of Africa, and now they are moving to Nepal and India to offer post refugee assistance. Although not in the top charities to donate to when looking at scores by various charity watchdogs and other institutions, this organization has shown transparency in the way they perform their activities thereby winning hearts of myself and those around me.

20 worst charities to donate to

There are some other charities that mostly formed in the wake of calamities only to scam donors of their money. These rogue ‘non-profits’ are in for business and usually disappear after raking in a few thousand dollars. Here is the list

Kids Wish Network

On July 3, 2013, NBC2 reported that “…the Florida Attorney General and the Department of Agriculture both announced they’re investigating” Kids Wish Network. The report also notes that the Florida Department of Agriculture “…has received 146 complaints against Kids Wish Network since 2003. Over the past 10 years they have received 20 complaints against the charity’s financial operations. More than 100 complaints are against their solicitor for Do Not Call violations.” And the story also mentioned that the “Kids Wish Network raised $25 million in 2011. Only $239,000–or three cents of every dollar–actually went to sick kids.” For more information, please see the NBC2 report.

Cancer Fund of America

On May 19, 2015, “the Federal Trade Commission and 58 law enforcement partners from every state and the District of Columbia have charged four sham cancer charities and their operators with bilking more than $187 million from consumers.” The press release the FTC published named the following in the federal court complaint: “Cancer Fund of America, Inc. (CFA), Cancer Support Services Inc. (CSS), their president,  their chief financial officer and its president and executive director have agreed to settle the charges against them. Under the proposed settlement orders, Effler, Perkins and Reynolds II will be banned from fundraising, charity management, and oversight of charitable assets, and CCFOA and BCS will be dissolved.  Litigation will continue against CFA, CSS and James Reynolds Sr.” For more information, please see the Federal Trade Commission press release and the FTC complaint.

A Brighter Day Foundation

On March 17, 2014, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that “Minnesota’s attorney general has filed suit against” A Brighter Day Foundation “accusing its leader of steering hundreds of thousands of dollars in charity funds to personal use.” The article goes on to note that the nonprofit ” has undergone financial and organizational problems since 2009, including losing its federal tax exemption in 2010 for failing to file Internal Revenue Service forms” and that “the foundation has essentially been defunct since 2012.” The article said that “Gardner Gay, the organization’s executive director, has spent its money on travel, shopping, and car repairs, according to the lawsuit and to Joe Stoebner, a local businessman and former foundation supporter who is also embroiled in a court fight with the charity’s leader. Neither Mr. Gay nor his attorney returned calls for comment.” For more information, please see the Chronicle of Philanthropy article.

ABC Nutrition Program

On July 12, 2015, USA TODAY published an article titled, “Child food program failures cost taxpayers millions

AdoptAPlatoon Soldier Support Effort

During Charity Navigator’s analysis of the FYE 2011 Form 990, the document revealed the following errors and apparent omissions including:

  1. no professional fundraisers are listed on schedule G or Part VII-B, even though the charity lists $336,000 paid to professional fundraisers (see PDF attachment “AdoptAPlatoon, Schedule G, page 1“)
  2. all board members are listed as independent when at least three of them are not (see PDF attachment “AdoptAPlatoon page 7“)
  3. no administrative or fundraising expenses are included on the management payroll line (which were reported in prior years)
  4. no fundraising expenses are reported beyond the (undocumented) professionals (which were reported in prior years)
  5. several expenses were charged almost entirely to programs, even though they appear to be more administrative in nature (such as payroll processing and accounting fees) (see PDF attachment “AdoptAPlatoon page 10” and “AdoptAPlatoon page 8“)

The Affordable Housing Coalition of San Diego County

On May 28, 2015, KPBS published an article titled, “Nonprofits Linked to San Diego Attorney Cory Briggs Flout State, Federal Laws.” For a complete list of Donor Advisories for charities associated with Mr. Briggs and/or who have had their charitable statuses revoked or suspended by either the California Attorney General’s office, the California Secretary of State’s office, or the IRS, please click here.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation

On April 9th, 2015, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that “Three former managers with one of the nation’s biggest providers of HIV and AIDS care have filed a whistle-blower complaint alleging the organization engaged in a $20 million scam to boost Medicare and Medicaid payments.” The article goes on to say, “According to the federal lawsuit, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation paid kickbacks to employees and patients for referrals that would increase billings with the federal health-care programs.” For more information, please see The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Alaska Veteran Outreach Boxes for Heroes

On May 7, 2012, the Anchorage Daily News reported that Frank Roach, who ran Alaska Veteran Outreach Boxes for Heroes (AVOBH), a charity raising money to send care packages to US soldiers deployed overseas, was indicted by Alaskan authorities for using donations to fund his own lifestyle. Investigators found that the organization had raised $140,000 from April 2011 to October 2011. According to prosecutors, Roach used some of the money to pay rent, eat at restaurants and buy a TV. The donations were his sole source of income, according to a prepared statement issued by the Department of Law.

On April 2, 2015, The Juneau Empire published an article titled, “‘Boxes for Heroes’ founder guilty of fraud

American Association for Cancer Support

On July 7, 2015, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled, “Cancer Nonprofit Investigated by Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office

Foundation for America’s Homeless

On May 13, 2014 WESH TV reporter Matt Grant reported that the director of The Foundation for America’s Homeless “…repeatedly refused to show us [the news station] proof of the charity has provided shelter to anyone at all.” For more information, please see the WESH TV coverage.

On May 16, 2014, Matt Grant forwarded an email Erin Gillespie, Press Secretary, Office of Commissioner Adam H. Putnam, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This office is responsible for regulating charities in Florida. In the email, Ms. Gillespie confirms that the state of Florida has opened an investigation into The Foundation for America’s Homeless. Specifically, she says “we are investigating this charity. As you know from prior experience, our investigations take some time. Feel free to check back in, but we will not be able to provide an update until the investigation is complete.”

On May 22, 2014, Ms. Gillespie confirmed, in writing, that the state of Florida is investigating the Foundation for America’s Homeless.

Know Before You Donate

It can be frustrating and scaring now knowing if the charity you are donating to is actually sending the funds to those in need. I personally work closely with any charity I donate to and get involved with, and my treks with volunteers show me, and those that donate to the causes I support, that the money is actually being put to use.

The following is a list of some things to look at in a charity before donating or getting involved:

Alignment of Mission, Solicitations, and Resource Allocation –   Does the charity actually do those things that it tells you about in its solicitations?

Clear logic for achieving results – Does the charity clearly explain what the problem is it intends to address and how it will do so?

Information from external validators –   Has the charity’s approach been reviewed or written about by an objective third party?

Constituent Voice –   Does the charity receive feedback from its constituents (those people it serves – clients, consumers, beneficiaries, etc.) and use it to improve the quality of services?

Published evaluation reports –   Does the organization have an independent third party formally evaluate their efforts with some regularity (at least every 5 years) and make those results publicly available?