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Charities Where Your Donation Goes the Farthest

Updated: Mar. 29, 2023

As the holiday season and new year approaches, you may feel inspired to donate to a special cause close to your hearts. But when you give your hard-earned money, you want to know your contribution will actually reach those in need. Luckily, charities are required to be open about their financials, and it's easy to determine which allow your donation to go the furthest.

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Group of diversity people volunteer arm around

Know before you give

About 20 percent of charitable donations are made in December, which makes sense when you consider that folks are in the giving state of mind and likely want to take advantage of any possible tax deductions before the year ends. But before you open your wallet, it’s important to research your charity to check how much of your donation actually goes to help others versus covering administrative or other costs. Here are some of the charities where your donations go the furthest. Rather donate time than cash? Consider these creative ways to volunteer and make a difference.

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A health worker administers a Polio vaccination to a child at a camp setup by the World Vision NGO and UNICEF in Herat, Afghanistan, 08 August 2018.

The World Vision

This Christian organization spreads the message of Jesus and contributes funds and aid to families around the world. According to their website, they currently help more than 3.5 million children in 100 countries. These efforts include tsunami relief, medical care, and other necessities. If you feel inspired by their practices and align with their beliefs, you’ll be happy to know that 86 percent of their total operating expenses go toward programs that benefit children, families, and communities. They also make some beautiful gifts that give back.

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Jean Stowell, an American doctor from Loconia, New Hampshire, running the emergency operation, carries 18 month old Yakubu a malnourished child at a feeding centre run by Doctors Without Borders in Maiduguri, Nigeria.
Sunday Alamba/AP/Shutterstock

Doctors Without Borders

Since 1971, Doctors Without Borders has helped those in critical need around the world. By bringing medical professionals to areas of conflict or parts of the globe where infectious diseases run rampant, they’ve not only helped to improve the quality of life for tens of millions of people, but they’ve also saved countless communities. If you aren’t a doctor, you can still help this organization by donating money to their efforts. This money is used 88 percent for programs, 11 percent for fundraising and only 1 percent for management. Here are 15 ways you can help after a natural disaster.

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A Douglas fir, center, is left standing where a crew is thinning a 100-acre patch on private land owned by the Nature Conservancy overlooking Cle Elum Lake, in Cle Elum, Wash. As part of a broader plan by the nonprofit environmental group to restore the pine forests of the Central Cascades so they are more resilient to wildfires and climate change, they're cutting down trees to save the forest 22 Feb 2017

The Nature Conservancy

Though industrialization creates jobs and feeds demand, it also kills precious ecosystems the planet needs to thrive. Since 1951, The Nature Conservancy has worked tirelessly to be the figurative bodyguard for planet Earth. While the charity is based in Arlington, Virginia, they’ve successfully protected 119 million acres of land and thousand-upon-thousands of miles of rives globally. If you are Team Mother Earth, consider giving to this charity, since 96 percent of your donation goes toward their mission.

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Blind school children take part in a sensorial experience with tools created by NASA and Edinburgh University to experience an eclipse, during an event in the Helen Keller school in Santiago, Chile. 25 June 2019
Esteban Felix/AP/Shutterstock

Helen Keller International

You probably recall the amazing, heroic story of Helen Keller, who while blind and deaf, wrote timeless classics and became the very first blind-deaf person to earn a bachelor’s degree (Here are a few things you should never say to a deaf person). Named in her honor, the Helen Keller International charity is working to improve the quality of life and the prevalence of malnutrition and blindness. This includes programs and research connected to all areas of health, nutrition, and vision. If this is a cause you cherish, consider donating, especially since 85¢ of every dollar goes straight to fund their work. Don’t miss these powerful ways you can give back without breaking the bank.

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Danielle Fishel is seen holding a dog at the 2019 American Humane Hero Dog Awards at The Beverly Hilton, in Beverly Hills, California
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

American Humane

When you’re watching a TV show or a movie, do you ever notice the ‘No animals were harmed’ message? The reason furry friends are protected from mistreatment is thanks to the American Humane, a 100-year company that fights tirelessly for the safety of animals. In addition to their work in Hollywood, they also work to provide animal welfare conservation programs for farms, and rescue missions across the country. They were also named the highest-rated charity by Consumer Reports this year, with 91 cents of every dollar going directly to four-legged (and two-legged and no-legged) animal buddies. You can also help by donating one of these 18 things animal shelters desperately need right now to a local shelter.

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Myra Biblowit, BCRF President & CEO 28 Feb 2019

Breast Cancer Research Foundation

As its the most common cancer in American women, many groups are working to determine a cure for breast cancer. But the Breast Cancer Research Foundation—BCF for short—is the only one to have an “A” rating from CharityWatch.org. They also have the GuideStar USA’S Gold Seal of Transparency, since they are open and candid about their strategies, goals, capabilities, achievements, and progress. This recognition is only given to the top 0.5 percent in this 1.8 million IRS-recognized organizations. When you contribute, 96 percent of donations go to programs and fundraising. Find out what oncologists wish people knew about breast cancer.

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Michelle Obama First lady Michelle Obama hugs an unidentified girl, member of Girls Inc., after speaking at a fundraising lunch for the charity Girls Inc., in Omaha, Neb 24 Apr 2012
Nati Harnik/AP/Shutterstock

Girls Inc.

If you want to fundamentally change the next generation of women, your donation is well spent with Girls Inc. This nonprofit organization works in 350 cities across the country and Canada, to provide mentoring and support for girls aged 6 to 18. When these young women are part of the program, they do better in schoolwork, are more likely to attend (and graduate!) from college, and engage less in risky behaviors. For every dollar donated, 87¢ goes toward helping the girls, with only 2 percent toward management expenses. Find out the 10 things parents of girls wish they had known sooner.

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Peter Deutsch, third right, CEO, Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, and Joseph Carr, second right, Founder, Josh Cellars, present a $113,900 check to actor Gary Sinise, center, and Judith Otter, second left, Executive Director, Gary Sinise Foundation, for their foundation after a concert by the Lt. Dan Band, in New York. Josh Cellars, a California wine brand, along with Deutsch Family and their distributor partners raised the funds for the Gary Sinise Foundation, which supports first responders, veterans and their families 5 May 2014
Diane Bondareff/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Gary Sinise Foundation

If you have a veteran or first-responder in your life, you know how much of themselves they give to the job—and that they aren’t always supported in the way these brave men and women deserve. That’s where the Gary Sinise Foundation steps in to offer programs to these special humans to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities. For every dollar you donate to this important nonprofit, 91.12 percent is directly given to these programs. They also received the highest rating from Charity Navigator, by following excellent best practices in governance.

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Cambodian refugees at Wat Nhu Lai (temple) on route 5, just north of Phnom Penh on . Soup kitchen there is administered by Catholic relief services 7 Mar 1975
Neal Ulevich/AP/Shutterstock

Catholic Relief Services

For decades, Catholic Relief Services, CRS, has worked to improve the quality of life for millions worldwide. As an active and efficient humanitarian aid organization, they send doctors and volunteers to dangerous, difficult parts of the world to battle emergencies, diseases, and other vital situations. Of all of the donations that are given, 93 percent goes directly to their efforts. They also met all of the 20 charity standards outlined by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, giving them an “A” rating. Find out 35 simple acts of kindness that take two minutes or less.

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Tina Lundgren, Ruth C. Browne. Ronald McDonald House New York Chair of the Board Tina Lundgren, holding scissors, and CEO Dr. Ruth C. Browne, behind to the right, are joined by children, staff and board members of the House during the Ronald McDonald House New York Grand Re-Opening following the facility's $23.6 million renovation, in New York 18 Sep 2017

Ronald McDonald House

With 366 locations around the world, this nonprofit organization provides support and assistance to sick children. Whether it’s a safe place for parents to stay while their babies receive necessary treatment, or educational workshops to cheer up the darkest of spirits, the Ronald McDonald House never gives up on any child or family. And they put that money where it belongs, with 87 percent going directly to their work. If you’re on a budget, these random acts of kindness don’t cost a cent.