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Do Good|Ethical Banking

The Best Charities To Donate To

By Sarah Martin|May 17, 2021
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The Best Charities To Donate To
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What are the best charities to donate to?

In 2021, charitable giving has become more important than ever. We know why charitable giving is so important, but it can often feel overwhelming on choosing the best charities to donate to. It seems that all over our social media and within our circle of influence, people are discussing what charities they support. 

Depending on the causes you care about most, there could be many, many options when it comes to charitable giving. 

It doesn’t have to be a complicated puzzle to figure out where to give, however! There are many resources available to help us decide how to best direct our money and give to where is most needed to trusted charities. 

By providing funding for good causes, we can effect change in our local and global communities. 2

Why support a charity?

As a donor, you want to feel as though your money is going directly to the causes you care about. You may decide to donate to a nonprofit for kids programs or maybe you’re more focused on using your ability to donate to help eliminate poverty. 

Maybe there’s a specific charity in your community that helped you, personally, in the past and you’d like to pay-it-forward. There are many reasons why charities are important and why we should support them.

Here are 3 potential questions to get you started when thinking about supporting a charity: 

1. Decide what topics are most important to you.

Spiral  is a new ethical banking¹ service that enables you to give effortlessly to 1 million+ charities².  Build your giving portfolio and explore amazing new causes to donate to!

All of these charities have different focuses and aims. Find a quiet spot to think about where you believe your resources would be the most impactful. 

A few questions that might help get your brainstorming started: 

  • Did a relative in your family have a charity that they supported throughout their lives?
  • Have you been helped out by any nonprofit organizations in your life?
  • Have you given to or volunteered with any organizations in the past?
  • Do your friends or family members speak highly of the work of any nonprofits?

By starting with a basic list of the nonprofit organizations with a similar focus and any that you’re familiar with, you’ll be able to then use some of the resources below to do a more thorough vetting.

2. Use nonprofit rating agencies to learn more about their program costs. 

Once you have a list of organizations and topics, you can learn more about how charities spend their money. 

Any nonprofit registered with the IRS is required to file tax information about how they spend their money. A few helpful websites:

  • Charity Navigator
    “Charity Navigator’s rating system examines two broad areas of a charity’s performance; their Financial Health and their Accountability & Transparency. Our ratings show givers how efficiently we believe a charity will use their support today, how well it has sustained its programs and services over time and their level of commitment to good governance, best practices and openness with information.”
  • Charity Watch
    “CharityWatch does not merely repeat what a charity reports using simplistic or automated formulas. We dive deep to let you know how efficiently a charity will use your donation to fund the programs you want to support. CharityWatch exposes nonprofit abuses and advocates for your interests as a donor.”
  • Give.org
    “BBB Wise Giving Alliance is committed to helping donors make wise giving decisions Visit the For Donors page to: Access evaluation reports that show if a charity meets the BBB Charity Standards, learn about wise giving and issues addressed by BBB Charity Standards and find out how BBB Wise Giving Alliance completes reports on charities.”

3. Make sure that it’s still tax-exempt.

For your donation to be tax-deductible (and to qualify for the Spiral program discussed below), the IRS must still consider the organization to be tax-exempt. 

To meet these requirements, the IRS outlines that “the organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, and no part of a section 501(c)(3) organization’s net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. 

If the organization engages in an excess benefit transaction with a person having substantial influence over the organization, an excise tax may be imposed on the person and any organization managers agreeing to the transaction.” 

This seems like something you’d want to ensure that any organization receiving your support would be doing, regardless of the tax break!

You can search for an organization’s tax status here.

10 criteria to evaluate charities

In addition to the above methods, there are other ways to make sure your donation will be meaningful. This checklist on “How to Evaluate Charities” is a handy guide. 

  1. Look at the charity’s mission and determine if this is important to the donor.
  2. Look at the outcomes. For instance, how many people has the organization helped, and has that increased or decreased over time? Given the size and budget, is that number reasonable?
  3. Review the financial information. Is it transparent and recent? Are the expenses in line with the budget? Has the budget increased or decreased in recent years? If applicable, how has it adjusted to a decrease in government funding. Look through the current Form 990 and also verify its tax-exempt status.
  4. Talk or meet with the organization’s leadership if the donation is significant enough. Has there been much turnover of key staff members? How can the donation be best utilized? Who will be the primary contact person for the donor?
  5. Identify who is on the board of directors. Are there many or few board members? Are they business or community leaders? Especially if a donor is considering joining a board, she or he should meet with some board members.
  6. Evaluate the main supporters. Are there many funders or few? Have key funders been involved for some time? Does the donor know any supporters?
  7. Discuss with the leadership how the donor can be most helpful in addition to financial contributions.
  8. Visit the organization if possible or volunteer to really get to know the people and quality of the work.
  9. Determine that the organization has a very good reputation.
  10. Feel confident that contributions and efforts will be appreciated and utilized effectively and efficiently. (Source: AEF Online

What are the 10 best charities to donate to?

While, as mentioned above, this can be a subjective question depending on your personal giving goals, there are some charities that have received perfect scores, according to Charity Navigator

Some of the charities listed on their site are based in more localized communities, but some are also more national. 

The website breaks it down by category. Snippet of what it looks like:

To get a perfect score on Charity Navigator, the organization must earn a perfect score on their  Financial Health and its Accountability & Transparency reports. According to Charity Navigator, “Less than one percent of the thousands of charities rated by Charity Navigator have earned perfect scores.” 

Clicking through to the Nashville Zoo’s profile on Charity Navigator, you can see their mission, financial performance metrics (including percentage of the charity’s total expenses spent on the programs and services it delivers), and transparency numbers. 

This is a helpful way to know that your donation will matter.  

You can also check out 3 amazing celebrity nonprofits you can donate to.

Is St. Jude’s a reputable charity?

We’ve all seen the commercials. They tug at your heart strings and, for good reason, many people feel compelled to give to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 

According to Charity Navigator, it is an effective charity. They receive a 91.42 out of 100 on their overall scoring and four out of four stars. 

Which animal charities give the highest percentage?

On Charity Navigator’s Animal Category, you can search for your favorite animal-based charity or take a look at the hundreds of four out of four start charities. 

As an example, we’ll take a look at the organization Puppies Behind Bars. They receive a perfect score from Charity Navigator. 

Which animal charities give the highest percentage.  Puppies Behind Bars

Their stated mission: 

“Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) trains prison inmates to raise service dogs for wounded war veterans and first responders, as well as explosive-detection canines for law enforcement. Puppies enter prison at the age of 8 weeks and live with their inmate puppy-raisers for approximately 24 months. As the puppies mature into well-loved, well-behaved dogs, their raisers learn what it means to contribute to society rather than take from it.”


From their website, you can even hear more about what their specific programs are currently. Right now, their focus is on supporting Service Dogs for Veterans Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Service Dogs for First Responders, and Explosive-Detection Canine Programs. 

There is so much you can learn about top-rated charities in just a quick glance at the charity’s website!

What are the most popular charities?

Charity Navigator also helps answer this (thank goodness for them, right?!). 

They provide a top ten list of charities who “work throughout the country and the world. They are large, complex organizations with budgets exceeding $100 million, and at least $65 million in net assets. 

They became household names in part because of their exceptional financial management, no easy feat considering the scope and size of their operations. Charitable givers should feel confident that these national institutions put their donations to good use.”

Best charities to give to for COVID-19?

COVID-19 has caused some interesting challenges for many across the globe. Whole sectors of the economy are hurting and issues like mental health, food security, and others are increasing. 

You may be looking for ways to give back to organizations who are trying to deal with these unique pandemic problems. 

GoFundMe put together this list of the five best COVID-19 charities to support that touch on a few of the different COVID-related issues that have made headlines. 

These include: 

  1. World Central Kitchen

“World Central Kitchen (WCK) has served over 25 million meals to the hungry since 2010, and now it’s tackling emergency food relief during a global pandemic. Working in dozens of cities, it provides over 250,000 fresh meals each day to those without access to food—and it’s doing this by working with restaurants directly to help them keep their doors open while also nourishing people in need during COVID-19.”

  1. Crisis Text Line

“When people need to talk to a crisis counselor ASAP, Crisis Text Line offers free 24/7 support. Anyone can text 741741 from anywhere in the US to be connected to a trained crisis counselor, which is an especially helpful resource for people struggling with anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

  1. Heart to Heart International

“Heart to Heart International has shipped medical supplies to over 131 countries and given over $2 billion in aid to the less fortunate. To help curb the spread of COVID-19, it has created Stay Healthy kits that include standard hygiene products, but also gloves, masks, and bottles of hand sanitizer.”

  1. The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund

“The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund has been helping those in need since its inception in  1911. When COVID-19 swept the globe, the Neediest Cases Fund launched a special fundraiser for coronavirus relief. Donations to this fund will be used to directly support four other nonprofits on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.”

  1. Relief International

“This nonprofit works in 16 different countries to provide food, education, and medical care to “people in the world’s most fragile settings.” Now, its workers are building isolation and treatment centers in refugee camps for COVID-19 patients, delivering care packages to the homes of refugees, and opening more health clinics.”

How can you make an impact with Spiral Giving™? 

Spiral is the pioneer of the Impact-as-a-Service™ platform that helps banks and financial institutions easily embed sustainability, social impact, ESG, and CSR into their businesses. Their mission is to empower 10,000+ U.S. financial institutions and millions of people to contribute to a better world.

Key takeaways

It can feel overwhelming to figure out which are the best charities to donate to. Luckily, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips! 

Start with figuring out which issues you care about most and then evaluate each charity on the criteria you care about.

Ready to grow deposits with impact?


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