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Charity donations for the holidays: How to choose wisely

November 30, 2011|By Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog

Want to give to a health charity for the holidays? Snowed under by seasonal solicitations from all kinds of worthy-sounding charities and not sure where to send your money?  

There's a blizzard of worthy causes out there and, of course, some outfits that sound better than they are.

Last holiday season, we asked freelancer Christie Aschwanden to put together some tips. Here are some of the things that she learned:

First it makes sense to think about what cause truly resonates for you. And that doesn't just mean deciding on a health area, such as cancer, that you wish to support. Different cancer organizations use their money to very different purposes: Some may put the money toward research. Others aim to offer practical help or emotional support. All are worthy. But you may care more about one than another.

Websites exist to help you refine your selections further. At and, both nonprofit, you'll find lists of charities in different areas and also ratings based on such factors as efficiency (the percentage of money that goes to the stated cause versus overhead, fundraising, etc.) and a charity's financial health. You can look at the charities' IRS Form 990, which tells you where a charity gets its money and how it spends the money.

Ratings aren't everything, though, as Aschwanden describes. Check it out.

Read more health-related news at the L.A. Times Booster Shots blog.

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