We at the Fool are big supporters of charitable giving, as you can see from our annual Foolanthropy campaign (check out this year's details here). In addition to the Fistula Foundation, our 2015 Foolanthropy partner, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other charities that support wonderful causes.
From a personal finance standpoint, giving generously to charity can benefit you as well as the charity's cause -- a true win-win situation.
If you itemize deductions on your tax return, the IRS allows you to deduct the value of your charitable donations, whether it is donated property or cash. In other words, if you write a $1,000 check to your favorite charity, you can add $1,000 to your deductions. For a complete discussion of the rules and considerations involved with charitable deductions, check out this article.
What makes a great charity?
In a nutshell, you want to find charities that spend most of the money they collect directly on the cause they support -- not on inflated salaries or overhead expenses. The website CharityWatch.org grades individual charities on an A-plus to F scale, and provides financial statistics on each one.
For example, the Motley Fool's 2015 partner charity, The Fistula Foundation, happens to have a grade of A. According to Charity Watch, 84% of the money they take in goes directly to fistula repair, and the charity operates rather efficiently, costing just $10 in fundraising expenses for every $100 raised.
Some charities are not so great, so it pays to check them out before donating. In an extreme example, one rather popular charity (which I won't name here) spends 95% of the money it takes in on fundraising, salaries, and general expenses, with just 5% going to the cause. I don't know about you, but I'd be a little upset if I wrote a charity a $1,000 check, only to find out that just $50 of that money was used for a cause I was passionate about. Some overhead is to be expected -- after all, employees need to get paid, but in my opinion, anything over 20% of donations is bordering on excessive.
10 great choices to get you started
We hope you'll consider a donation to our partner charity, but it's also understandable that many of our readers have certain causes they're passionate about. As a personal example, Parkinson's Disease has affected several of my loved ones, so I like to donate money to good charities that fund Parkinson's research.
With that in mind, here are 10 excellent charities, all with grades of A or A-plus, and a little bit of information about each one. Of course, this is just a starting point -- if you'd like to support another cause, chances are you can find a good charity that can help you do that.