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Check Writing

Not every goodwill dollar gets spent the way you think it does. Laurie Styron, an analyst for the watchdog group the American Institute of Philanthropy, which gives nonprofits grades from A-plus to F based on efficiency, talks about how to give to groups that will do the most with your money.

What do you mean by “doing the most”?
Donors want to know, “If I give $100, how much is really going to be used for charitable purposes?” We look at over 500 nationwide charities—tax forms, audited financial statements, and annual reports—to determine what percentage of a budget is actually being used for bona fide programs. Charity financial reporting can be very inconsistent, and charities have wide latitude in reporting things. There are a lot of ways to use creative accounting to skew things in their favor.

How do I find the good ones?
We have a list (at charitywatch.org/toprated.html). Find the giving category you’ve chosen, and any of the charities listed are very efficiently run, meaning they use a high percentage of their donations toward their actual programs.

Are there any categories that attract swindlers?
Groups for veterans, lost children, or firefighters and police. A lot of times, someone who wants to set up a sham charity will think, Oh, everyone wants to donate to a wounded soldier, a lost child, or the burn unit at the hospital.

Good Places to Give
Some of the New York–based charities that score high with the AIP:
American Jewish Committee, 165 E. 56th St., nr. Third Ave.; 212-751-4000.
Bowery Residents’ Committee; 324 Lafayette St., nr. Bleecker St., eighth fl.; 212-803-5700.
Doctors Without Borders USA, 333 Seventh Ave., nr. 28th St., second fl.; 212-679-6800.
Gay Men’s Health Crisis, 119 W. 24th St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-367-1000.
International Peace Academy, 777 United Nations Plaza, at 44th St., fourth fl.; 212-687-4300.
International Planned Parenthood Federation, 120 Wall St., at Front St., ninth fl.; 212-248-6400.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Ave., nr. E. 68th St.; 212-639-2000.


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