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Dec 12, 2012 12:00 AM by John Overall

Investigate before you donate this holiday

TUCSON - For many people, the reason for the season is all about giving, and not recieving. And many charities make it through the year, thanks to the donations they recieve during the holidays.

But not all charities are created equal. Some spend a majority of your charitable donations on administration fees, salaries, and other operating costs with very little used to assist the people or places you intended it for.

National charities, like the Salvation Army, are well known for keeping costs low so more money can be used to help those in need. Those who give can be certain their donations will help their neighbors.

"When you donate to the Salvation Army here in Tucson, it stays in Tucson, that's where the money's supposed to be used," said Major Edward Markham of the Salvation Army's Tucson Temple.

That's not the case for all charities. According to the Firefighter's Charitbable Foundation's website, it helps victims of fire and disaster. But according to www.CharityNavigator.org only seven cents out of every donated dollar it recieves is actually used to help victims, and 85.6 cents out of the same dollar is used to pay professional fundraisers.

That's why some say don't donate until you investigate. There are several websites that do all the work for you like charitynavigator.org and charitywatch.org. Those websites show you exactly how your generous gifts are used.

Financial experts also warn against donating online. A percentage of digital donations can get scooped up by middle men managing online transactions, and credit card fees can also cut into your good intentions. "By the end of things, if you're sending them a $10 text message donation, they may not have all that much left that actually goes to the program or the help you may have wanted someone to receive," said Kelli Grant of Smartmoney.com.

One way to make sure your gifts truly help is to consider giving toys to charities that help children or food to organizations that feed the hungry. That way the middle man can't get his hands on your gifts.

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