Every so often this meme goes around.  You just want to believe it, that those charities are super evil and fronted by CEOs who take the donations directly to their pockets.

But this particular graphic is not true.  It’s been debunked. And things are not quite so simple.

Charities are fairly complex entities.  www.charitynavigator.org has been studying them for about 15 years and they’re a great source of facts and figures and rating about charities, not to mention an excellent tool to help search for good charities that meet certain criteria.

For instance, you can look for 4 star charities for children in Arizona. Or food banks in Texas.  Or see the best nationwide.  Or even the worst.

Now it’s true, they don’t (or can’t) rate certain charities that are religious in nature and therefore not required to provide open books.  Salvation Army comes to mind.  But most charities are simple non-profits and they are required to transparently report each year.

Quick aside: I quit supporting Salvation Army because they don’t report and they also became rather stridently political a few years ago.  I believe they do good work but that political axis is not something I want in my charities.

As a class, the charities that are headed by celebrities tend to not be as efficient.  Often the celebrity or their proxy takes a disproportionate share, or the costs of using the celebrity’s name take a big chunk out.

I do support Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang.  This charity, unlike many celebrity charities, is highly rated on CN.  I believe in the cause and I also support it because Mr. Newman is the guy who got me interested in charitable giving many years ago. His book is an excellent read.

To be clear, I don’t totally understand or agree with some of Charity Navigator’s current rating methods.  It’s frankly not important to me whether a charity is growing or that they have a chunk of change in the bank.  I just want to see a high percentage going to the designated beneficiaries.  But you can read all about how they rate on their site, and read about future changes they’re expecting to make in their ratings.

But take a little time to study up before you give.  Don’t base your research solely on a meme. Those should just be used for stuff like picking presidents.