34 charities to support this year

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There are plenty of reasons people want to give to charities. Not only can it be a great way to support a cause you care about, but there can be tax benefits as well. So how do you narrow down which charities to donate to?

What constitutes a good organization to donate to may vary depending on how much you’re donating, if you want to give money, time or other donations, and what causes are close to your heart. As a rule of thumb, though, it’s smart to research any organization you plan to support.

In order to help you do that, we reached out to CharityWatch, an independent watchdog organization founded in 1993. CharityWatch specializes in reviewing and ranking charities based on their financial reporting, including their:

  • Audited financial statements
  • Tax forms
  • Annual reports
  • State filings

Related: How to make end of year donations

Methodology: Ranking the Best Charities to Support

We used CharityWatch’s list of top charities to put together our list, using only those charities with an A+ ranking.

CharityWatch ranks charities based on the following calculations:

  • Program Percentage: The percent of total expenses the charity spends on charitable programming (as opposed to expenses such as fundraising, management, and operations)
  • Cost to Raise $100: How much it costs a charity to bring in $100 in cash donations from the public
  • CharityWatch then assigns charities a letter grade, ranging from A+ to F. CharityWatch’s full methodology for ranking top charities to donate to can be found online

Of the more than 600 charities the organization has ranked, only 34 have an A+ ranking at the time of this writing. (Please note CharityWatch updates rankings regularly, which is why we’ve linked to their rankings for each of the following organizations. Each charity’s website is linked on each of CharityWatch’s rating pages.)

1. Action Against Hunger-USA

  • Program Percentage: 90%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $3

Action Against Hunger-USA‘s mission statement is to prevent, detect, and treat under-nutrition. The organization aims to tackle the underlying causes of hunger, and they also help regions experiencing conflict or natural disasters meet their nutritional needs.

2. All Hands and Hearts

  • Program Percentage: 96%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $1

All Hands and Hearts aims to address short- and long-term needs of communities after natural disasters. This includes helping rebuild homes, schools and infrastructure.

3. American Kidney Fund

  • Program Percentage: 97%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $2

American Kidney Fund helps those suffering from kidney disease during every step of the process. That includes prevention, early detection, disease management and post-transplant. The organization provides those in need with financial support and other resources they need to manage their kidney disease.

4. Animal Welfare Institute

  • Program Percentage: 91%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $1

Animal Welfare Institute helps animals who have suffered because of human cruelty. The organization aims to reduce animal cruelty through advocacy and education.

5. Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America (National Office)

  • Program Percentage: 91%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $7

Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America (National Office) pairs children facing adversity with a “brother” or “sister” mentor who can provide them support. They also offer training and workshops about child safety.

6. Catholic Relief Services

  • Program Percentage: 91%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $10

Catholic Relief Services assists the poor in the U.S. and across the globe. Its goal is to prevent and end poverty regardless of the races, religions or nationalities of those in need.

7. Child Find of America

  • Program Percentage: 92%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $3

Child Find of America aims to both prevent child abductions and find abducted children. Part of that work involves responding to the family conflicts and crises that may lead to potential abduction or abuse.

8. Comic Relief

  • Program Percentage: 90%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $8

Comic Relief uses entertainment to eliminate poverty, improve children’s lives, and help disadvantaged individuals around the world. The organization is well known for its Red Nose Day fundraiser, in which people can buy a red clown nose to raise money to help end child poverty.

9. Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS)

  • Program Percentage: 90%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $7

Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) helps families and coworkers of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. The organization provides them with resources to help rebuild their lives after the death, and it also provides training to law enforcement on how to help surviving co-workers and families.

10. Conservation Fund

  • Program Percentage: 95%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $4

Conservation Fund helps protect America’s land and water resources with the help of public, private and nonprofit partner organizations. The fund also helps educate the public about sustainability, resource management, and creating environmental goals for individuals, communities or organizations.

11. Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation

  • Program Percentage: 93%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $2

Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation’s mission is to prevent and treat diabetes. It helps fund new research to help cure diabetes and diabetes-related illnesses and complications.

12. DonorsChoose.org

  • Program Percentage: 94%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $5

DonorsChoose.org aims to help raise awareness about accountability issues and educational inequality in public schools. It seeks to create a world in which all American children have equal access to high-quality education by engaging the public in educational issues and reform.

13. Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

  • Program Percentage: 91%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $9

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s mission is to prevent pediatric HIV infections. Through education, research, advocacy, and treatment, the organization aims to help end pediatric AIDS.

14. Environmental Defense Action Fund

  • Program Percentage: 98%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $2

The Environmental Defense Action Fund seeks to educate the public about the environment and conservation. The organization also advocates for legislation and policies it believes will protect the environment.

15. Fisher House Foundation

  • Program Percentage: 93%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $3

The Fisher House Foundation creates and furnishes “Fisher Houses” for military and veteran families to stay at while a loved one is in the hospital. The organization also provides further financial assistance and scholarships to military families.

16. Friends of Animals

  • Program Percentage: 94%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $3

Friends of Animals aims to help animals experiencing cruelty or institutional exploitation. They help fund and create litigation for no-fee shelters, protect wild animals’ ability to roam freely and more.

17. Hearing Health Foundation

  • Program Percentage: 91%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $7

Hearing Health Foundation works to prevent hearing loss and tinnitus. It also hopes to develop a cure for both by supporting research and hearing health education.

18. Hispanic Federation

  • Program Percentage: 94%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $4

Hispanic Federation is a Latino nonprofit organization aiming to advocate and advance Hispanic communities and families. It provides communities with a variety of services and resources for education, health, immigration, civil engagement, economic empowerment and more.

19. Hispanic Scholarship Fund

  • Program Percentage: 92%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $1

Hispanic Scholarship Fund provides scholarships and student services to help Hispanic students prepare for and earn their college degree. The organization provides students with support services and other resources they need to not only make it into the college classroom, but to succeed in college and after graduation.

20. Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund

  • Program Percentage: 92%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $5

Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund helps military members who have traumatic brain injuries or PTSD. The organization provides them access to treatment centers to help them continue to serve or enjoy life post-service.

21. Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

  • Program Percentage: 91%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $6

Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation seeks to invest in research and education to find a cure for multiple myeloma. The organization also helps fund innovative new ways to treat myeloma and extend the lives of those affected by it.

22. National Alliance to End Homelessness

  • Program Percentage: 90%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $4

National Alliance to End Homelessness aims to help prevent and end U.S. homelessness. The organization seeks to educate the public on the causes of homelessness and potential solutions.

23. National Council on Aging

  • Program Percentage: 95%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $4

The National Council on Aging seeks to help older Americans who may be struggling financially, physically, mentally or experiencing other issues. It also educates caregivers and advocates on how best to serve the elder community.

24. Pathfinder International

  • Program Percentage: 90%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $4

Pathfinder International works to ensure that everyone around the world has the right to a healthy sexual and reproductive life. During COVID-19, the organization is also helping vulnerable communities survive the crisis.

25. PetSmart Charities

  • Program Percentage: 95%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $3

PetSmart Charities helps pets find life-long homes. The organization hosts adoption events and centers, as well as educational and training programs to help humans learn how to support pets in need.

26. Population Services International

  • Program Percentage: 92%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $1

Population Services International provides those in developing countries with products and services to plan families and lead healthier lives. The organization also develops programming to help address gender-related health issues, including violence against women and women’s access to health services.

27. Prevent Child Abuse America (National Office)

Program Percentage: 90%

  • Cost to Raise $100: $6

Prevent Child Abuse America (National Office) aims to prevent child abuse and neglect in America. The organization educates the public on ways to build healthy environments for children using science and advocates for policies that protect children.

28. Scholarship America

  • Program Percentage: 95%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $2

Scholarship America helps American students make it into college classrooms through scholarships and educational support. The organization also provides mentorship to students and emergency grants for students at risk of dropping out for various reasons.

29. Semper Fi & America’s Fund

  • Program Percentage: 91%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $3

Semper Fi & America’s Fund helps combat-wounded, critically ill, or catastrophically injured veterans and their families with financial, family, and wellness support programs. The program also helps veterans transition back into their communities after a serious combat-related injury.

30. Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation

  • Program Percentage: 93%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $4

Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation seeks to honor fallen firefighter Stephen Siller, who died on duty on September 11, 2001. The organization helps the families of fallen firefighters and police officers pay off mortgages, among other programs.

31. Unbound

  • Program Percentage: 93%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $4

Unbound partners with families living in poverty to help them become self-sufficient and reach their full potential. The organization works with those experiencing poverty in 19 countries using Catholic theology to foster family and community relationship-building and self-empowerment.

32. United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)

  • Program Percentage: 98%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $3

United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) aims to alleviate human suffering around the world caused by conflicts, war, natural disasters and other causes of suffering. The organization has helped with refugee resettlement and other humanitarian missions.

33. Waterkeeper Alliance

  • Program Percentage: 91%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $7

Waterkeeper Alliance creates a network of global leaders to help protect peoples’ rights to clean water around the globe. The organization also has several campaigns to promote clean and safe energy, clean water and to battle pollution caused by industrial meat farms, among other causes.

34. World Resources Institute

  • Program Percentage: 91%
  • Cost to Raise $100: $2

World Resources Institute aims to help people learn how to live in ways that better protect the environment for current and future generations. It educates the public on ways to make cities, energy, food and businesses more environmentally friendly.

Making a Difference with Your Finances

Budgeting for charitable donations can be a good way to ensure your money helps the causes you care about. It can also benefit your finances if you receive a tax deduction for your donation. You could use that deduction to invest, reach your savings goals, contribute more to your retirement or build up your emergency fund.

Learn More:

This article
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Prepare for tax season

Prepare for tax season

Typically, by midnight on April 15, taxpayers must e-file or mail their federal and, if applicable, state tax returns for the previous calendar tax year without penalty. (For 2021, however, the filing deadline is May 17th.) 

Well before the deadline, have you hunted and gathered all your documents, looked for a tax pro or software and learned about any new tax credits or deductions you might be eligible for?

You should have received a Form W-2 by Jan. 31 or, with any mail delay, soon thereafter. The same deadline applies to certain 1099-MISC forms for independent contractors. 

Each financial institution that paid you at least $10 of interest during the year must send you a copy of the 1099-INT by Jan. 31 as well.

Waiting until the last minute to prepare for tax filing is never advisable. If taxpayers work for one employer, their taxes may not be complicated, but if they have side gigs or they’re self-employed, tax returns can take a while to fill out.

Before taxpayers file, here are some tasks they need to do.

Related: What
happens if I miss the tax filing deadline?

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Taxpayers can either prepare and file their taxes on their own or hire a professional. If they choose the latter, they can go to a tax preparation service like H&R Block or contact a local accountant or other tax pro.

The costs for a professional vary, and the more complicated a return is, the higher the costs will be.

The IRS has a tool where taxpayers can find a tax preparer near them with credentials or select qualifications.

If you’re going it alone, IRS Free File lets you prepare and file your federal income tax online for free. There are two options, based on income:

  • You can file on an IRS partner site if your adjusted gross income was $72,000 or less. This is a guided preparation, and the online service does all the math.
  • Those with income above $72,000 who know how to prepare paper forms and can do basic calculations can fill out and file electronic federal tax forms. (There is no state tax filing with this option.)

By the end of January, you should have received tax documents from employers, brokerage firms, and others you did business with. They include a W-2 for a salaried worker and 1099s for contract workers or freelancers.

Employers will send the documents in the mail or electronically.

Investors might receive these forms:

  • 1099-B, which reports capital gains and losses
  • 1099-DIV, which reports dividend income and capital gains distributions
  • 1099-INT, which reports interest income
  • 1099-R, which reports retirement account distributions

Other 1099 forms include:

  • 1099-MISC, which reports payments in lieu of dividends
  • 1099-Q, which reports distributions from education savings accounts and 529 accounts

If taxpayers won anything while gambling, they’ll need to fill out Form W-2G. If they paid at least $600 in mortgage interest during the year, they’ll receive Form 1098, whose information can be used to claim a mortgage interest tax deduction.

A list of income-related forms  can be found on the IRS website.

Last year’s federal return, and, if applicable, state return could be good reminders of what was filed last year and the documents used.

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Take the standard deduction or itemize deductions? The higher figure is the winner.

The vast majority of Americans claim the standard deduction, the number subtracted from your income before you calculate the amount of tax you owe.

For tax year 2020, the standard deductions are:

  • $12,400 for a single filer
  • $24,800 for a married couple filing jointly
  • $12,400 for a married couple filing separately
  • $18,650 for a head of household

Individuals interested in itemizing tax deductions can look into whether they’re eligible for a long list of deductions like a home office (and, if eligible, whether to use the simplified option for computing the deduction), education deductions, health care deductions and investment-related deductions.

The IRS notes that you may benefit from itemizing deductions if any of these apply:

  • Don’t qualify for the standard deduction.
  • Had large uninsured medical or dental expenses during the year.
  • Paid interest and taxes on your home.
  • Had large uninsured casualty or theft losses.
  • Made large contributions to qualified charities.
  • Have total itemized deductions that are more than the standard deduction to which you otherwise are entitled.

Then there are tax credits, a dollar-for-dollar reduction of the income tax you owe. So if you owe, say, $1,500 in federal taxes but are eligible for $1,500 in tax credits, your tax liability is zero.

There are family and dependent credits, health care credits, education credits, homeowner credits, and income and savings credits.

Taxpayers can see the entire tax credits and deductions list  on the IRS website.

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Taxpayers who do not have taxes withheld from their paychecks can pay estimated taxes every quarter to avoid owing a big chunk of change.

In 2020, the first two quarters of taxes were due on July 15. The third was due on Sept. 15, and the fourth was due on Jan. 15, 2021.

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Another way to prepare for taxes is to apply for a payment plan with the IRS, if that seems necessary.

Just know that penalties and interest will accrue until you pay off the balance.

For the 2020 tax year the IRS issued revised COVID-related collection procedures. They include:

  • Taxpayers who qualify for a short-term payment plan may now have up to 180 days to resolve their tax liabilities instead of 120 days.
  • Qualified individual taxpayers who owe less than $250,000 may set up installment agreements without providing substantiation or a financial statement if their monthly payment proposal is sufficient.
  • The IRS is offering flexibility to some taxpayers who are temporarily unable to meet the payment terms of an accepted offer in compromise (settlement of a tax bill for less than the amount owed).
  • With a long-term payment plan, taxpayers may pay taxes for a period of more than 120 days with monthly payments.

In general, the payment plans are available to individuals who owe $50,000 or less in combined income tax, penalties and interest or businesses that owe $25,000 or less, combined, that have filed all tax returns.

A short-term payment plan has a $0 setup fee online, by phone, mail or in person.

A long-term payment plan has a $31 setup fee online, $107 by phone or mail, or in person. (The setup fee is waived for low-income payers.)

Taxpayers can pay for the plans on the IRS’s website.

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If you need more time to prepare your federal tax return, you can electronically request an extension until Oct. 15 to file a return.

To get the extension, you must estimate your tax liability and pay any amount due by April 15 to avoid penalties.

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The CARES Act was passed in March 2020 to help Americans during the COVID-19 crisis. The act included the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which gave people who were collecting unemployment compensation an extra $600 per week through July.

At the end of 2020, the president signed a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill, which gave people earning unemployment an extra $300 per week for up to 11 weeks. Unemployment assistance does count as income, which means the base amount and the enhancements of $600 and $300 are taxable.

Most government agencies were to provide a paper copy of Form 1099-G, reporting unemployment compensation, by Jan. 31 of the year after the year of payment.

Other programs under the CARES Act aimed to assist struggling business owners. They include the Paycheck Protection Program, the Employee Retention Credit, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Payroll Tax Postponement.

The PPP program gave employers the chance to borrow up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll, or up to $10 million, to cover workers’ paychecks. A forgiven PPP loan is not taxable under federal law, and business owners can deduct qualifying expenses paid with the money from the forgiven PPP loan, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

With Economic Injury Disaster Loans, business owners could borrow up to $2 million or they could receive a cash advance, which would not need to be repaid, up to $10,000. Emergency EIDL advances aren’t included in income, and taxpayers can deduct business expenses they paid using the advance, Bloomberg Tax notes.

The Employee Retention Credit, which gave employers a tax credit for keeping workers on the job, could reduce expenses that business owners would otherwise pay on their federal return and is not counted as income, according to the IRS.

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Another CARES Act provision provides for special distribution options and rollover rules for retirement plans and IRAs and expands permissible loans from certain retirement plans.

The IRS lays out the rules in a piece titled “Coronavirus-related relief for retirement plans and IRAs, questions and answers.”

In general, an individual could take a distribution of up to $100,000 from employer retirement plans, such as section 401(k) and 403(b) plans, and IRAs without the typical 10% additional tax on early distributions (before age 59-and-a-half).

The provision also increases the limit on the amount that a qualified individual can borrow from a retirement plan. An IRA does not count. It permits a plan sponsor to offer qualified individuals up to one additional year to repay their plan loans, too.

The criteria for qualified individuals can be found on the IRS’s website, but it basically says that individuals who had the coronavirus or had a spouse or dependent with the virus or who experienced financial hardship because of coronavirus would be eligible.

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“Tax prep” isn’t a phrase signaling that big fun is on the way, but putting off the inevitable isn’t the best choice. Prepare for tax season as early as possible by gathering documents and information, choosing a preparer or getting ready to DIY and learning about new tax credits and deductions.

Learn more:


This article
originally appeared on 
SoFi.com and was
syndicated by
MediaFeed.org.


Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Kaitlyn Farley

Kaitlyn Farley is MediaFeed’s writer/editor. She is a masters of science in journalism candidate at Northwestern University, specializing in social justice and investigative reporting. She has worked at various radio stations and newsrooms, covering higher-education, local politics, natural disasters and investigative and watchdog stories related to Title IX and transparency issues.