Best and worst charity rankings show importance of research

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When many of us shop for a car or new electronic gadget, we read reviews and ask around, but consumer protection experts say that’s not happening enough when it comes to donating.

“We’re a lot more trusting with charities because we assume that their hearts are in the right place or they want to do the right thing, but that’s not always the case,” said Terry Tolliver, the Indiana Attorney General’s Deputy Director of Consumer Protection.

A new investigation by CNN, the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting has ranked 50 of “America’s Worst Charities” based on what they actually give to their cause.

Kids Wish Network tops the list. It reportedly raised $127.8 million over the past 10 years, but $109.8 million went to pay solicitors, while 2.5 percent went to direct cash aid.

It was a similar story for others on the list with familiar sounding names like the Cancer Fund of America and American Breast Cancer Foundation.

“Keep in mind that a lot of charities use similar sounding names to entice you to give them money,” Tolliver said.

Tolliver said the Indiana Attorney General’s office regularly investigates complaints about charities, and he suggests that Hoosiers do their own investigations before giving.

Sites like and make it easy to search for information that tells you more about nonprofits.

Though there are nonprofits to avoid, Charity Navigator makes it easier to find some of the best charities. In fact, the site ranked Midwest Food Bank, which has a location in Indianapolis, as the number one, privately funded nonprofit in the country.

“We provide to 230 different churches, soup kitchens and agencies with enough food to feed 60,000 to 70,000 people in Indiana through 42 counties,” said John Whitaker, director of operations for Midwest Food Bank. “So disaster relief is something we do every day.”

Midwest Food Bank earns high marks for not just giving back, but also for financial accountability and transparency. Tolliver says it’s far from the only success story, he says we just need to do more homework.

“Seek out the good ones. Find the ones that you’re most familiar with and,” Tolliver said. “Try to funnel your money that way.”

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