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How to check out a charity

With so many non-profits soliciting contributions, how can you pick one to support? Try these resources.

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Year-end solicitations and tax advantages raise the pressure to contribute before the year's end, but how can you decide from among so many deserving organizations? The resources below can help.

Illustration / Chris Ware / Lexington Herald-Leader / Newscom / File

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Each year Americans are bombarded with solicitations from seemingly countless charities during the holidays. There's good reason: Giving in the last few months of the year can represent the lion's share of a charity's revenue. Picking one to support isn't easy, but a few resources exist to help. For an overview of the biggest charities, see this chart. For more information on a specific nonprofit, check these sources:

American Institute for Philanthropy ( The group grades about 500 charities on a variety of factors, including their fundraising costs, percentage of funds that go to programs, and assets.

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Charity Navigator ( The group analyzes the financial data of more than 5,000 charities and compiles a rating based on performance in several categories, including fundraising and administrative expenses.

Recommended:The 50 largest US charities in 2010

• Great Nonprofits ( This group doesn't rely on financial data for its ratings. Instead it encourages donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries to comment and rate their experiences. The website lists about 6,500 nonprofits.

• Guidestar ( The group maintains financial data from IRS records on virtually all nonprofits and presents information on their mission, executives, expenses, and programs.