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5 Top Charities for Putting Your Money to Work

No. 1 highest score: Orphan Grain Train
CharityNavigator score: 69.7 out of a possible 70

A Nebraska Lutheran minister founded Orphan Grain Train in 1992 with a vision of sending a train through the Midwest to collect grain, ending at a U.S. port to ship it to hungry Eastern European orphans.

Two decades later, the group has sent some 63 million pounds of food, clothing, medical equipment and other aid to disaster-struck U.S. locales and needy people in more than 40 foreign countries. While Orphan Grain Train identifies itself as a Christian charity, the nonprofit makes aid available to people of all faiths. (Orphan Grain Train also uses 18-wheelers to move its donations instead of trains, finding truck shipments more practical.)

CharityNavigator gives the nonprofit a four-star ranking, primarily because 95.8 cents of every dollar it takes in goes toward good works. The group spends only some 4% of donations on overhead and fundraising activities

"In terms of efficiency, I think donors would love to see a charity like this," Miniutti says.

The nonprofit also meets all of CharityNavigator's accountability and transparency standards and has expanded its programs by some 9.6% each year since 2008. "That's really remarkable given the difficult economic times we face," Miniutti says.

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