It’s that time of year when we (hopefully) feel charitable toward the less fortunate. 

And then there’s that Dec. 31 deadline for making donations to possibly write off on your 2019 tax return...

Americans, however, were a little stingier with their giving last year, and while giving by individuals totaled about $292 billion, it was a drop of 1.1% compared with 2017 (a decline of 3.4%, adjusted for inflation) according to Giving USA 2019, an annual report on philanthropy.

That’s $3.2 billion less — money that could go a long way toward feeding malnourished children, preserving beautiful places, providing shelter for the homeless, rescuing animals, education, arts, medical research, democracy, or whatever cause you care about.

Last year saw declines in giving to religion, education, human services, foundations, public-society benefit organizations and individuals , while there was a slight increase in giving to international affairs and environmental and animal organizations, the report states. Shifts in the tax policy and the stock market impacted charitable giving in 2018, the report says.

So, dig deep, people — give to your favorite cause, but make sure the bulk of your donation dollars are being spent on the issues you care about, and not being squandered away by careless administrators or overspent on big advertising or marketing firms.

Do a little research using charity watchdogs such as Charity Navigator or GuideStar, which evaluate charities by examining the financial documents of non-profits. (These charity watchdogs have also recently started helping philanthropic decision-making by providing impact information — the amount of good achieved per dollar spent.)

Charity Navigator scores charities for transparency, accountability and financial health on a scale of 0-100. We’ve compiled a list of 30 charities that have perfect 100 scores. 

assn for indias development Hari Mahidhar : Shutterstock

Association for India's Development

AID supports grassroots organizations in India and initiates efforts in education, livelihoods, natural resources including land, water and energy, agriculture, health, women's empowerment and social justice. They have 36 chapters in the U.S. Examples of their work include helping families where a farmer has committed suicide, farmers facing drought or other natural calamities, and programs for enhancing income and reducing debt.

INMED Partnerships for Children

INMED Partnerships for Children

INMED Partnerships for Children

This international humanitarian development organization builds systems that deliver innovative and sustainable approaches to break complex cycles of poverty for current and future generations. INMED has programs in adaptive agriculture and aquaponics, maternal and child health, nutrition and healthy lifestyles education, and economic development. Current program regions include Latin America, the Caribbean, Southern Africa and the U.S. The image above is from their program that helps emerging farmers start aquaponics enterprises in Jamaica.

Haiti

Haiti

Meds & Food for Kids

Meds & Food for Kids develops, produces, and distributes highly nutritious foods to malnourished children and other nutritionally vulnerable people in Haiti. Their food products are made in Haiti by Haitian workers and using Haitian raw materials whenever possible.

Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Sewa International, Inc

Sewa International is a Hindu faith-based, humanitarian, nonprofit service organization which specializes in disaster relief and rehabilitation. Programs focus on family services; child, tribal and refugee welfare; women empowerment; health; and education. They work in the U.S. and have had projects in Colombia, Guyana, India, Kenya, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Sewa recently provided relief efforts in Maharashtra, India, above, where flooding took the lives of dozens of people.

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Center for Creative Education

Center for Creative Education seeks to reinvent education through the arts using creative approaches infused into classroom curriculum and after-school settings to enhance the teaching of traditional academic subjects. The goal is to improve learning potential and academic performance, increase enthusiasm about school and shape more productive, responsible community members that exercise creative problem solving throughout life.

Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment

Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment

Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment

This foundation is a grantmaking public charity dedicated to inspiring community action for environmental protection, public health and corporate social responsibility.

Their programs help develop young leaders in low-income communities of color, as well as support community-based groups to build long-term solutions benefiting people, the environment and the economy. Above, the foundation’s 2019 Summer Climate Justice Leadership Academy.

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Rainforest Trust

The Rainforest Trust works around the tropics to strategically purchase and protect lands vital for endangered species and indigenous communities, especially targeting the most threatened tropical habitats that are critical for preventing species extinctions and are exceptionally rich in biological diversity.

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Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation

Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) was created in 1991 by Tony and Elaine La Russa to address the needs of companion animals. ARF saves dogs and cats who have run out of time at public shelters and brings people and animals together to enrich each others' lives.

Nepal

Nepal

The PRASAD Project

This international organization works to improve the quality of life of economically disadvantaged people around the world, helping people become self-reliant and live a life of dignity. PRASAD's humanitarian work is based on the core values of the Siddha Yoga mission - selfless service, enduring commitment, and respect for all people, regardless of their race or belief.

Pictured is Nepal, where the PRASAD Project supported disaster relief after the 2015 earthquake.

The Grand Tetons

The Grand Tetons

Grand Teton National Park Foundation

This foundation provides private financial support for special projects that enhance and protect Grand Teton National Park's treasured resources. Since 1997, they have raised more than $65 million for capital projects, work-and-learn programs that connect youth to nature, trail renewal, cultural initiatives, and wildlife research and protection.

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Local Habitat for Humanity Affiliates

Habitat for Humanity works in the U.S. and around the world to build homes or improve homes, using “sweat equity”— homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. In the U.S., where local affiliates are independently run, these two affiliates have perfect scores on Charity Navigator:

  • Greeley-Weld Habitat for Humanity (Greeley, Colo.)
  • San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity (Monrovia, Calif.)
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Local United Way Chapters

United Way is an international fundraiser and a social service provider with locally-managed chapters. Charity Navigator lists these six local chapters as having perfect 100 scores:

  • United Way of Blount County (Tennessee)
  • United Way of Central Alabama
  • United Way of East Central Alabama
  • United Way of Greater Houston
  • United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee (Florida)
  • United Way of Story County (Iowa)
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ProPublica

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. They are non-partisan and non-ideological, and uncover unsavory practices in order to stimulate reform, adhering to the strictest standards of journalistic impartiality. 

Examples of their work include a Nursing Home Inspect tool that allows anyone to easily search and analyze the details of recent nursing home inspections, including violations and penalties.

Curious if your doctor has accepted compensation from pharmaceutical or medical device companies? These companies are required by law to release details of their payments to a variety of doctors and U.S. teaching hospitals for promotional talks, research and consulting, among other categories. You can use this tool to look up how much money your doctor has accepted from these companies.

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Water Mission

Water Mission is a Christian engineering nonprofit that designs, builds, and implements safe water, sanitation, and hygiene solutions for people in developing countries and disaster areas. They work around the world in permanent country programs located in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Their WASH promotion uses local volunteers who are trained to promote healthy sanitation behaviors in their communities, such as when to wash hands, and how to treat and store water safely.

Tree Pangolin

Tree Pangolin

Wildlife Conservation Network

Wildlife Conservation Network works to protect endangered species and preserve their natural habitats. They support innovative strategies for people and wildlife to co-exist, and partner with conservationists around the world to provide them with the capital and tools they need to develop solutions for human-wildlife coexistence.

Pictured is a tree pangolin of Africa. These little-known animals have the unfortunate distinction of being the most illegally trafficked wild mammal in the world, according to WCN, and all eight species of pangolins are threatened with extinction.The WCN’s Pangolin Crisis Fund invests in the projects to stop the poaching of pangolins, and stop the trade and demand for pangolin products.

Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou, China

WildAid

WildAid's mission is to end the illegal wildlife trade by working to reduce the demand for illegal wildlife products, and to promote energy conservation via global public awareness campaigns. WildAid also seeks to create model field conservation programs and to strengthen marine protected areas around the world. Above, police and customs officers destroy confiscated ivory in Guangzhou, China, in 2014.

Highlands of Roan

Highlands of Roan

Southern Environmental Law Center

The Southern Environmental Law Center works to protect the environment through law and policy in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. SELC's attorneys work for clean air and water, to protect the region's forests, coasts, wetlands, and other native landscapes and to promote livable communities in the region. Pictured are the Highlands of Roan, in the Appalachian Mountains, on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee.

West Virginia

West Virginia

Appalachian Voices

Appalachian Voices brings people together to solve the environmental problems that impact the central and southern Appalachian mountains. Their mission is to empower people to defend the region's rich natural and cultural heritage by providing them with tools and strategies for successful grassroots campaigns. One of their projects is to end mountaintop removal coal mining, as seen here in central West Virginia.

Big Cat Rescue

Big Cat Rescue

Big Cat Rescue

Big Cat Rescue is an educational sanctuary devoted to rescuing and providing a permanent home for exotic, wild cats who have been abused, abandoned, bred to be pets, retired from performing acts, or saved from being slaughtered for fur coats. The sanctuary houses the most diverse population of exotic cats in the world. Above, a senior keeper feeds a tiger at Big Cat Rescue.

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Community Volunteers in Medicine

Community Volunteers in Medicine provides free coordinated healthcare to low-income individuals and families who have no other place to turn for care in the Chester County (Pennsylvania) region.

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Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation

The mission of this organization is to perpetuate the Medal of Honor's legacy through outreach and collaborative efforts. The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services.

Pictured is a site in downtown Los Angeles dedicated to Latino-Americans who received the medal.

National Memorial for Peace and Justice

National Memorial for Peace and Justice

The Equal Justice Initiative

The Equal Justice Initiative seeks to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S., to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable and challenges racial and economic injustice.

Above, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice is the nation’s first comprehensive memorial dedicated to over 4,400 victims of racial terror lynchings.

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Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation

This nonprofit raises funds to serve Alzheimer's patients and their families by seeking to understand the causes of, discover a cure for, and improve the lives of people with Alzheimer's disease. They primarily fund the work of Nobel Laureate Dr. Paul Greengard and his team to find a cure for Alzheimer's.

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Hope for Haiti's Children

This is a faith-based organization that seeks to provide opportunities for poverty-bound Haitian children to become leaders in their homes, churches, and communities.

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Kids Alive International

Kids Alive International is a Christian faith mission dedicated to rescuing orphans and vulnerable children. They work in several countries, including Romania, above.

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Lifesong for Orphans

Lifesong for Orphans offers financial adoption assistance, foster care support, church and ministry partnerships, as well as international orphan care by serving advocates who help carry out this work. They are based in Gridley, Illinois.

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National Pediatric Cancer Foundation

This charity raises money to fund pediatric cancer research. The focus is to fund research which will lead to the elimination of pediatric cancer worldwide.

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Navy SEAL Foundation

This foundation provides educational and motivational support, promotes health and welfare programs for the Naval Special Warfare Community, and perpetuates the history and heritage of the U.S. Naval Commandos. Programs focus on health and welfare, education and history, including the funding of monuments and memorials.

Above, Navy Seals in cold-weather training in Kodiak, Alaska.

rotary baby polio Rotary INternational

The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International

The Rotary’s mission is to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace. Rotary's 34,000 clubs around the world develop and carry out sustainable humanitarian projects and provide scholarships and professional training opportunities that promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water, sustain mothers and children, improve education, and strengthen local economies. Above, a child receives a polio vaccination.

Visit Charity Navigator to see dozens more charities with perfect scores, and to research nonprofit organizations.